Here’s a rundown of coping skills that I’ve learned to deal with my mental/emotional issues. They can also apply to everyone else in their generic form.
I understand that the mood swings and symptoms that come along with bipolar and some other mental illnesses are not completely avoidable.
However, I have found that I can lessen the frequency and severity of them by avoiding certain situations that make them worse.
Some of them may be common sense, but can be easily forgotten or looked over especially while you’re feeling down.
Avoid known triggers.
Try to figure out some of the triggers that worsen your symptoms, and attempt to avoid them.
For example, stress in general – which I admit is hard to avoid – worsens my symptoms greatly.
Because of my bipolar, I also tend to have more hallucinations and rapid mood swings during stressful periods.
But for anyone, as if this weren’t obvious, avoid unnecessary stress.
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have previously been stressed to a breaking point. It’s not worth it; walk away for a while if you have to – even at work!
In fact — did you know that if you have a psychiatric disability, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other nondiscrimination laws, your employer is supposed to make reasonable accommodations for you, such as more frequent breaks?
If it’s a person or decision that you feel uncomfortable with that’s stressing you out, learn to say “no.”
Always do what’s better for you, even if you feel that you should do something to make someone else happy.
Don’t feel stressed about making excuses about why you said no either. It may seem bitter, but we’re talking about your life and time – it’s one of the things you do have some control over.
If you are stressed and can’t avoid some of the situations, take action to reduce the impact it has on you.
- Try breathing exercises – really.
Clear your mind, close your eyes, and start to slowly but deeply inhale through your nose while feeling the breath travel from your abs up to the top of your head. Then slowly release it through your mouth, feeling it go down from your head this time. Repeat this for up to 5 minutes, and feel some relief.
- Express your feelings, don’t bottle them up.
Holding in your thoughts, opinions and feelings is not a good strategy for stress relief.
At some point, it will overwhelm you and break you down. You need to start letting things out and be more assertive.
- Talk to someone you can count on about what’s stressing you out, but try to keep calm while doing that.
Just except them to listen. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t give you a lot of feedback or advice; think of it as an outlet for the stress, regardless — anything else is a bonus.
- Consider getting a pet, such as a cat or dog. They help relieve stress.
Other than that, maybe you should try to change your perspective about the situations that are stressing you. Is it really as big of a deal as you’re letting it be for you? How long is it going to last? Will it really affect your whole life in the long run?
If it’s not as serious as you originally thought, then focus your energy elsewhere.
Avoid relationships at all cost, they are doomed to fail and cause you a lot of misery.
Alright, I’m not being ..completely.. serious there.
However, if you’re in a relationship that’s not working out well; e.g. you argue frequently, feel emotionally exhausted, disappointed or hurt often – this obviously isn’t good for your mental health.
If you’re bipolar – as I am, then this will very likely become a trigger for you, and you should either work together and come up with a plan how to avoid your conflicts from becoming so extreme – or it may actually be best for you to end that relationship, sadly.
I’m not pretending to be an expert or for anyone to actually just take my word for that, but I personally feel that – especially while suffering mental illness – unhealthy relationships are one of the worst things to deal with if you’re trying to actually improve your life and reduce symptoms.
But then we have another problem…
- Tough breakups
These are nearly as bad for you as the relationship was! The difference is that you will get over the breakup with time.
I’ve personally been through a couple of the hardest breakups I could imagine at the time. One relationship took me nearly a year to actually get over and accept it. I felt suicidal, I threatened people, I drank a lot and sulked in bed for months feeling worthless, wondering what I could have done differently, and all of that.
I hated myself, and then I hated myself more for making those bad decisions! It hurts a lot, and it takes time.
I even begged to get back together — but in the end, I realized you can’t force someone to love you and feel the same way you do about them. If they aren’t happy with you, then let them be; and if you really love them, you need to let them go – for their well-being, and your own.
You can’t force it to work, no matter what you do or how much you try to change.
Just accept that, and realize that you can have a better relationship with someone else.
There is someone better for you out of the billions of people in the world, or there wouldn’t have been reasons to breakup in the first place.
