The last several months have been very stressful for me. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in December, and a week later my son, Mateo, was born stillborn. My wife had to transition jobs, and I started a new job a month ago. Dealing with stress can be difficult enough as it is, but especially when you live with a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder like I do. It’s not easy sometimes managing the natural stresses of life, let alone the chemical changes in your brain. I wanted to share some things that cause me stress and healthy coping techniques that I have found effective for dealing with stress.
Lack of sleep and low or high blood sugar can stress me out very easily. I manage these stressors by going to bed at relatively the same scheduled time each evening, but more importantly setting my alarm clock for the same time each morning. I routinely check my blood glucose level and make sure I am eating enough carbohydrates, but not too much. Exercise also helps me with being able to sleep regularly and it keeps my blood sugar at a normal level. I have also found exercise lowers my mental health stress and makes me feel good when I take a bike ride outside or go for a walk at the zoo or park.
Transitions are also a huge stressor to me. In the last year I got married, became a father, lost my only son, was diagnosed diabetic, and lost a job, and started a new one. These were all major transitions in my life. One way of managing transitions in my life is looking for other areas in my life that are stable. I found having close friendships, down time to read or listen to music, and journaling all helped me with this. I have also been going to therapy as well, and that’s provided me with a safe space to talk about life’s transitions.
Grief is also a major stressor for almost everyone. I have been in mourning for months now since my son’s death. I have found that there isn’t one quick or easy way to minimize incredibly profound feelings of loss, sadness, and grief, but there are things I have done that have helped. One of the first things I did was talk with others. Sharing Mateo’s story and our family’s story with close friends, family, even strangers sometimes, helped. I also kept a journal for my grief. During the first 12 weeks after his death, sleep and meals weren’t as regular as before, so I did extra things to take care of myself such as: going to the gym to exercise daily, reading more, listening to music, prayer, seeking out faith communities, cooking, learning a new hobby like crocheting, and reaching out to others when I felt overwhelmed. My wife and I also attended support groups for bereaved parents. All of these things helped, but I quickly realized that the only way out of grief is through it.
Stress in life is unavoidable. It can seem more difficult if you live with a mental health condition, but stresses can be managed and adversity can be overcome. Find things that work for you that you enjoy. Listen to your doctors or mental health care professionals for guidance along the way. Seek out others who you trust. Exercise, eat well balanced healthy meals, stay hydrated, and practice good sleep hygiene. Pursue creative outlets such as drawing or painting, writing, playing music, or crafts. Lean into faith or spirituality, and always remember help is very real and hope for a brighter day. This too shall pass, and you can make it. I am making it through this very difficult season in life right now, and I am hopeful for the future.
Dave Wise is a blogger, barista, and husband and father living in St. Louis, Missouri. He lives with bipolar disorder type 2 and type 2 diabetes. Dave enjoys reading, writing, playing guitar, and crocheting. You can find Dave exploring parks, museums, and riding his bicycle on his days off. To learn more about Dave or to read his blog you can visit davewisematters.com.
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