Category Archives: Balance

7 Strategies to Outsmart the Sun: Staying Clear of Summer Mania

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The changing seasons effect my moods in a noticeable pattern. Very often winter or even fall bring on depression which last though the spring. I slowly climb out of depression only to land in a hypomanic state, which often begins in the springs and worsens in the summer.

Once again, spring brought on a hypomanic episode that worsened in the summer. Stress, changing schedules, change in sunlight and activities all bring on these mood swings. I just read this blog about fighting summer mania. Here’s to a balanced life. Now I’m going to sleep because I know sleep and a consistent schedule are an important part of my self care. ☀️ 🏖🧜🏻‍♀️💦💛

While you can’t change the seasonal shift to longer days, you can make subtle lifestyle changes, such as regulating sleep, to sidestep summer mania.

Photo: Merlas/Getty Images

By Brittany Sibley

The days are longer and the sun is shining the brightest in a while. For a person diagnosed with Bipolar I in 2006, the mere transition to long, luminous days and shorter nights causes more anxiety and nervousness than usual.

The change of seasons has caused me plenty of manic episodes in the past. I have since learned seven solid solutions and tips to help combat the symptoms of seasonal changes. These tips help in staying clear of an inpatient hospital visit during what most consider the best months of the year. I hope they are as effective for you as they have been for me.

1. Sleep

It has been essential for me to always get enough rest. However, with Daylight Saving Time and longer, shinier days, an additional burst in energy is never too far away. Although it almost always feels wonderful, and causes you to want to get more done, stay out longer, possibly accomplish a few more things in 24 hours…DON’T!

While the feeling of more energy is real and feels great, falling away from your regular sleep regimen is never a good idea, especially when the season of mania approaches. In fact, one should definitely keep the regular sleeping hours and if anything changes, let the hours increase, and not the opposite.

2. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy and making healthy eating decisions regularly is something I still struggle with. Yet I have experienced the benefits of eating salad instead of a deep dish pizza several times. You are what you eat! Eating more veggies, fruit, and lean meats instead of processed foods regularly, and especially during manic season, makes a difference. You will feel a difference in your skin, your mood, and even your waistline.

3. Take Deep Breaths

Taking deep breaths when stressed, tired, upset, angry, unfocused or even irritated helps. Try deeply inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth in sets of 3. This is also a good tool because it requires nothing but reminding yourself to do so in times of sudden distress.

4. Pray/Meditate

Take time out of your day, (first thing in the morning works best for me), and remind yourself of who you are besides your diagnoses.

Remember that you are loved and worthy of all the great things that day has in store for you.

 

Since I am a Christian, it helps me to remind myself that I am never alone because the Holy Spirit, who my Savior promised to send when he left, is with me no matter how lonely I may feel.

5. Take Breaks

The sudden burst of energy one may experience from the sunnier days and more exposure to the sun in general can trigger the want to complete more tasks—and this can be alright, as long as you remember to take breaks.

It helps to remember that this new energy feels good, but is coming from an unbalanced source.

 

Doing too much in 24 hours with little time to break or rest can cause the onset of a manic episode.

6. Watch Alcohol Intake

5 years ago in 2013, I had an inpatient hospital visit that can be directly attributed to the large intake of hard alcohol consumed two nights before. I simply drank way too much that night.

With spring and summer come more festivals, barbecues, beaches, and let’s admit it—booze.

Monitoring alcohol intake during these seasons is a must! If you still are not sure when you have had enough, take it slow. Yes it can be a bit lame being the responsible one at the party, but I promise, your freedom will thank you later.

7. Cover Bedroom Windows Heavily

The day before Daylight Saving Time, try covering your bedroom window with a dark-colored blanket. The blanket will work as a shield to the bright rays of sun in the morning.

Although longer, sunnier days are always welcome, adjusting to the initial change while having a mental health condition can be traumatic.

The dark blanket helps ensure your sleeping pattern is not interrupted so blatantly. It also allows your body to tell you when it has had enough sleep.

I hope these seven tips are as helpful for you as they have been for me over the past several springs and summers.

