50% of all people with bipolar disorder also suffer from severe anxiety.
There are things you can do to help keep anxiety from making a challenging time even more difficult. In my new book Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis I focus on meditation, but I give some other practical steps you can take to minimize the impact of anxiety on your life.
Here’s an excerpt:
First, guard your sleep. Keep as regular a schedule as you can. Go to bed at the same time each evening (and don’t stay up too late) and get up at the same time each morning. Shower, groom and dress each day. You must establish a routine, especially if the routine you are used to has been disrupted. Design and adhere to a new one. The best first step toward establishing a new routine is to schedule your sleep. If sleep becomes difficult, don’t load yourself up with additional things to do at the time you should be in bed. Rest. You’ll need it.
Avoid substances. I have a neighbor who says drinking helps with his anxiety. The key he says is to drink like Goldilocks. Not too little, not too much. This is a terrible idea. If you’re used to having a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after work, that’s fine. To stop now would be to violate an enjoyable part of your routine. But don’t start drinking more. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It may feel good while you’re drinking, but it has a cumulative effect that will get you. And then you’ll just feel worse.
A friend I know says smoking pot relaxes him. In a state of anxiety, however, remember that cannabis is a psychoactive drug. If paranoia is part of your anxiety pot will only make it worse. It can also aggravate other emotional or psychiatric difficulties you may be having.
Another I know puts CBD drops on his ice cream. CBD is largely untested and unregulated, and we really have no idea whether it helps or hurts general health. Any substance you introduce to your body can affect your emotions. Best to leave it alone.
Only take prescription sleep aids if your doctor has prescribed them for you. If you choose to use your medicine other than as your doctor told you to take it, don’t even think about it.
You’re strong enough to face this crisis without adding non-prescribed or mind-altering drink and drugs. You need your wits about you to stay at your best, or to return to your best. In a crisis there are surely people who depend on you. Stay sober for them. You don’t want to make yourself feel numb. It honestly won’t help.
To continue to feel vital you should exercise and eat well. Remember, movement can help your body and your mind. It is a crucial part of measuring your mood and remaining healthy. Even if you’re stuck inside and can’t get to your gym, exercise. If you need a class or a trainer you can find one on-line. If you can go it alone as I’ve described, great. You can stay alert, fit and reap all the rewards detailed in the previous chapter.
Avoid junk food. It will make you feel emotionally and physically lethargic. If acquiring food is difficult, or if your favorite restaurants are closed, keep it basic and work with what you’ve got. Just avoid the fatty, sugary, salty stuff. Get some fresh fruits and vegetables. Consider probiotics to help with the mind-gut connection, and don’t forget the protein. Take this extra time at home to cook healthy homemade meals. Follow on-line tutorials and experiment, even if you have little experience cooking.
Do something creative and try to stay busy. A key part of your routine should not be time spent just sitting around doing nothing (meditation counts as doing something). Read or play games to stimulate your mind. Binge watch a show? Sure, but be sure to limit it. You need activity so don’t spend too much time on the couch with the remote. Entertainment is fine, but not all the time. Be creative yourself. Listen to music or play an instrument. Paint or build something. Dance around the living room. Make sure you keep working and remain productive. If you’re working from home you may have to schedule some down time. If you’re home schooling and working you may feel overwhelmed. Make sure everyone is chipping in with the chores and teach your kids some life skills. Cook together, fold laundry together, clean out the closet together. Work will help you in ways beyond the obvious financial ones. Work is necessary for well-being. If you’re without work take up a hobby. Create something. Stay engaged. Share your work with those around you. Use this time to grow.
There are so many opportunities for growth. If you can get a break and have some down time countless activities are available on-line. If you’re out of work and unsure of your ability to keep up you especially need the distraction and enrichment of ongoing development. Fill up your days. Much of what you’ll find on-line is free. Tutorials for every hobby you ever wanted to explore are on YouTube, and groups that share information and camaraderie are formed daily.
In pursuing new challenges don’t forget your body. Home gyms are delivered everyday, but you don’t need equipment and you don’t need to spend. Just move. Again, so much inspiration and instruction for every possible exercise is available on-line. Exercise can provide a great opportunity to get outside and breathe fresh air. As I write it’s spring, and every walk every day brings new buds on the trees and new flowers breaking through the soil.
Work, especially creative work, paid or hobby, can be a key exercise in focused attention. You can make productive work, especially physical work like cooking and housework, a sort of meditation. And like meditation work will help you with the emotional effects of anxiety and restore and maintain your mental and physical health. Plus, you’ll have a nicer space to live in and better tasting meals to eat.
You can find more in the book here.