Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stress Reduction in Borderline Personality Disorder

This doesn't actually help.

Stress! We got it. Now what are we supposed to do about it?

I’ll tell you one thing that doesn’t actually help: Alcohol. I’ve been drinking way more than I should. I’m pretty disgusted with myself actually. I’ve been pretty good lately and keeping it to just drinking on the weekends when Tech Boy and I go out or I’m hanging out with Roommate, but when things get even more stressful in my life than they usually are it’s pretty normal for me to pick up a bottle of wine. Sure it appears to make me feel better in the moment but is it actually helping? No, not at all. I’m more likely to Act Out and say things to people I never intended on saying. I’m less likely to monitor my caloric intake. I’m less likely to get good sleep – yeah alcohol may make you pass out early but it actually disrupts your sleep. And I’m very likely to feel like complete shit the next day when I actually need to function. I don’t drink enough to be hung over, but not getting enough sleep is one of the worst things ever for me. I need to get adequate amounts of sleep because proper sleep is one thing that actually has a very positive effect on my moods.

How to Reduce Stress Tip #1: Get enough sleep. When you’re stressed out, and finally have some down time in your evening, put on your pajamas and get into bed. Give yourself time and permission to get a good night’s rest. When your mind is well rested it’s easier to focus and function, thereby making it easier to deal with the stressors in your day to day life.

Tip #2: Get a little OCD. Take a page out of our fellow nutters handbook and start putting some order into your life. I’m a list person. I love to make lists. When everything I need to do is a jumbled concept in my mind it feels like this looming beast preparing to strike and I have no idea how to defend against it. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by something when you don’t have a solid plan of attack, or even a solid picture of what it is that needs to be done. Write it down. Prioritize. When you can actually point your finger at things that need to be done you can start making progress. And being able to cross something off that list when you are done, is pretty damn satisfying.

Tip #3: Create a schedule. This is an extension to Tip #2. Once you know what it is that you need to get done, give yourself a timeline and stick to it. Many of us live day-to-day and sort of fly by the seat of our pants. Sure it’s ‘living in the moment’, but it get also get pretty hectic and more than a little chaotic. We want to reduce chaos, and by extension; stress. Know what you need to get done during the day and make a plan.

Structure is very important for me, and I’m guessing many people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Structure imposes a stability to our lives that is something we desperately, desperately need, whether we admit it or not. Creating a structure gives me control of my day and my life. It creates a comforting certainty about what is going to happen in my day. Yeah, sometimes life throws you curveballs or new things pop up, so you need to be a little flexible. The beauty of creating your own structure, is that you can adapt it as things come up. As much as we would like it to be, life isn’t always predictable, so try not to be too rigid. I used to be intensely rigid, and actually obsessively compulsive, about sticking to my schedules. This just made me more anxious and made me feel like I had less control when things would alter my plans. I’m talking world ending, earth shattering panic attacks when things wouldn’t follow my carefully laid out schedule. This is also not healthy. We need to avoid allowing the things we use to reduce stress, create more.

Tip #4: Clean and organize your living space. The orderliness of my bedroom tends to reflect my mental state. If I’m calmer my room is immaculate and tidy, if I’m a mental mess, my room is a disaster.  Is it the loss of control of the immediate environment that makes my mind messy or my messy mind that makes my environment a health hazard? I don’t know, but what I do know is that when my room is neat and organized I feel a sense of calm. It’s like I have my own little sanctuary back. When it’s a mess; things aren’t where I want them to be, I can’t find the things that I need, I have to search for things which can make me late, my frustration levels rise and I end up making even more of a mess because I can get frantic about finding things that I NEED RIGHT NOW. Personally, I prefer the calm. Clutter is chaos.

Tip #5: Plan ahead. When you think about the upcoming days you can consider what you need in advance. If you make meals for you family every night, instead of running to the grocery every day, decide what you’re making at the beginning of the week and shop for things all at once. If your kids usually run late in the morning, pick out outfits the night before and pack their lunch before bed. In short; make things as simple as possible for yourself. Reduce the number of things  you have to do by consolidating the time you spend doing them. You’ll have more time to sit back and de-stress.

