Common Triggers & How To Cope
By: Nicole C
After doing the last blog post “What are triggers,” I thought I should expand a little more on my understanding of triggers. Granted I will say again that I am not a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist. I am just a single 50-year-old lady with bipolar disorder who is no longer on medication, and who has educated herself a little & these are my thoughts:
Triggers are things that you have learned that may causes distress. There are many common triggers for just about any condition. I am going to look at ones that deal with my common triggers. There are many triggers for each individual. My triggers may not be the same as yours, but they might be.
Stress is a very big trigger and there is no escaping it at times. Feeling pressure of everyday life is a given. The demands of work, family, friends, being a productive human in today’s society, it all can cause stress. You should try to find healthy ways to relax even when it is hard. There are many things you can do. Meditation, exercise, calming music, knitting, drawing, or whatever calms you, try it! You do not need to devote a lot of time to it either. For example, I do Meditation. Closing my eyes for a count down as I breathe. Some days take a longer count down while others, a very short one. The more you practice your calming techniques. the quicker you find your stress levels going down!
2. Poor Sleep
With Bipolar, we do not have the best sleep to start with. Cycling stages of Hypomania, Mania, Depression, and Rapid Cycling along with the few times we feel like we are stable, it is hard to get that elusive 8 hours of full sleep. Then to add having a life on top of that. Well… we all have sleep issues. The best advice I can give on this is to try to keep to a steady time to go to bed and get up. I know easier said than done. Even if it means you go to bed at 9 pm and lay there trying to sleep, at least try to stick to a routine as best you can. Take a few steps to make yourself more rested before bed. Shut down electronic devices and try not to have distracting noises around. You can also take a hot bath to relax.
If you have to sleep during the day, make it dark as possible. Whatever works. I am not saying you are always going to have 8 hours of sleep every night but make an effort to build a sleep routine and not let yourself get overly tired. Also, there is no shame in taking a nap to reset your moods. A 30 min nap can do your mood some good.
3. Being Hungry & Poor Diet
For me, this is a big one. Being a starving artist and being diabetic. it took me some time to realize what I was doing to myself. If I do not eat something healthy at the right time of day I was triggering myself into having a bad bipolar mood day. I would get so involved in what I was creating, getting lost in time and not eating, things would just start to deteriorate. Then before I know it, I was in The Bell Jar. Watching what you put into your body helps with how you feel. The more junk I put in the worse I felt. You are what you eat. You do not need full meals just a little something at the right times of the day. So try to watch it on the junk food and do not overeat. Try to watch your caffeine and sugar intake. Also, remember to drink lots of water! It really does have an effect on moods!
4. Seasonal Changes
The weather and times of the years affect me more than I would like to admit. I believe even the “lunar cycle” effects me, but that is another topic for another day – giggles to self. Many different times of the year are triggers too. Holidays like Christmas & New Years has proven to be statistically higher in suicides due to depression. I know they hit me hard. Then there is SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it is very real and many creative people like Sylvia Plath are said to have suffered from it. I myself find I am better in the spring and summer than fall and winter.
When I was able to, I would travel to get my asthmatic lungs out of Michigan Winters. I would seek out warmer places to stay for a bit. But, well, now money and health/mental issues make it not feasible to be that world traveler and I just do not have the money anymore. I found keeping it a comfortable temperature in the house and getting outside in my garden during the warm months helps. Trying not to let myself be a shut-in during the winter and get out when you can is also very beneficial.
Well, there are the top 4 for me. I could go on about how medication side effects, unrealistic expectations from society, lack of education about Bipolar/mental illness, and alcohol and drug addiction are also triggers for me. But maybe in another blog post, I can discuss it further. Until then, I hope this helps you. Peace and love…
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.