Let’s do our best to have a safe, healthy and stable summer while enjoying the sunnier days and moonlit nights. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. Until next time…Happy Summer!

Learn more:

Ask The Doctor: Summer Mania

Watch Out for Summer Mania

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4 Go-To Tips to Take on (Unbearable!) Social Anxiety

Getting busy striking up a simple conversation or just helping an event organizer can allow you to ease discomfort in situations with A LOT of people

Photo: GeorgePeters/Getty Images

By Brittany Sibley

Over the years I have realized a few things related to my journey with Bipolar I. The fact that I can experience hard core anxiety is one of them.

In busy, active situations, my brain can sometimes label this as too overwhelming. These types of situations, for example, include riding a crowded bus, eating lunch in the employee lounge, holiday parties, birthday dinners, outside festivals/concerts, ordering food in a busy restaurant, and waiting in long lines at a local grocery store, supermarket or any other place a lot of folks—familiar or unfamiliar—may be located at one point of time.

At times, my “bipolar 1 mind” cannot conceive baring situations with lots of people because it feels a little too much for my five senses. I have learned a few tips to try and ignore the sense of unbearable discomfort to help you get through your day, run your errand, stay put at the party, and enjoy your family’s get-together, concert, festival or any other situation where your brain would like you to detach, resist, isolate or literally walk away.

I have experienced when walking away is necessary to maintain your calmness, and if you find yourself in this situation, please do what’s necessary to ensure stability. However, if you think you can stay put, staying active personally is a great way to get over that hump. These are often my go-to tools for keeping myself active in busy situations.

1. Try to make convenient, comfortable conversation with at least one person.

It does not matter who the one person is, and you don’t need many details to start the conversation. Just mention something you both have in common in that moment of time. I hate to be cliche, but it really could be the weather, how his or her day has been thus far, how and why the place you both are presently in is so crowded or decorated (depending).

Usually as the conversation progresses, your mind eventually fades from unbearable to sort of bearable to not so bad after all.

2. Always have something to read!

If not, pick up something to read. A magazine, a book, a schedule, a brochure, an itinerary—it does not really matter what it is.

In my experience, by reading, you are taking your mind off the sudden discomfort your body experiences in busy, or suddenly busy situations. Your mind begins to instead focus your energy on reading and learning, possibly information you did not know before.

If you continue to read long enough, the urge to walk away from the situation will settle. When in long lines, I usually read long enough until it is my turn to check out.

3. Offer/ask host of event or gathering if there is anything you can do to help.

I have found making myself available to the host keeps me very active at busy events. From helping with displays and food layouts, to assisting with clean up by gathering dishes, and finally helping any elderly with second plates, take home bags, and drink refills, these tasks can take your mind off of your anxiety.

4. Keep your head up and remind yourself that the reason you feel anxiety is because you actually got up and went to the situation, event or invite in the first place.

While some places can be required and unavoidable, choosing to remain active in them in any effort deserves a little recognition. Recognizing any small feat allows the next accomplishments to become easier and easier.

These few tools can help in trying to remain active in anxiety-inducing situations the same way they continue to help me. I speak from my personal experience, and you or your loved ones may have experiences quite different than what I know to be true.

Either way, trying the tools will not hurt, especially during this summer season where things to do abound! I would love to hear if these tips work for you and if not, what other tools you may know of to better assist in similar situations. Happy July and continue to take care of your mind as well as you do your body…until next time, Happy Summer!

Learn more:

7 Strategies to Outsmart the Sun: Staying Clear of Summer Mania

Stress or Bipolar Anxiety? How to Tell the Difference

Hope for Bipolar Depression

Even in our darkest places, we will eventually realize that there is hope to get through our tragedies and hardships. What may seem hopeless one day, will lead into another, that will assure us that depression does not last forever. When we are in the middle of it, we cannot see the light, but upon reflection, many realize that there is room to grow and learn from our experiences, no matter how bleak and dark. I know this to be true when attempting to fight off the darkness that never seems to end.

