People with lived experience of BPD are very familiar with the following:
Feeling stressed or overwhelmed
Anxiety, worry, fear
sadness, tearfulness, low motivation
physical symptoms such as stomach upset, fatigue and more
frustration, irritability, anger
difficulty sleeping or concentrating
feeling disconnected from others
Things is, this is the way many others are feeling this also. The COVID-19 virus has really upset our world. This heightened anxiety that everyone experiences also contributes to our sense of unease and uncertainty. We are sensitive to how others feel and this affects us. However, we know the things we can do to help us feel better, and we have resources here for you.
Strategies to cope with stress, anxiety or distress: Focus on the actions that are in our control, that is the key to managing our stress, anxiety and distress.
1. Learn how to protect yourself and others - Washing our hands with soapy bubbles for 20 seconds is so important. Keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres. Stay at home unless it is essential for you to go out. Essential means that which keeps you alive and healthy, what is necessary for life. Follow the government's advice.
2. Acknowledge your feelings - You can reflect on your feelings: keep a journal, converse with others. You can channel your feelings creatively (get onto to YouTube, learn how to draw, learn how to sing). Meditate.
3. Maintain your day to day activities - a routine is essential to have a positive impact on your thoughts and feelings. Build into your schedule healthy eating in moderation, physical activity (a 20 minute walk/stretching exercises (try yoga! Google it), good sleep habits and relaxation. This is an excellent opportunity to get your life in order. See Steph's Survival Skills.
4. Stay Connected - identify your personal support network and build them into your routine. Stay in touch.
5. Contribute - we might be 'isolated' in our homes, but now more than ever being a part of a community, a contributing member of society, is so important.
Today we can see how what we as individuals do can effect the very life of others. It is positive for our own well being to be actively kind, to show we care. Whether it means cooking something special for another person, phoning an elderly relative, picking a bunch of flowers for a neighbour and leaving it on their doorstep. Little things matter.
6. Seek accurate information - It is important to keep things in perspective. There is so much uncertainty and if we allow social media to dominate our day, we can easily find ourselves mislead, confused or misguided. Set limits for watching the news and your social media use.
If we don't have answers we can easily create worse case scenarios and allow our anxiety to spiral. In a world where we rely on others to guide us, it is important the ones we seek answers from have our best interest at heart. In Victoria we rely on the Dept of Health and Human Services for accurate information about our circumstances here.
The four pillars that uphold our work to support people with lived experience of BPD are: Acceptance, Validation, Boundaries and Mindfulness. The techniques describe practices that cut to the core our ability to support recovery. These techniques apply to how we interact with ourselves and how we interact with others.
Acceptance: First comes Acceptance then comes Radical Acceptance (not forgetting self acceptance)
When we understand and acknowledge what we cannot change, we begin to accept. What is happening right now, we cannot change. We cannot change other people no matter how much we want them to change. We can however change ourselves and how we respond to people and events and in doing so, we can influence change for the future. When we learn how to accept, we can begin to ease our anxiety and distress. A key component of acceptance is being non judgemental. The practise of being non-judgemental is essential to achieve acceptance.
Radical Acceptance is when we accept with our mind, our body and our spirit. When we learn how to radically accept, we can find inner peace because we stop our struggle with the world.
Acceptance is not a state of mind so much as a practice, we actively practice Acceptance, Radical Acceptance. It is only with focussed practise that we can incorporate this into our lives.
Validation: This communication technique begins with listening to how others feel (or how we feel)
When we acknowledge the emotion being communicated, then we begin to listen to the person. The layers to this practise are many and when we consciously begin to apply then, we learn more. In our day to day lives, much of what we say is just talk, eg 'what's for dinner?' If however we say, 'I really feel like pizza tonight.' the person speaking might be saying, I really want some comfort food because I am feeling a bit down and want the food that will cheer me up, or I want something simple and easy because it's be a long day and I am tired.
Acknowledging how the person feels helps us develop our relationship with the person, it shows we care. Our emotions are true and real. For example, if a child wakes up scared and crying from bad dream, we comfort them because they are really frightened. We tell them that anyone would be scared if that was true. And only if it is possible, would we say to them, but it is really nothing, just a bad dream. Validating emotions does not mean agreeing with what is not true.
Of course, we need to develop the language of emotions for us to do this. This is not always so easy.
Boundaries: Boundaries are defined by our values. So the trick with having sound boundaries is knowing our values. In this situation our values are those things that we want to make the world a better place. BPD Community values are: Collaboration, Acceptance, Respect and Empathy.
When our personal boundaries are in place, we call it self discipline. We know what to do or what not to do based upon the values in our life. We encounter problems when our boundaries move about, we might feel others are 'using us' and others might feel that they don't know where they stand with us. To have sound boundaries, they need to accord with our values...they are to protect our values.
A consequence of poor boundaries can be seen when we blame others for their behaviour and avoid accepting responsibility for our actions.
Mindfulness: The practise of mindfulness is another simple sounding concept with huge ramifications. When we are mindful, we can recognise and take control of our emotions, we don't let our emotions rule.
Mindfulness means to be aware of what our body is feeling in the moment. When we are mindful we can notice if our body is tensing up, our fingers clench or fiddle, are shoulder muscles tighten and so on. When we can notice this, we can consciously relax and remind ourselves that all is ok really. If we are mindful we can focus on acceptance, validation and our boundaries. Spatial mindfulness is being conscious of the space we are in, relational mindfulness means we are conscious of others and take them into account.
Meditation is a deeper type of mindfulness. When we meditate, after practising it for some time, we can feel energised, more grounded, more settled. It is like charging our batteries.
SANE - 1800 18 7263 The lines are open Monday to Friday, 10am - 10pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time). Due to some changes during COVID-19, you’ll be asked to leave a voicemail, so a counsellor can call you back that day. The call back will be from a private number, and if they can’t get through to you they’ll send a text letting you know it was them.
eheadspace - confidential mental health and wellbeing support for young people (12 - 25 years) and their families, including information, support, and health services. Phone: 1800 650 890 (9am - 1am, 7 days a week). eheadspace online chat.
Mindspot - free telephone and online service for people with stress, worry, anxiety, low mood or depression. It provides online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression and can help you find local services. Call 1800 61 44 34 (8am - 8pm, Monday - Friday; 8am-6pm, Saturday).
1800Respect - confidential counselling, information and support for people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse via phone or online chat. Phone: 1800 737 732 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 1800Respect online chat.
Smiling Mind - free mindfulness meditation app to help you look after your mental health and manage stress and daily challenges.
Headspace - free "Weathering the Storm" program available to help support the global community through this time including a curated list of calming meditations, help with sleep, and at-home workouts or movement exercises.