11 Ways to Manage Your Biological Clock During Stressful Times

11 Ways to Manage Your Biological Clock During Stressful Times

Things have been just a tad stressful lately, wouldn’t you say? Seems a certain pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives, and so many things just aren’t the same. That includes our personal rhythms and routines. And here are 11 ways we can minimize damage…

Get up at the same time every day. A regular wake time is the most important input for stabilizing your body clock.

COVID-19 is cold, mean, and nasty. I mean, heck, if its physical threat isn’t enough, there’s its impact upon how we live our lives – to side-step and survive it.

In that regard, our context is going to be a manifestation of social distancing and shelter-in-place practices. I think you’ll find the info relevant and helpful…

Our Body Clock

Browsing around the web I found a great “please circulate freely” handout I’d like to summarize. Written with the pandemic in mind, it very nicely details self-management strategies for increasing the regularity of daily routines. A big thank you goes out to the International Society for Bipolar Disorders.

As I’m sure you know, one of the most important brain systems that contributes to our well-being is our body (biological) clock. That precious timekeeper is huge because it synchronizes our body and behavior with the 24-hour cycle of light and dark.

Let’s always keep in mind that predictable daily schedules and regular routines help to keep our body clock running smoothly. And when that’s happening we feel better. Fact is, disrupted body clocks are associated with all sorts of unpleasant circumstances – depression, anxiety, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, to name a few.

I don’t think it would be a news flash if I observed that if we’re dealing with a mood or anxiety disorder, it’s likely we have a sensitive body clock. That means it’s more prone to losing track of time when our environment is disturbed. Could even lead to spikes in mood and anxiety episodes.

Do I need to say more? Mood and anxiety disorder sufferers really need to pay attention to routines, keeping our body clocks happy, during highly stressful times.

11 Ways to Manage Your Body Clock During Stressful Times

how much longer do i have to stay homeThe gang at the International Society for Bipolar Disorders came up with some easy tips for improving the regularity of our daily routines. And they emphasize – even when nothing about our lives feels at all regular.

This is really good stuff, people. But it’s only as good as its practice. Give these some serious thought.

Here we go…

  1. Set up a routine. They help stabilize body clocks.
  2. Get up at the same time every day. A regular wake time is the most important input for stabilizing your body clock.
  3. Make sure you spend time outdoors every day, especially in the early morning. Your body clock needs to “see” light in the morning to know “when” it is.
  4. If you can’t go outside try to spend at least two hours next to a window, looking into the daylight, and focusing on being calm.
  5. Set times for a few regular activities each day such as home tutoring, telephone calls with a friend, or cooking. Do these activities at the same time each day.
  6. Exercise every day, ideally at the same time.
  7. Eat meals at the same time every day. If you’re not hungry, at least eat a small snack at the prescribed time.
  8. Social interactions are important, even during social distancing. Seek out “back and forth” social interactions where you share thoughts and feelings with another person in real-time. Videoconferencing, telephone, or even real-time text-messaging is preferred to scrolling through messages. Schedule these interactions at the same time every day.
  9. Avoid naps during daylight hours, especially later in the day. If you must nap, restrict them to 30 minutes. Napping makes it hard to fall asleep at night.
  10. Avoid bright light (especially blue light) in the evening. This includes computer screens and smartphones. Blue spectrum light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep.
  11. Stick to a consistent sleep and wake time that fits your natural rhythms. If you are a night owl, it’s okay to stay up a little bit later and get up a little bit later than others in the household. Just make sure you go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.

That’s All Folks

No doubt, we’re in the midst of trying times and stress levels are running high. If you’re a mood or anxiety disorder sufferer I’m thinking you know you’ll be somehow vulnerable. And struggling with rhythm and routine is right there at the top of the challenge list.

Let’s use our personal insight – anticipation skills – wisely. In this case, how ’bout we put the tips into action?

Hey, be sure to snoop around the International Society for Bipolar Disorders site.

If you’re longing for community, hop on over to the private Chipur Facebook group and join us.

Are you looking for some worthy reading while you’re hanging at home? Hundreds of Chipur articles are waiting for you.

17 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings: Understandable, but Disposable

17 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings: Understandable, but Disposable

In times like these, mood and anxiety disorder sufferers can come up with some, well, creative thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, they’re often terribly negative and can really bring us down. Sure, they’re understandable. At the same time, they’re disposable. In the spirit of sharing – community – let’s take a look…

I feel fatigued and icky. But I don’t think it’s because of my depression and anxiety. It has to be COVID-19.

I know, I know – I said in our last article I was aiming to keep the COVID-19 hubbub in the background “unless something radically changes.”

