|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?