Depression is an element of bipolar disorder that we can never escape, but it is truly in reaching out for help that will bring us on a journey of recovery and acceptance that makes it okay to not be okay. It is imperative to know that clinical depression is not always triggered by something in particular, and there is often not a ‘reason’ for the experience. We are plainly dealing with a mental illness that often has no specific logical circumstantial indicator. As we travel through the valleys, we just have to remember than one day, we will once again soar into a place of stability and balance. Taking the first step by reaching out may be the most difficult, but it is also one of the most vital decisions that you will ever have to make.

Keep your heads up guys and know that you too are worthy of understanding, acceptance, and empathy. Never be afraid to ask for the help that you so rightfully deserve.

You Say

Lauren Daigle – You Say Lyrics

From the album Look Up Child

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low

Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

You say I am loved

When I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong

When I think I am weak

You say I am held

When I am falling short

When I don’t belong

You say I am Yours

And I believe

I believe

What You say of me

I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet

You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory

Oh, I believe

Yes, I believe

What You say of me

Oh, I believe

Publishing: © 2018 See You At The Pub & CentricSongs (SESAC) / So Essential Tunes & Fellow Ships Music (SESAC) / Flychild Publishing & So Essential Tunes (SESAC)

Words and Music by Lauren Daigle, Jason Ingram and Paul Mabury

The Beautiful Things We Miss

I don’t wanna miss it
I don’t wanna look back someday and find
Everything that really mattered
Was right in front of me this whole time.”

The Beautiful Things We Miss by Matthew West

This is one of my favorite songs right now. It talks about the importance of living in the moment and cherishing the little things. Playing with our kids, spending time with friends and family, enjoying a good song, the sunshine, even a nice walk or book. Before we know it our kids will be grown and loved will pass away.

We don’t want to miss the times we never bothered to cherish, Instead we should live life to the fullest. The point is to have joy now rather than hoping in a future that may never come.

All we have is this day, therefore we are to live one day at a time, not worrying about our future. God will take care of us if we just have faith. This does not mean He will prevent anything bad from happening to us. Instead, He will give us strength to get through the hard times and even find moments of happiness amiss our struggles or greatest times of sorrow.

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The inspiration for Matthew West’s new song “The Beautiful Things We Miss” first began surfacing in his mind during a hike he took in Colorado. Matthew, a beginning hiker at the time, paused to catch his breath; looking around he noticed something profound…

“I was just focusing on the ground in front of me and there’s all these roots from trees that had popped up that you kind of used as steps and if you didn’t see them you’d trip over them,” Matthew recalls. “At one point, I was just out of breathe and I stopped and for the first time in the hike I looked around me and it was like the most gorgeous scenery, it was just breathtaking. And, I literally had the idea the beautiful things we miss. Why? Because I was looking down the whole time I was hiking and I was missing what was going on around me.”

In this video about the story behind “The Beautiful Things We Miss” Matthew continues to describe what he discovered that day and how he applies it to his own life, with his family and career.

Lyrics

She puts on her makeup

And the last dress she remembers that turned his head

That time he said, “You look beautiful”

At six, the front door opens

And he doesn’t even notice

Kisses her cheek

“Baby, when do we eat

I’m starving”

Oh, the beautiful things we miss

I don’t wanna miss it

I don’t wanna look back someday and find

Everything that really mattered

Was right in front of me this whole time

Open up my eyes, Lord

Keep me in the moment just like this

Before the beautiful things we love

Become the beautiful things we miss

She hides out in her headphones

Texting on her cell phone

Daddy’s girl built a world behind her bedroom door

While he was working hard and providing

Bigger houses still get divided

Just yesterday she was on his shoulders, but today she’s older

Why do we get older

We don’t get to rewind

There’s no such thing as next time

Help me remember, help me remember, we don’t get this back

They were right when they said don’t blink

It all goes faster than you think

Help me remember, help me remember

The beautiful things we miss

Open up my eyes, Lord

Open up my eyes, Lord

I don’t want to miss it

No, I don’t want to miss it

Open up my eyes, Lord

Open up my eyes, Lord

Before the beautiful things I love

Become the beautiful things I miss

Publishing: © 2017 Highly Combustible Music / Atlas Music Publishing / House Of Story Music / Two Story House Music (ASCAP) (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing

Writer(s): Matthew West and AJ Pruis

“I don’t wanna miss it
I don’t wanna look back someday and find
Everything that really mattered
Was right in front of me this whole time.”