The sooner you get over the old relationship, the sooner you can start another relationship that will be healthier for you and the new person, based on things you’ve learned don’t work from the previous one.
Let’s go on to a lighter subject…
Having at least a somewhat normal sleep pattern is critical.
This can be difficult for bipolar people due to mania causing what feels like near infinite energy where you require little sleep – and depression causing you to sleep or stay in bed for days at a time. Although medication isn’t perfect, it does help with this for me.
For mania or not sleeping enough in general
- Exercising early in the day or afternoon to help rid some of the excess energy — but not too late, because that will pump up your adrenaline.
- Avoid any kind of stimulants such as caffeine.
- Well before the time you’re going to sleep, force yourself to think about things that are worrying you or that you normally would while you’re trying to go sleep. That way, you won’t be thinking of them as much when you do try to sleep.
- Keep everything as dark and quiet as possible when you do go to sleep.
If you’re in an environment with a lot of light and/or sound, consider a sleep mask and ear plugs.
- If you have a partner and they snore, try something to keep it quieter.
- Consider something new and different, like ASMR to calm yourself and make you feel good. You can find various videos of this on YouTube.
- Other than that, just try your best to visualize yourself in a relaxing, calming place. Slow your brain down as much as possible, and let your worries slip away.
- Oh, and turn off your phone and other gadgets that may distract you and keep you up longer!
- If all else fails, you can try some over-the-counter sleeping pills. But I don’t suggest doing that regularly. Better yet, talk to your doctor or psychiatrist.
For depression or sleeping too much in general
- The complete opposite! Take as much caffeine as possible without killing yourself, sleep with bright light in your eyes and invest in a jackhammer for your partner or friend to use right outside all day and night.
No, not really…
- Perhaps you do need a Runaway Alarm Clock that actually rolls away so you have to get out of bed to stop it from making those loud noises. Or considering just putting a loud alarm clock in another room.
- Make some kind of routine schedule that you’ll try your best to stick to. Stretch a lot before you even get out of bed, force yourself to get up, make some coffee if you drink that, take a shower ASAP since that may help wake you up, and only then enjoy the coffee.
- Don’t go back to bed until it’s actually time to.
- Also, don’t lay in your bed during the day. Because your body can be triggered into thinking “it’s time to sleep” when it isn’t. It’s probably better if you’re not even in the same room, if possible.
If all else fails, look into getting a sleep study done.
Avoid negativity, and putting yourself in situations with low chance of success
Change your usual ‘go-to methods’ if they aren’t working.
Avoid negativity and situations that will disappoint you.
- Negative people
If you regularly talk to someone who is often negative, this is unhealthy for you. It’s emotionally draining, and tends to reflect on how you feel.
- People who don’t fulfill expectations or support you
You talk to someone and expect a certain response from them – but usually don’t get it. You should avoid this situation.
This applies to friendships, romantic relationships and any people in general that you know aren’t likely to give you the kind of response you want.
For example, if you want to have a serious talk about some issue/concern to a specific friend who is not usually supportive of you, then don’t go to them looking for that support because you’ll just be disappointed and your mood will become worse.
Or if you are excitedly hoping that a friend or romantic will do something specific with you that you know they don’t enjoy or do often, don’t bother asking – especially while you’re already feeling down, and if you’re hoping a positive response would improve your mood. Chances are you won’t get what you want, and you’ll be disappointed.
It’s pretty a simple concept, and broader than I’ve outlined here.
This could also apply to gambling or doing anything with a low chance of success in general.
If chances are slim of getting what you want out of something, then don’t put energy into it; you’ll be avoiding a high probability of bringing yourself down more.
So therefore, do the opposite.
- Go to people you can count on and get the kind of response you need to feel better.
- In general, only do things that are very likely to succeed for you (based on past experience and risk assessment) — especially while you’re in a bad mood.
Distract yourself from thinking negatively, because you’re going keep feeling negative otherwise.
