We all need a little prompting to make use of simple, yet effective, feel-good options to ease bipolar stress when life gets difficult.
During periods of high stress, our moods can wane, our appetites may change, and it can become difficult to concentrate. As we navigate through life with bipolar during these anxious times, it’s natural that we might overlook effortless solutions to de-stress. Yet focusing on simple, everyday activities can, in fact, settle our frayed nerves. The first step? Be kind to yourself—give yourself a break and be patient with yourself. Next, ease into nourishing your mind, body, and soul.
#1 Engage Your Mind and Feed Your Soul
new things has been championed as a core need for psychological well-being. It
helps build our confidence and can be a way to connect with others. Many of us
have a wish list of skills to master and interests to explore—if only we had
the time. There’s no time like the present! If your list needs some freshening
up, here are some ideas to consider: Watch expert TED talks on any subject that
interests you, then dig deeper until you’re versed in that topic. Root out some
“foodie” bloggers to get the knack for cooking easy meals with simple
ingredients. Search for instructional videos or free online courses to learn
how to sing, play an instrument, draw cartoons, do calligraphy, or mix up your
look with a new hairstyle. The possibilities are endless—there are even online
videos on how to teach your dog a new trick. The real trick, though, is keeping
it fun and interesting.
#2 Step It Up—with Others
It’s no secret that exercise—especially outdoors—can boost our mood and keep our stress level in check. One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that healthy adults can aim for upward of 7,000 daily steps. While that may seem daunting to some of us, the act of tracking exercise itself may prove just as beneficial, whether or not we hit a certain mark. A great way to combine activity with staying social is by organizing a “stepping” circle with friends. Free apps like Stridekick let you invite others to participate in group challenges. Just sync your fitness tracker or smartphone or manually enter your steps, and everyone can see each other’s progress and offer encouragement.
#3 Puzzles: A Mindfulness Practice for Long-Term Health with Bipolar
Mindfulness is the act of being completely focused on the present moment, and cultivating mindfulness alleviates stress. One leisure activity that requires such focus—and has been around since the 1700s—is jigsaw puzzling. Decreased stress isn’t the only benefit, though; puzzles are also good for your brain. According to the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, jigsaw puzzling is a potential protective against cognitive aging. It’s also one of those activities that’s just as fun to do with others as it is on your own. If word searches, crosswords, or Sudoku puzzles are more your thing, they, too, offer the benefits of stress relief and mental stimulation.
#4 Volunteer from the Comfort of Home
Doing good for others has many positive effects. Clearly, it helps those in need, but it also provides a wealth of physiological, stress-relieving, happiness-inducing benefits for the do-gooder. And it’s backed by science, as summarized by Harvard Medical School. During these challenging times, some of the best ways to help are right from your own home. Consider being a virtual companion to lonely seniors, by letter writing or by making weekly phone calls through DOROT’s Caring Calls Program. Another option is to assist the organization Be My Eyes, whose volunteers provide visual assistance to those with sight impairment. With the use of your smartphone, you could help others by reading labels and checking expiration dates on their pantry items.
#5 Sort Out & Spruce Up Your Living Space
first glance, the act of housecleaning may seem contrary to de-stressing. Take
heart; there truly are ways to make cleaning and organizing less of a chore—even
enjoyable! We can take this time to do the once-a-year jobs like flip
over/rotate the mattress, organize and sanitize the fridge, and clean out the
closet to load up a donation bag. First, make this task fun by creating a music
playlist and turning up the volume. Also, it helps to think of your endeavor as
your workout for the day. Did
you know that you can burn 153 calories cleaning windows; 189 by washing floors;
and, if you head outside, 165 by either gardening or mowing the lawn?
#6 Make Today Your “Someday”
Now’s the perfect opportunity to dive into something you have been postponing for when the time felt right. Let’s face it, most of us have a long list of things to do or try “someday.” Maybe it’s as simple as enjoying a really long movie or reading a thick book (maybe even join a virtual book club). Or, at last, you can start following those inspiring blogs about design/décor, DIY, gardening, etc., that you’ve always wanted to peruse. Perhaps you can finally organize and digitize old photos or set aside a few afternoons to call some old friends—or, even better, write a longhand letter, put a stamp on it, and mail it. Imagine their surprise!
#7 Focus on Self-Care and Standards for Bipolar Stability
Everyday pressures can cause self-care to slide farther down the “to do” list. Today would be excellent for treating yourself with special care—maybe with a homemade facial or a bubble bath. One of the most important undertakings not to put off is establishing and maintaining healthy habits that support mood stability: keep to a regular sleep routine, stay physically active, and follow proper nutrition. Equally important as what you put into your body physically is what you consume visually. Take a break from the stream of negative news and opt instead for some stand-up comedies or lighthearted movies. To help keep a balanced mood, try listening to a guided meditation that focuses on hope and resilience and/or learning mindful breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.
#8 Get in Touch with Your Creative Side
Grab your colored pencils or markers and make (or download and print) and color your own mandala (a Sanskrit word for circle). Historically, mandalas have been instrumental in meditation and art therapy, and yours can take any geometric design. Or, if writing feels more therapeutic, consider documenting your daily life—complete with colorful images. Who knows? Maybe you will craft it into a published book in the future. If you need some inspiration and arts and culture bring out your creativity, look into the many available virtual tours of world-famous museums and galleries, or pull up front-row seats to the opera or a streaming concert—at no charge!
Tanya Hvilivitzky has spent almost 30 years in the communications field—a career that has included stints as an investigative journalist, magazine managing editor, corporate communications director, and researcher/writer. She has been with bp Magazine and esperanza Magazine since 2016, serving in roles such as interim editor and, currently, the features editor. She also writes for the bpBUZZ section of bphope.com, where she synthesizes complex information into a format that both inspires and informs.
As an award-winning writer/editor, she received the Beyond Borders Media Award for her 2012 investigative exposé about human trafficking. Her work on this important topic also earned the Media Freedom Award “Honouring Canada’s Heroes” from the Joy Smith Foundation to Stop Human Trafficking.
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