— Read on www.air1.com/music/artists/matthew-west/songs/the-beautiful-things-we-miss-lyrics.aspx

How Should We Respond to Criticism

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I want my words to be life giving, to build up others. Because of our sinful nature, we can often be critical. In our ignorance we can think we are right and doing the right thing to offer our critical opinion. We need to guard our hearts against being opinionated. We can pick apart the way people do things differently than us.

Overcoming a Sensitive Spirit to Criticism

We have to become deeply assured of who we are in Christ. Being confident in our calling will keep us from being derailed by criticism. We should not be driven by praise. Therefore, don’t let compliments go to your head or criticism go to your heart.

One way to respond to critical people is to respond carefully, not rashly or instinctively.

A thoughtful answer can give a critical person a different perspective. If you wait to send that text or throw back a defensive comment, then you can think about your response. This allows you to act out of wisdom.

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Often, the criticism isn’t about you. Most angry people are actually hurting. They have a past hurt or something about themselves they don’t like.

Forgive in real time, don’t wait months or years to forgive. It will steal your joy and make it hard to love others. Resist the urge to defend yourself or explain why it is not fair. If we let the Spirit help us we can get above it.

Constructive Criticism

Accepting constructive criticism can help us be better. If there are not several things you have changed in the last year because of constructive criticism, then you are missing out on the opportunity for growth.

Improving Dopamine Levels

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss, pleasure, euphoria, drive, motivation, focus, and concentration. But let’s start at the beginning: Your brain actually communicates with itself. That is, you have an intricately linked system of nerve cells called neurons that “communicate” with each other via specialized receptor sites.

Dopamine is a chemical (neurotransmitter) that is used by the nerves to send “messages.” When a nerve releases dopamine, it crosses a very small gap called a synapse and then attaches to a dopamine receptor on the next nerve. Therefore, when dopamine levels are depleted in the brain, the nerve impulses, or “messages,” cannot be transmitted properly and can impair brain functions: behavior, mood, cognition, attention, learning, movement, and sleep.

How Do I Know Whether I Have Dopamine Deficiency?

When there is a dopamine deficiency, emotions cannot be correctly regulated. Mental impulses that mitigate intense feelings of sadness are inhibited; therefore, the most common low dopamine symptoms are the same signs associated with clinical depression (and more specifically, major depressive disorder):

14 Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

1 Lack of interest in life

2 Decreased motivation

3 Procrastination

4 Inability to feel pleasure

5 Altered sleep patterns

6 Restless leg syndrome

7 Fatigue

8 Mood swings

9 Excessive feelings of hopelessness or guilt

10 Poor memory

11 Inability to focus/impaired concentration

12 Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors

13 Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants

14 Weight gain

Extreme dopamine deficiency, as in the case of Parkinson’s disease, causes a permanent and degenerative diminishing of motor skills, including muscle rigidity and tremors.

7 Ways to Treat Dopamine Deficiency

With that background in mind, consider the following dopamine-boosting tactics you can take to increase dopamine.

1. Decrease your sugar intake. Sugar alters brain chemistry by disrupting dopamine levels, which is one reason why people often experience a “sugar high” shortly after eating sweets. Just as alcohol and drugs can deplete dopamine levels, sugar does the same. In fact, sugar stimulates the exact same euphoric pathway targeted by alcohol and drug use–that is, the decreased dopamine levels lead to actual sugar addictions.

Whether initiated by alcohol, cocaine, or sugar, the compulsive behavior addiction is the same—an undeniable desire for dopamine. Limiting sugar intake will help fight this addictive dopamine depletion-sugar craving cycle. If you struggle with a sweet tooth, you can take chromium picolinate supplements to help decrease your sugar cravings.[1,2]

2. Take tyrosine. When your brain cells need to “manufacture” neurotransmitters for proper mood regulation, they use amino acids as the essential raw material. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; there are 20 different amino acids that make up the protein our body needs.