Believe me, if you’re negative right now, I fully understand that you may be thinking that is bullshit and you wish it were easy. I’ve been so negative that anyone trying to be positive actually made me feel disgusted, and even angry – because I felt like they don’t understand and/or I envied that they could feel that way when I wasn’t able to.
I also tend to reject anything positive – either because I feel hopeless, that I deserve to feel negative, or actually want to embrace the sorrow for a while.
But staying in that mood isn’t going to make you feel better, and it’s not going to prove a point to anyone.
The whole thing is a lose-lose situation.
So at least try to think of some of the positive things in your life instead.
Surely there are some things that are going well for you, and most likely you have things that less fortunate people don’t have; think about those things instead.
- Write down things that are positive about your life, and things that you are good at – to remind yourself!
And if you really can’t think of anything positive or refuse to, then try to distract yourself by doing other things that will improve your mood slightly or even make you feel proud of yourself.
Some things you can do to distract yourself
- Draw. This also helps you express your feelings and get them out.
You can either do it the old fashioned way with (colored) pencils and paper, or on your computer/phone/tablet with an app.
For example, MS Paint, or an Android/iPhone game like Draw Something with friends and random people; I’m sure Facebook has something similar too.
- Write. Same as above, to get your thoughts and feelings out!
- Watch funny videos online. I especially like prank videos.
CollegeHumor | Break | YouTube – Comedy Channels
- Listen to music that you enjoy.
I enjoy Industrial/Electro, but you may be into something else.
SoundCloud | YouTube – Music Feed | Amazon Prime Streaming Music | Google Play Music
- Play some games, watch a movie or TV.
- If you’re energetic, do some cleaning around the house to feel better. Wash your car, if you have one – or even your pets.
- Cook something new, look up recipes. Impress your partner, if you have one!
- Go for a walk or bicycle ride.
- Visit a museum, antique shop, go to the beach or other place that may interest you. Just to get out and do something different.
- Take photos of things that interest you. Edit them for fun, share them with people. This could be part of your mission while going out, too.
- Call or write to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.
There are near infinite things you can do. These are just a few examples!
Be positive. You’ll be stronger after you deal with your current situation
“Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”
Start by accepting yourself. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, but you need to.
Especially the things that you can’t change about yourself.
If you can’t change something, then you’re just wasting time and energy by worrying about it.
And it’s always going to have the same outcome — you’ll be disappointed, possibly depressed, and it will reflect on how you do everything in life.
Let’s be real, it will probably also annoy the crap out of other people if you constantly complain about the same things that nothing can be done for.
Focus on who you are, and be the best “you” that you can be.
Don’t judge your own thoughts and feelings, or worry about what other people think of them. This is also a waste of time; especially if you worry about what other people think, because in the end it doesn’t matter — you can’t appeal to everyone, and trying to adapt yourself in order to do that is a waste of energy that isn’t going to do you any good.
Think positively to yourself
- “I’m strong, I can deal with this”
- “This is nothing I haven’t dealt with before”
- “It could be worse, this is no big deal”
- and so on…
Believe in yourself!
Learn to prevent negative thoughts and automatic responses
When you think about something negatively, there is a trigger for it just before it happens.
You need to learn to identify these triggers, teach yourself to notice them, and then change your thought process / reaction.
For example, if somebody says something offensive and personal to you – then you may become insulted, sad or even angry.
Any time you hear or think that something that would make you feel that way (e.g. “you’re a fat slob”, “I hate you”, “you suck”) — don’t let your brain automatically take over! Instead, interrupt it — clear your mind for a moment, feel confident and strong that you can overcome this.
Words have no power, unless you give it to them.
With enough practice, you can actually change how you react and feel about any situation. At the very least, you can start by delaying your reaction and outbursts for certain situations.
I’ve actually had enough experience with this to the point where I can feel completely neutral or even smile if I want to after someone says something like that to me.
You’ve got this!
You’re in control if your life, hope you react to and deal with everything. Positive thinking and avoiding the things you dislike will bring better things into your life.
I hope this article was helpful for someone.
If you have any suggestions or things I left out, feel free to leave a reply.
I may update it over time.