Yes, the social isolation guidance has been extended for a month in the US. And I’m aware the “curve” isn’t even close to flattening. But I wouldn’t consider that radical change. I mean, are you surprised at this stage of the game?

Still, I decided to go with the “bug” again because I perceive a real need for community, as well as a sense of reason.

17 Random & Scary COVID-19 Thoughts & Feelings

coroanvirus social distancing

Sharing: In a way we’ll again enjoy soon.

One of the ways we can ramp-up community and reason is to share, and identify with, each other’s thoughts and feelings pertaining to COVID-19. Especially the unsavory ones.

I vividly remember how comforting it was to know others were experiencing similar thoughts and feelings when my disorders were taking-off all those years ago. When I came to know others were in the same boat, it helped me feel less alone, understood, and not so freakish.

In an effort to encourage exactly that, I’m bringing you this list of alarming thoughts and feelings – in no particular order – that may understandably be buzzing about in your mind and heart as the pandemic unfolds.

If they are, I’d like you to do what you can to closely examine them and see what you can do in terms of disposal. Okay?

  1. When is this madness going to end? I can’t take another day, let alone be stuck at home until April 30th. And I bet there’ll be an extension.
  2. I feel fatigued and icky. But I don’t think it’s because of my depression and anxiety. It has to be COVID-19.
  3. What if I have a physical or mental breakdown? The ERs and hospitals are full. Besides, I couldn’t take being there. What will I do?
  4. What if there’s a run on the grocery stores and they can’t restock? I could starve to death.
  5. I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and the guy who handed me my food looked sick. I ate the burger, but maybe I should get tested.
  6. What if I tested positive? It’s not like I could get any help. The medical system is overrun. What would happen to me?
  7. Watching the news is freaking me out. But I’m afraid I’ll miss something life-saving-important if I turn the channel.
  8. I live so far from my family. What if I get sick and die? You mean the last time I would have seen them would be the holidays?
  9. What’s really going-on? And how did it really start? They say it’s a pandemic caused by a virus, but you know how that goes. What aren’t they telling us?
  10. I really miss the way things were. What if we never return to normal?
  11. I’ve been tracking the numbers every day. It’s scaring me that they keep going up – a lot. Things aren’t supposed to be that bad, right?
  12. I’ve been clean and sober for so long now. But I know I won’t be able to get through this without using. And, man, those cigarettes.
  13. If I get sick I know I’ll need a ventilator. But there won’t be enough. And I’m sure they’d pick me to do without.
  14. Truth really is this virus is airborne. I’m going to get it whether I distance myself from people or not.
  15. It’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose – looting, rioting. Even if there is martial law we won’t be safe.
  16. I’ve taken such huge hits financially. I just know the markets won’t bounce back. There goes my retirement.
  17. See, I’m just jinxed. Of course this would happen to me. I’m a disaster-magnet.

So what do you think? Any of those hit home? If you’d like to add to the list, go ahead and do it in a comment.

We Gotta’ Keep Moving Forward

These are strange and hard times. And it’s so easy for any mood or anxiety disorder sufferer to come up with prize material that can bring them down. But I have to say, I think it’s perfectly understandable.

If such thoughts and feelings have invaded your personal space it’s important that you know you’re not alone. Nor are you some sort of psycho-freak. But it’s equally as important to do all you can to recognize and challenge – dispose of – them. Dang, what potential they have to tear you apart.

We’re going to get past this mess and move forward, people – as a community. Never doubt it.

If you’re looking for an even greater sense of community, consider joining the Chipur Facebook group.

And if you’re longing for some excellent reading material, ya’ gotta’ check-out the Chipur titles.

Opportunity Is Knocking. Will We Open the Door?

Opportunity Is Knocking. Will We Open the Door?

How often does truly life-altering opportunity knock? Hmmm, rarely. But the COVID-19 pandemic has presented such a moment for those enduring a mood or anxiety disorder. The only question is, will we open the door?

That’s right, the social-distancing lockdowns have taken away so many of the external and internal diversions we’ve traditionally turned to for pain-relief…

Man, when I get the urge to discuss COVID-19, here or in the Chipur Facebook group, I think long and hard about it. There’s such a fine line between addressing a difficult subject for mood and anxiety disorder sufferers and providing meaningful information.

Obviously I gave it a go this time. However, I really aim to keep it in the background – unless something radically changes. I mean, COVID-19 is going to hum along, as will our mood and anxiety disorders. I’d rather focus on the latter.

