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Activities for Reducing the Stress of Bipolar Illness, Part I

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Living with bipolar illness for many years, I’ve come to understand that the best way to deal with this illness, for me, is by ingesting medication.

That said, there are other activities that also help relieve the symptoms of the illness. This week, I’m going to be addressing four of these activities. In this blog, Part I, I’ll discuss two: visualizing and deep breathing. And in my second blog, Part II, I’ll discuss journaling and pray.

Visualization is a self-help technique I learned in grad school when I was undergoing treatment to reduce stress. (This was before I was diagnosed with bipolar.) The psychologists who were working with me told me to relax by picturing gentle and enjoyable scenes in my head. My favorite scene to visualize was one from the mountains of Norway, a country I visited in 1987. There, I stayed at a beautiful, primitive cabin on a lake – no electricity and no running water. One morning, I woke up, put on a fluffy robe and went out on the oak porch and sat on the smooth oak furniture. It was extremely quiet and peaceful up there in the mountains. The lake was perfectly still. Only a day before, I’d washed my hair in that cold, mountain lake. This is the place I went to in my mind when I wanted to relax. This is the place I still go to when I visualize.

Your visualization place can be anywhere. Just imagine yourself somewhere quiet and peaceful. By placing yourself (in your imagination) in a calm, restful place, your body will become calm.

Try it; it works.

Next, another self-help, relaxation technique is deep breathing. The best way to do this is to lie down on the floor on your back. Bring your legs up; in other words, bend your knees. Now, take in a deep breath on the count of four seconds: one-two-three-four. Hold the breath for two seconds; then, breathe out for four seconds: one-two-three-four. Do this a few times until you feel yourself beginning to relax. It’s useful too, to watch your abdomen; see how it rises when you breathe in and falls when you breathe out.

At this point, you might try a visualization.

These techniques can be used in combination.

If you haven’t relaxed yourself after a few “rounds” of deep breathing, do a few more rounds. Eventually, this relaxed breathing will relax your whole body.

If you feel dizzy or have any pain when doing this, stop and talk to your doctor before resuming deep breathing exercises.

In conclusion, I keep these two relaxation tricks in my back pocket for when I need them. Both mania and depression can make one tense. Of course, medication does a lot of the job in curtailing my illness, but there are other activities that can aid the medication in its effects.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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