When the world shifted and everything changed at once, I needed to manage my overwhelming fear, stress, anxiety, and bipolar symptoms. So, I learned to take my own advice to find comfort—even though everything felt uncertain.
Dealing with Bipolar, New Stressors,
& Dramatic Shifts to Daily Life
In just a short amount of time, the world we once knew has
changed. Things are different and strange. There is fear, anxiety, stress, and
worry across the globe. All manners of public places have closed or, depending
on where we live, are in the very early stages of navigating reopening during
the immediate aftermath of a public health crisis.
Unemployment rates are high, and it’s hard to do what we
once enjoyed. Not only because of the uncertainty but also because of the
necessary practice of physical distancing—maintaining a certain amount of literal
space between ourselves and others, leaving our homes only if doing so is
considered essential or we are working in “essential” industries, and shifting all
of our socializing and even medical appointments to virtual means.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a tough time adjusting to all of this!
What I once did on a regular basis and took for granted has
dramatically changed or disappeared from my daily life. All I do is go to work
and come home. Every day. Yes, I still go into the office, and I am blessed to
still have a job—but this thing called life is extremely hard—and not just for
me but for all of us. Take all of these sudden changes and stressors, then add
bipolar on top of it, and it starts to feel like it’s all just too much to
But have hope! Even though there isn’t a perfect answer on
how to deal with every aspect of our current reality, there are ways that we
can find comfort amidst the storm. Here is how I’m (trying!) to manage it in my
When the Line between “Rational” and
“Irrational” Fear Is Blurry
I have been struggling with fear. Once it starts, I can easily spiral into worst-case-scenario thinking. Specifically, I fear the financial downfall of my family and of this world. My fear is that there will be another Great Depression and all of my hard work will amount to nothing. I fear that we will lose everything that we have worked hard for and sacrificed for. I fear that going to the grocery store will become difficult due to the lack of all food and supplies. I fear that bread lines will form again, and our government will issue us what it determines to be our daily need. Yes, I do know that these are irrational thoughts. But they are what I fear most.
When these fears take hold of me, I have two options: get lost in the dark spiral of fear, anxiety, and rumination; or work hard to concentrate on what I do have and what I am grateful for. I have found comfort in embracing a heart of thanksgiving. When my fears overwhelm me, I have to focus on the good, and that helps me to calm myself down.
Bipolar Disorder, Panic, Anxiety,
I live with not only bipolar II but also an anxiety
disorder. At times, for no identifiable reason at all, my anxiety levels are
through the roof. But in these anxious times, they often come with a reason. It
sounds strange, but I must say that having an anxiety attack with a reason is
somewhat better. I know it sounds odd, but you probably know what I mean. Being
able to point to a cause for my anxiety, and one that we can all agree on, does
give me a measure of peace.
However, the main place I have anxiety attacks right now is
in the grocery store. I usually go grocery shopping at least twice a week, and
I used to work in one years and years ago. So, I am pretty used to how grocery
stores work and understand all the different happenings that go on in front of
customers and behind the scenes. But things are different now:
People are wearing masks and gloves.
There is no toilet paper and no cleaners are to be found.
The aisles are marked as “one way only.”
Everyone is supposed to stay six feet apart.
On top of that, I have experienced people behaving rudely,
looking out only for themselves. Sometimes the one-way aisles are packed with
people who aren’t following physical-distancing safety measures.
Many times, I have to stop, close my eyes, and just breathe. In those moments, I not only feel a wave of anxiety but also become really angry. Like manic angry, and I just want to lose it! But I don’t, and I haven’t—but, boy, do I want to. The only way for me to calm myself down is to (1) stop in the aisle, (2) close my eyes, and (3) breathe. I have stood there (to the side, of course) for five minutes.
So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, remember
these three basic steps to regain a sense of stability and to be able to
continue on with the task at hand. (If the grocery store is a trigger for you,
too, I have one other tip: go shopping during off/non-peak hours so you can
avoid as many people as possible.
Managing Stress in Troubling Times
With the fears and anxiety that I am facing on a daily basis
comes a great deal of stress. I feel like I am holding the world on my
shoulders. The balancing act of controlling my fears and anxiety and
going to work and cooking dinner and keeping the house together feels
like it will all topple over, broken, in a moment.
This stress, though, just like my fear and anxiety, I have brought
Mindfulness, Exercise, and
I put this pressure on myself to “keep things together” and
moving, and not to show weakness—when all I want to do is just cry.
To come to a place of peace and to comfort myself despite all
of this stress, I find a quiet place at home. Then I quiet my mind and focus on
all the good in my life.
Also, I have started to exercise. Exercising seems to help
me with a multitude of concerns, like reducing stress and improving my sleep.
Basically, I am trying to take my own advice. When my friends and family members are fearful, have anxiety, and are feeling overwhelmed with stress, I suggest these same stress-management techniques. Now I’m using them to try to comfort myself as times have gotten tough. We have to focus on the good things in our lives, give ourselves grace, relax and breathe, and figure out ways to make everyday situations less stressful.
This period of widespread instability will not last forever,
and maybe things won’t go back to “normal,” but they could turn into something
Take care of each other and yourself. We were made for
such a time as this!
Jessica Taylor lives in the Tampa Bay area. She has an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in accounting from the University of South Florida. She was diagnosed with bipolar II in 2016, at age 35. She has been with the love of her life for almost two decades. A corporate accountant who found her passion for this career in 2004, Jessica is also an avid outdoorsman. She loves Jesus and spending time with her family. Her hope is to shine a light on living with bipolar from what she has learned.
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