Wishing for the Breakthrough Moment

Anyone who’s dealt with a mood or anxiety disorder for any length of time will tell you they wish for a breakthrough moment. It’s been referred to as the eureka effect or an Aha! moment. Suddenly a breakthrough in insight occurs and the stars just seem to line-up on what was an incomprehensible problem.

In our case, one would assume that when the insight hits home, the problem is on the way out the door. And I believe there’s a lot of truth to that.

That said, on we go wishing – praying, pleading – for that breakthrough moment. Who wouldn’t? Some hope it’ll just evolve and come forth out of nowhere. Others believe it’s more likely to present as a result of a traumatic experience, especially something that delivers a good bit of emotional, mental, and/or physical pain.

Could well be a coin-toss, but I lean toward a magnitude of insight coming from a traumatic experience. But even then, is the setting just right and is the experience traumatic enough?

The COVID-19 Opportunity Is Knocking

coronavirus opportunityThere’s no doubt in my mind that our COVID-19 setting and trauma level are more than sufficient to generate a breakthrough moment for anyone wrestling with a mood or anxiety disorder.

As I said in our last article, Coronavirus: Something to Chew on If You Have a Mood or Anxiety Disorder

“My guess is you’re pretty spooked by what’s going-on. Geez, the changes, lack of order, uncertainty, interruption of freedom, desertedness, helplessness, and hopelessness. And let’s not forget the mortality factor.”

Yep, I’d say we find ourselves within the right context and opportunity is definitely knocking. Changes, lack of order, uncertainty, etc.: any of the them is enough to trigger us to the max. And, of course, that can bring on the lowest and sky-highest of moods, as well as soaring anxiety.

But do you want to know what the greatest current contributor to our opportunity is? Lack of diversion.

That’s right, the social-distancing lockdowns have taken away so many of the external and internal diversions we’ve traditionally turned to for pain-relief (in lieu of working through our problems). Name ’em: work, gym, restaurants, bars, stores, malls, social events, sports. For instance, the cancellation of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments punched me right in the gut.

Here’s the bottom-line: we’ve been left to cope with the world stripped-raw naked and all by ourselves. But as painful as that is, always keep in mind it’s that kind of misery magnitude that brings breakthrough moments.

So take heart.

Will You Open the Door?

Opportunity – the potential breakthrough moment – is all well and good. But it’s kind of just blowing in the wind unless we open the door and do something with it.

For mood and anxiety disorder sufferers, the first order of business is jotting-down troubling thoughts and feelings as they pass through our mind and body. We may think they pertain exclusively to COVID-19, but I say we’re recording the disruptive themes and emotions that imprison us day-in and day-out.

Let me give you an example. With social-distancing and all the stay at home mandates, you may be experiencing deep feelings of emptiness and loneliness – maybe even abandonment. Don’t make the mistake of believing it’s all about the pandemic. That may be what’s triggered the feelings, but my money says they were there long before.

Okay, once we get a solid grip on what we’re putting ourselves through, the decision has to be made that there’s no running and hiding. It would be so tempting to find creative new diversions, but we can’t. I mean, to the extreme, what are we going to do, stay under the covers for a couple of months?

Finally, it’s on to taking the emotional and mental hits one-by-one and developing and practicing unique coping strategies and techniques. All the while we have to deeply believe that this go-round is significantly different, given the setting and trauma factor.

Yes, this time we have every reason to expect a breakthrough moment.

Let’s Roll

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to experience and survive this historic pandemic for nothing. Sure, not falling ill is something, but it’s more than that.

I want to use the COVID-19 pandemic – the trauma – to grow and become the best me.

Don’t you think that’s something to fight for? Yepper, opportunity is for sure knocking. Will you open the door?

You may find the private Chipur Facebook group comforting right about now. Head over, join, and be in community with us.

You may also find hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-focused articles comforting. All you have to do is check-out the titles.

11 Things to Do When Life Gets Flaming Hot (E/M First Aid)

11 Things to Do When Life Gets Flaming Hot (E/M First Aid)

We both know it isn’t a matter of if, but when. Life can get flaming hot, especially for someone already trying to manage a mood or anxiety disorder. So what are we to do amid the flames? Here are eleven heat-tested emotional/mental first aid techniques…

Find yourself a safe and quiet place, and slow down long enough to get an accurate fix on exactly what’s happening. There’s no way you can expect to survive…

Life has been a little tough for our family over the past six weeks. I’m thankful it doesn’t involve physical health issues. Still, one of my children has had a rough go. And you know the drill – what hits one of us hits us all.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who’s aware of the situation. At one point during my outpouring I whined about not even knowing what I was going to write about this week. She looked at me like “Duh!” Actually, the thought had already occurred to me.