Tip #6: Just say ‘No’. If you’re like me, this is often a problem for you. Telling people ‘no’, even if I’m overwhelmed by my own priorities, often makes me really anxious. I begin to worry about what they’ll think of me, what they’ll think of my ability to handle my job, my work, all things that make me worry ceaselessly and often pointlessly. However, when you say ‘yes’ to every request thrown your way you allow the stress and frustration of all these burdens begin to pile up and overwhelm you. This leads to personal panic within yourself (at least it does for me) and often a resentment towards the other people for not realizing how much you already have going on and adding to your load. It might not be practical or possible to say ‘no’ to everything, but try saying ‘no’ to some small things that you don’t really have time for, or even a social obligation that you have no interest in. Instead of waiting until the frustration and resentment builds to the boiling point, just say, “I’m sorry I’m really swamped myself right now. I’m going to have to pass this time.” It’s tactful and lets them know that in the future you can still be relied on.  You have limits as a human being, it’s good to respect them.

Tip #7: Get moving. By which I mean, get a little exercise into your day. Exercise increases your energy, your clarity of mind, and your ability to deal with stress. When you cultivate a physically stronger body you also cultivate a psychologically stronger mind. Mind and body are not separate entities. We are one cohesive unit. Taking care of one, affects the other. I know it’s often hard to take an hour out of your day to go to the gym, but taking 20 minutes to walk around the block or do an at home yoga video is often much easier. You can even do these things with your kids.

Tip #8: Feed your mind. What you put into your body is as important as what you do with it. If you feed it sugar and junk and fat, it’s going to be reflected in your mental state. You’ll have sugar spikes that bring you high and then crash you down. Our moods are already volatile, we don’t need sugar induced mood swings as well. Healthy, fresh food allows you to gain all the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs while maintaining a nice even sugar level. This will help reduce the fluxuations you feel. This is also where reducing your alcohol and stimulant intake comes into play. I’m making a very firm decision to limit my alcohol consumption.

Tip #9: Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know, I know, I have a very hard time being gentle with myself and this is something I definitely need to work on.  It takes courage to allow yourself to be imperfect. Even though we know everyone as humans isn’t, we often feel the pressure that we should be. It’s ok to be human and accept the limitations that go along with it.

Tip #10: Ask for help if you need it. I have a hard time asking for help, but sometimes I’m just not capable of doing everything on my own, or I don’t know everything about something yet. Instead of allowing the feeling of being overwhelmed crush you, take action to relieve the burden. Asking for help relieves some of the pressure from you and cultivates an active relationship with someone else. Win-win.

Tip #11: Take a break. Do something fun. Try something new. Revisit a hobby you enjoy. Sit and talk with a friend. Sit by yourself in quiet for a few moments. Pamper yourself a little. Life is full of little pleasures. It’s important to remember that this is the only life you get, and you are allowed to enjoy yourself. Take advantage of the things that bring happiness into your life.

Tip #12: Know your stressors. Just like it’s important to know our triggers, it’s important to recognize the things, situations, and people that stress us out. Make a list, write them down. Kick out the ones that you don’t need in your life and work to reduce the amount of time to spend on the one’s that are necessary.

Helping yourself is very important. I know I could definitely work on some of these way more than I do. It’s hard to remember all of this stuff. Incorporating even a few of these things over time can really help reduce that stress induced panic and make your life more manageable. Not all stress is bad. It can be motivating, it allows you to be engaged in your life… but excessive stress, which those of us with BPD often have, is something we should really work to avoid.

What do you do to reduce the stress in your life?


  1. For insomnia I take melatonin in summer before bed since its usually sunny, and for occasional wintertime insomnia I take valerian. I usually dont have trouble sleeping in winter, unless I am manic or anxious or obsessing. Valerian helps a lot for those.

    I am also use marijuana medicinally for anxiety. Its also helpful to remind me to eat, because without it, I will starve all day and gorge at night. My appetite stays more even when I smoke and I tend to snack throughout the day and keep my blood glucose level more consistant, which prevents me from overeating. Now I really only do it when its a stress thing and the old bulemia comes out. I dont vomit, but I do binge if Im not careful. I try to turn to video games for stress relief too. And if my hands are busy, they arent eating bad foods.

    1. You know, y ou make a better and better case for weed everytime you mention it haha. I used to take melatonin for sleep but now I have Trazadone from my pdoc. My Roommate is a big fan of Valerian but it never seems to do much for me. Plus holy crap it smells bad haha.

