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As someone living with bipolar type I, I have a particular need to keep stress at bay, but really we could all benefit from reducing our stress levels. Stress is known to play a huge role in the development and prognosis of several major diseases[efn_note]Vanitallie, TB. Jun 2002. "Stress: a risk factor for serious illness." Metabolism. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12040540.[/efn_note]. Yet most of us are exposed to stress on a daily basis. Never-ending deadlines, bills and finances, a long list of errands...we have so much to take care of. Adulting is pretty hard, to tell the truth.
For a while at work, I was doing the work of two or possibly even three people. The way I accomplished this was through rigid structure, i.e. massive color-coded to-do lists that tracked how many tasks I completed in each category. I also purchased a home, moved from a 2-bedroom apartment without hiring movers, primed and painted several rooms, and started to plan a wedding. On top of all that, I was still trying to reduce my impact by recycling our plastic and styrofoam, maintaining a worm bin for compost, and cooking more meals instead of ordering out. Needless to say, I was under a lot of stress. I don't think it's a coincidence that shortly after all of these events collided, I had my first manic episode.
The thing is, as I type all of that out, it doesn't even sound like a lot. I know people who do a lot more. It's wild that we try to do so much and push ourselves to the extreme. Our culture has evolved such that we're constantly plugged in, always reachable, so there's no excuse to ever stop moving and just relax. In fact, at least for me, it used to be that I would have bursts of working hard and then stretches of collapsing, burnt out, in front of a never-ending Netflix stream. But we need to acknowledge that reducing stress isn't just a nice-to-have...it's a necessity, because it's one of the biggest risk factors for poor health outcomes.
being gentle with yourself
© if you know you grow 2023.