The brain uses the amino acid l-phenylalanine as the source (precursor) for the production of dopamine. Phenylalanine is one of the “essential” amino acids; that is, the body cannot make it on its own so we have to get it from the foods we eat or from supplements. Once the body receives phenylalanine, it can convert it to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine. So the way to increase central nervous system neurotransmitter levels is to provide proper amounts of the amino acid precursor.

Bananas, especially ripe bananas, are an exceptional food for regulating dopamine because they have a high concentration of tyrosine. Other foods that increase dopamine through the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine include almonds, apples, watermelons, cherries, yogurt, beans, eggs and meats.

It is important to note that dopamine foods alone generally do not have the therapeutic amino acid levels necessary to boost dopamine levels for someone experiencing major depressive disorder. To boost your levels of dopamine, dopamine rich foods may not be adequate. Tyrosine supplementation may help.

3. Decrease caffeine intake. Even though coffee gives you the energy boost you need, just like sugar, it only offers temporary relief and may actually be doing more harm than good. After experiencing the initial kick caffeine offers, dopamine levels in the body decrease. So, go for a cup of decaf or at least minimize consumption of coffee to counter dopamine deficiency.[5]

4. Set a routine schedule. One easy way to boost dopamine is to get in a healthy routine and stick to it. Your routine should include adequate time for work and rest. Ideally, your 24-hour day should include seven to eight hours of sleep per night in combination with periods of physical activity.

Under-sleeping and/or over-sleeping combined with lack of regular exercise can drain the brain of dopamine. Why? Proper sleep gives the brain time to recuperate from the day and recharge its stores of neurotransmitters.

5. Get consistent exercise. Regular physical activity increases blood circulation to influence the presence of many different hormones within the brain, affecting dopamine levels.

6. Decrease stress levels. High stress levels are also strongly correlated with dopamine deficiency. Stress can be caused by two sources: poor adrenal function and chronic daily life stressors. While we can’t always control our circumstances, there are “stress safeguards” you can utilize to help you deal with the day-in and day-out anxieties.

Remember, if stress is not handled properly, it can be devastating to your health. So, establish an ongoing plan that enables you to deal with stress effectively.

7. Correct a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency can cause decreased levels of dopamine, and natural health experts estimate over half of the US population to be deficient in this relaxation mineral. If you’ve been eating a diet heavy in junk foods or processed foods, you probably have a magnesium deficiency! Common symptoms include food cravings (salt or carbs), constipation, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, muscle pains and spasms, fatigue, headaches, and depression symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and irritability.

There are blood and urine tests that your doctor can perform to see if you have a magnesium deficiency. However, these tests may not always be accurate since most of the body’s magnesium stays in the cells, rather than in the bloodstream or the urine.

There is one lab test called a sublingual epithelial test that is more effective because it checks for magnesium in the cells, where most of it is present. To perform this test, your doctor will scrape under your tongue with a tongue depressor to obtain epithelial cells, which are then sent to a lab for analysis. Schedule this test with your doctor or start increasing your intake of magnesium.[6]

Thank You God for These Hands

Thank you God for these able hands that shoveled many feet of snow. My poor van was almost lost for good, but with help from my wonderful husband we saved her.

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Now I rest. I’m thankful for this ‘Mommy break’. I gave myself a manicure. I am happy even though they are short. I broke four nails in the process of shoveling and putting outside clothes on and off four kids about a hundred times.

A little me time and pampering goes a long way. It was a much needed 30 minute break while my three big kids played outside and baby Rachel napped. Thank you God for moments of rest and peace. #simplepleasures #girlygirl

Recovery Thinking: Love and Healing

Love is the power that transforms your life. Try to love your family and your friends and then try to love everybody that you possibly can, even the “sinners and publicans” – everybody. Love for God is an even greater thing. It is the result of gratitude to God, and it is the acknowledgement of the blessing that God has sent you. Love for God acknowledges His gifts and leaves the way open for God to shower yet more blessings on your thankful heart. Say, “Thank you, God,” until it becomes a habit.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may try to love God and all people. I pray that I may continually thank God for all His blessings.