      The bulimic cycle is horrible. I've been really good abuot it lately, mostly because I think my meds inhibit my ability to throw up! Hah. How's that for a side effect.

    2. Well I live in a state the legalized medicinal marijuana. I dont actually have a card but it is plentiful. Im going to get a card I think. The only times Ive had really bad manic, delusional episodes were when I had quit weed for one reason or another. I think it may have exacerbated some of my issues, but overall, I think my bpd is milder in a lot of respects due to my long term weed use.

    3. Heehee, I wonder if we can get medical science to do a research study on that ;)

  2. My friend and I had a pretty intimate discussion last night about triggers. He had triggered my abandonment yet again the other day and I was going nutty obsessing over it, turning it around and making it into a monster. We've had some talks like this before. I actually set some ground rules last night, which it is a huge step for me to set boundaries and communicate them. I was so worried that our relationship would just end if I did, but I was feeling brave and feeling a bit of the old self esteem, so I communicated. Turned out, I had blown shit out of proportion, and he was thankful that I communicated and told me not to be afraid to just say no or this bothers me. In fact, he was actually far more affectionate than he had been in a week or so. I feel like we're on some good ground and I like it.

    1. Ugh. I hate that monster creator function. We're out own Dr. Frankenstein's but with the less loveable creature at the end.

      Woot ground rules! I'm really bad at these too haha, but man do they make a world of difference. Your friends sounds like a much more reasonable person than my Friend was. I'm glad things worked out so well =) Communication is so important.

    2. Well we are to the point now where I have figured out that our relationship, whatever the fuck it is, is the closest thing to what he considers a ltr. He is such a commitmentphobe. He may get the engulfment pull back, but when I get serious and show him I am really upset, his fear of abandonment kicks in I think. Im not trying to manipulate him, but being honest. Like shit like this will not fly cuz I will walk. And as much as he pulls away and acts like a jackass, I think we have one of the most intimate relationships hes ever had and maybe more than he ever cared to have. But I think he values it. He just doesnt know how. Hes just as retarded emotionally as I am, probably worse. Between being patient with myself and patient with his issues, I am growing a lot. We may not be together forever, but I know we will have learned a lot about ourselves when we part.

    3. Your relationships sounds like it is often very hard, but ultimately very healing.

      I have a problem seeing past my own faults and I feel like I'm burdening people if they have to 'put up with them' even though I've never had any issue accepting how another acts (yanno until it gets too bad). I still feel like opening up, and allowing that intimacy to happen would be asking too much of another person and it makes me feel guilty. Something to work on I suppose.

      I'm glad to hear that you have something so intimate. I really think intimacy is a skill, not just a way of being.

  3. I always want to write something about myself in response to your blog, but then I feel like I am just grabbing for attention or that what I am saying is going to have people view me in a way I don't want to be seen.

    *deletes this comment like all the others*

    1. Well I enjoy hearing from you regardless. I love hearing what people share about themselves, they're experiences, and how they perceive the world. You're absolutely allowed to be you here =) I won't judge, and considering the kinds of stuff I post, I doubt many others would judge you either.

      Also, Blogger handle aside, you're pretty anonymous.

    2. Im self conscious about responding. Im bpd, not npd, lol, so of course I dont want to come off as a nutty fruitcake, but I also think that Haven's honesty and nakedness deserve to be reciprocated with a sacrifice of my own. So I share.

      Its also good for maintaining sanity between therapy sessions lol.

  4. Wow, this post totally explains my need for organization and planning and sleep in the last year since my bpd surfaced. Its so hard to go through a day that isnt planned, or a day with a lot of stressors. I have had to give up on some homework assignments lately (i am in college) and things like that to avoid my bad episodes that happen because of stress. Thank you so much for this advice!

    1. I'm glad it's useful! I have so much stress in my life and it's very important to know your triggers and how to work with them.

  5. Tip # 1 works good for me, when I am stressed, I rest and go to sleep, and when I wake up, it seems I forgot the thing why I am stressed, I guess sometime stress corresponds to the level of my energy. Though there are some cases that I cannot sleep if I am very stressed and that is the time I apply tip # 11, I do something, something that is fun. I usually play with kids to reduce my stress.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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