Stress and Bipolar Disorder

stress and bipolar disorder

Stress is one of the biggest triggers of a depressive or manic episode.


This stress can be inside your mind or body or around you.


When it comes to stress, your body does not differentiate between good and bad stress.  In reality, your body sees stress as stress and will react the same way whether it is good or bad.


This is an important distinction to make.  I have heard some people throughout my life say “that stress is okay because it is good stress”.  On the contrary, your body will react the same way as if it is bad stress.


This point is so important because it helps you to look at stress and how you can deal with it.


The stress inside your mind you can help control by how you react to a situation or by reframing your mind.  This is only if you are at a stable point on your journey of life.


A large majority of the time you will have no control of external stressors.  Sometimes you will.  For example, a toxic relationship is an external stressor.  You can get rid of the drama and stress by simply ending the toxic relationship.


Focus on what you can control.  Anything else do not worry about.  You can react differently or reframe your thoughts.


I know this is not easy.  There are ways that you can deal with stress.  


You may have seen some of the following ideas before.  It should be apparent in your life how some of these practices help in various areas of your journey and recovery.


Try one of these suggestions:




Exercise is always at the top of my list for anything that has to do with physical or mental health.


Simply working out for 20 minutes can have positive benefits.  However, when I am stressed out, I try to workout longer.  


I actually like to do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise to receive the benefits from both modes of training.


Aerobic training is anything cardiovascular.  It means “with oxygen”.  That is a simplistic definition, but the right one nonetheless.  This includes jogging, running, swimming, biking and mountain climbing, to name a few.


Anaerobic is “without oxygen”.  Examples include sprinting or resistance training.  Resistance training can be with weights and/or your bodyweight.  


Before starting or changing any workout plan, please consult your doctor.


Make exercise a part of your daily routine to help ward off the effects of stress.




15 minutes of meditation can be helpful to destress.  Try listening to a meditation through earplugs.  It helps to relax to a greater extent when you wear earphones, to listen to your meditation.


Personally, I have some CDs and I use YouTube to listen to various meditations.


Having a daily meditation practice is quite popular nowadays,


You can join meditation groups or even hire someone to teach you one-to-one.


When stress throws you out of whack, use meditation to bring you back.


Deep Breathing


Deep breathing is a simple practice to de-stress and calm down.


It is especially helpful if you get angry.  Simply count to ten and slow your breathing when you get irate to settle down.


The same idea goes with deep breathing to alleviate the effects of stress.


Lay down on your back and put your palms face down on your stomach.  Focus on abdominal breathing.  Breathe in for a count of 3-4 and out for a count of 2.  Maintain that same cadence through the whole time.  Shoot for 50-100 breaths.


Deep breathing is a great way to center your mind.




Some people swear by reading.


It is a great way to be by yourself.  Some couples love to read each night next to each other.  It is a great way to de-stress.


The genre is very important when it comes to decreasing your stress.  Do not read anything activating or upsetting.  The whole idea is to calm your mind.


Reading may be exactly what you need.


Go for a Drive


If you are manic, do not drive.  Simple as that.  You can put yourself and those around you in danger.


Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look when you are stable.


If you get stressed out, sometimes simply getting out and away from everything can help.


There is something invigorating about getting in your car and having no destination to drive to.  


I am sure you have heard of someone going on a Sunday drive.  It really is a form of personal therapy.  The drivers generally drive slower than the traffic.  I think they are on to something because it is a way to slow life down.  Maybe not everyone around you slows down, but you can.  


Warm Bath


Taking a warm bath relaxes your muscles.  


Try adding an oatmeal mix, bath salts, bath bubbles or even some essential oils.  Any of these additive ideas will just enhance the calming properties of your bath.


You can light a number of candles and place them on the bathtub ledge around you.


The best way to de-stress with a warm bath is to take it by yourself.  Some people listen to classical music for a more calming effect.


Play around with all of these options for a warm bath and see what you like.




For the majority of people, being around animals helps reduce stress.


Therapy animals are given to patients with depression because animals are literally natural antidepressants.  You are forced to get up, feed and take care of them of them on a daily basis.  This helps to combat stress.


If you have stress, you may be looking for a different result.  Focusing on your dog or cat can take the focus away from yourself.


This can help reduce the stress you are feeling.


Listen to Music


Music is a very personal way to cope with stress.


A calming genre of music for one individual may upset another.  It comes down to your personal tastes and how the music affects your mood.


As you grow older with experience, you will get a better feeling what helps calm you down and what revs you up.


I love to listen to music to de-stress.  I also enjoy listening to music while I am working out.  However, I would never listen to the music I do while de-stressing as I do to workout and vice versa.  You see, these are two different goals and two different results.


You can listen to different types of music to enhance the mood you are in as well.  I am sure you have been pumped up while driving before.  You listen to music that pumps you up even more.


See if music may be a good option for you to de-stress.




Massages are a great way to relax.  They can be quite expensive, but many parlors and places offer deals and discounts.  First-time clients are generally given a special deal.


Athletes get a massage to reduce the stress in their muscles.


It makes sense that a massage would help reduce stress in any person.


Get a massage and see how good you feel.


Watch a Movie or T.V.


Watching a movie or t.v. show is a way to distance yourself from the stress in your life.


It is important like music, not to watch anything too stimulating.  Faced-paced movies and t.v. shows are what you want to watch while you are feeling well.


Watch something slow-paced and not too deep when you are stressed.


There are so many movies and t.v. shows out there to help calm your nerves.  If you cannot find one, look at Netflix or Hulu.  


I know you will find something with either provider.


The suggestions I gave you are to help reduce your stress.  These are just a few ideas you can play around with to see what works.


I am sure you have some very specific ways to deal with stress when you need to.


The whole idea is to reduce the stress as much as possible.  Again, it does not matter what triggers the stress.  You react to it either way.  The way you react to it can reduce the negative fallout of stress.


Since stress triggers episodes, be careful who or what you allow into your life.  I am not saying to be anal, but be realistic. 


Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is exacerbated by stress. 


Sometimes it is important to change your environment, get your medications tweaked, change your friends or cut something out of your life that is giving you considerable grief.  


Just remember, if you are putting your mental health first, you cannot go wrong.