It’s hard enough for people without bipolar to manage stress and anxiety. The act of meditating can be an enormous help in regulating our moods.
By Jess Melancholia
Unfortunately, I never learned how to deal with stress and anxiety when I was growing up. My parents would stress over everything, from finances to food. Over time, I learned that the best way to handle your problems was to react to them without thinking. Despite how much I love my parents, I honestly wish they had either shielded me from their reactive nature or taught me the correct way to handle stress and anxiety.
That being said, I’ve been struggling with stress and anxiety for as long as I can remember. In college, it escalated to the point where I had to quit my job to focus on school full time in order to keep my grades up. Not only did that put an undue burden on my finances, it also made it harder to socialize with others. This resulted in many nights spent studying alone.
After graduation, I carried those same “problem-solving” skills with me into the workforce. Long hours and late shifts had me on edge and angry. I’d take my frustrations home which created havoc in my marriage. By that time, my emotions had amplified to levels I’ve never experienced before. Because of that, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Over time I found a psychiatrist and therapist, started taking medications, and educated myself on the bipolar symptoms: mania, depression, and all the fun stuff that comes with the characteristic mood swings. However, I never was able to reach the mental stability that I noticed others with bipolar were able to reach. After going through a couple more therapists, I was able to land one that finally understood me. From her, I learned the art of meditation.
Essentially, meditation is nothing more than allowing yourself to relax and focus on issues within yourself and your body. There is a meditation for just about anything from insomnia to anxiety to attachment issues. I tend to meditate for any and every issue I’m having. In fact, my therapist is also a licensed meditation instructor and has been hosting classes for the psychiatric center she works at. Every week I go to meditation class and every week I have a therapy session that ends in meditation. Over the past few weeks, my stress levels have shot down, I’m better able to manage my emotions, I hardly have any panic attacks anymore and they’re not as drastic, etc.
I do want to make a few important points about this topic. For starters, I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving medical advice. There is no substitution for medication and you shouldn’t stop taking your medication unless instructed by a medical doctor. Meditation is a supplement and cannot (and should not!) replace your medication.
Secondly, the positive results the other patients and I are experiencing from the meditation classes are solely based on our own efforts and won’t necessarily work for everyone. The whole idea is that you need to focus internally, rather than on the external problems going on in your life. With that being said, there isn’t any reason for meditation to heal the body or eliminate anxiety–those are side effects of relaxation, supported by scientific studies. Stress tends to lead to a variety of issues from heart disease to car accidents. If there is a way for you to manage your stress better, it only makes sense you’ll have less stress overall.
Finally, you get what you put into it. Meditation didn’t do anything for me when I first started. I had to keep doing it over and over again and really focus in order to start reaping the benefits of it. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I don’t want to meditate. I’m busy too. But what I try and make sure I do is find 5 minutes–just 5 short minutes–to sit and be calm and breathe deeply. I find when I force myself to make the time, I feel immensely better.
Hopefully you’ll find time to add meditation to your daily routine. There are several apps with free guided meditations that help with a variety of issues. It’s definitely helped me with my moods and triggers and given me peace of mind.