Needless to say, I’m not going to get into the details of my kid’s situation. But I’d love to get into how to survive the immediate fallout of flaming circumstances.

Emotional/Mental First Aid

How many first aid courses have we taken? Heck, I have a current American Heart Association card in my wallet. So I’m Johnny on the Spot should someone, including me, find themselves in a bad way – physically.

But what if someone’s in a bad way emotionally and/or mentally? Unjustly, that seems to be a different story. I have to say, though, that these days such circumstances are being more directly addressed with terms and curricula like Psychological First Aid.

For our purposes I’m going with emotional/mental first aid (E/M First Aid).

11 Things to Do When Life Gets Flaming Hot

how to cope with stressSo within the context of E/M First Aid and gut-wrenching circumstances like my offspring’s (and mine as I try to help), I’m bringing you the following techniques to turn to when life flames-up.

Certainly there are more, but these eleven have worked well for me over the years. And you don’t have to put them into practice exactly as I’ve written them. These are for you so season to taste, if you will. Most important of all, be proactive – don’t just take the hits…

  1. Understand that extinguishing the flames isn’t the goal. Sure, if there’s mitigating action you can easily take, roll with it. But save as much of your energy as possible for emotional and mental survival. That’s the bottom-line here.
  2. Find yourself a safe and quiet place, and slow down long enough to get an accurate fix on exactly what’s happening. There’s no way you can expect to survive in the immediate if you don’t know for sure what’s going-on. While you’re at it, take into account how you traditionally receive, interpret, and respond to troubling stimuli. Could that generate inaccuracies?
  3. Expanding upon #2, if you endure a mood or anxiety disorder I’ll bet the farm that cognitive distortions are a big part of your life. There are several that may come into play, but catastrophizing – the “What if’s?” with disaster being the expect – can unnecessarily fuel the flames.
  4. Recall a time when you found yourself amid flames. Maybe the circumstances are the same, perhaps different. Doesn’t matter. What did you do that worked? What didn’t? And if you fell to pieces, encourage yourself for this go-round by saying, “What better time to change? I’ll pull it off this time!”
  5. Don’t go it alone, unless you truly have no choice. Isolation will get you nowhere fast. Spouse, partner, family member, friend, mental health professional, spiritual leader – solicit help. You definitely deserve the company and support.
  6. Never, ever discount the positive influence of exercise, proper food and drink intake, quiet time, hobbies, meditation, yoga, rest, sleep – and more. Perfection in practice isn’t the goal. Considering and practicing the activities that work best for you is.
  7. I can think of all sorts of quick severe stress relievers: alcohol, cannabis, recreational drugs, tobacco, benzos, opioids, and then some. Don’t abuse – rely – upon any of them. You can do this without that kind of help.
  8. Keep a progress diary, updating it at the interval of your choice. What a great way to stay focused and disciplined. And it’s the perfect way to track progress. Keep it, by the way. It’ll be great inspirational and reference material for the next time.
  9. Reach-out to someone in need. Yep, I said that. Amid your own flames, help someone survive theirs. Don’t worry, there’s enough of you to go around.
  10. If you don’t have a spiritual figurehead and practice, what better time to find one? If you’re all set, what better time to nurture the relationship?
  11. Who knows how long the flames will last? Fact is, they’ll eventually be extinguished or they’ll snuff-out on their own. Always remember, you’re not dealing with a forever set of circumstances. And never detach from hope. It may be all you have at times.

Be Prepared

So what do you think? Will they work for you? And, hey, if you come up with more share with us in the comment section.

Yep, we both know it’s a matter of when, not if. The flames are going to hit and it’s going to be all about emotional and mental survival. Be prepared. Why not keep this article, as well as other material, around for when the moment strikes?

See, the thing is, when the chips are down, it’s important to be able to say to yourself, “I got this.”

Chipur is a reservoir full of hundreds of mood and anxiety disorder centered articles. Really now, hit the titles.

The Chipur Facebook Group Is Ready for You. Join!

The Chipur Facebook Group Is Ready for You. Join!

If you want to do all you can to manage your mood or anxiety disorder, having a safe place to share, learn, compare notes, and chat is huge. There’s just something about interacting with people in the same boat. That is, people who can help you and to whom you can offer assistance…

That’s why I created the Facebook Group, Chipur: Living With the Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

Naturally, it’s private, so only members can see who’s in the group and what’s posted. And there are specific rules that address issues such as confidentiality, bullying, aggression, triggers, and selfish posting. In fact, one has to agree to the rules before being approved for membership.

I’d love to have you onboard, so how ’bout giving it a go?