Strategies to use with mood swings

How do you manage your highs and lows and what strategies can you use to help you manage your manic states?


theatre masks -- happy and sadI’ve been in the middle of a mixed state for a while now, but in the past few days, I’ve become a bit more hypo. I crash a little in the evening, but then I’m back up again — the hypomania is quickly taking over. Sure, hypomania is better than a mixed state (just my personal opinion), but I also know the dangers and so I’m trying to use the beginning of this state to help keep myself in check.

In the past, I would just deal with my highs and low as they came, but I’ve come to realize that’s probably not the best way to handle this disorder. With my newfound energy and focus, I’ve started doing a few things that I’m hoping will become habit and I will continue when I switch to a different state.

  1. I am journaling as much as I can. It does seem that I’m generally more in the mood to do so when I’m down, but I’m making myself do it now — because it’s important to keep track of your life. It keeps you aware. Which is why the next thing I do is so great!
  2. I monitor my moods with an online chart. Personally, I use Healing Charts because it sends me an email reminder every day (you can choose the time) to fill out my charts. So I get my email on my phone and I can fill everything out right then and there so I don’t forget or put it off. I like Healing Charts because of the different charts it offers, plus you can make your own, along with other great features.
  3. I try really, really, super hard to keep my stress levels as low as possible. I have learned to avoid situations which are stressful and, if I know I’m about to get in an argument or I’m getting angry, I take the time to separate myself, breathe, and calm down before re-entering the situation — because some things cannot be avoided (like a child who is in trouble or an unexpected bill…). If you can involve something like yoga or meditation into your daily life, that’s even better. I only have the time for deep breathing techniques when the need arises, but it works for me.
  4. Make sure you have some form of support. Whether it’s online, or a great friend (or friends), or even family, it’s something you definitely need to keep yourself in check. To add to that, it’s best to have a therapist and keep regular appointments. It may not seem like it’s helping, but having a way to release feelings does so much — I couldn’t imagine being without it.
  5. You also need to stay as healthy as you can. Eat right, sleep right, and exercise. I find that eating and sleeping are difficult (I either sleep too much or too little, and with eating, when I’m upset I can’t eat and when I’m hypo, I don’t feel the need to eat), but we really have no choice. These things are essential to keeping our minds healthy. If you don’t have a healthy base to start with, your odds of anything else being healthy are slim. Another way to keep healthy goes along with #3 … know your triggers (and stress is definitely a trigger for all of us) and try to avoid them at all costs.

As far as managing manic/hypomanic symptoms, I’ll admit that’s difficult because you’re feeling oh-so-great and getting things accomplished and maybe reconnecting with friends and on and on. But as a person with bipolar disorder, you have no choice but to recognize that this is not normal behavior. And this is where the list above really comes into play and helps.

  • post it note -- "need. sleep"Even though you’re manic and feel you don’t need to sleep, the fact is that you have to. It’s hard when your thoughts are going a million miles an hour and you just can’t shut down, but there are ways to deal with that. Whether it’s relaxation therapy or a medicine your pdoc prescribes just for manic episodes, there are things that can help you sleep. If you sleep regular amounts, that’s your first step back to a “normal” state.
  • Along with regular sleep, you need to eat regularly. As I mentioned, I know this is hard, but you have to show your body who’s in charge! Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times for those meals. Try to keep as normal a schedule as possible
  • Which leads to — staying awake during the day. A lot of times, when you’re not sleeping much, you feel the need to nap in the afternoon. Don’t. It will mess up your sleep schedule. Because, on top of sleeping regular hours, you should be sleeping at the same time as most other people. As much as you want to be up all night because you’re feeling productive (trust me — I’m there right now), you need to go to sleep by, say, midnight, in order to get up with the rest of the world. (I go to bed when my boyfriend does, whether I want to or not — even if it takes a while to go to sleep, I figure at least resting is better than being up and messing with my schedule.)
  • stick figures arguingThis next thing goes along with stress, but it’s also its own thing, as well. Arguments are bad! Avoid them at all costs, especially when manic. You have way less control over your emotions in this state than you do at other times. Things can be said and done that you can’t take back. If you avoid conflict in the first place, that’s gonna be your safest bet.
  • One big thing I try to avoid is taking on projects. Right now I feel like I want to do so many things. I have a list of everything that needs to get done. But I also need to know that, at some point — and we never get to know when, I’m not going to feel this active and motivated anymore. And then you’re left with half-finished projects that will depress you even more if you happen to slip down that way. It will be a reminder of how you “failed.” (And of course you didn’t fail, but your mind won’t be able to recognize or believe that if you’re depressed.) It’s also important to keep your to-do list in check because you might have some grand idea to start a business or something else big like that, and you may involve a friend. Well, when it comes down to it, you’ll not only be letting yourself down, but you’ll also have to break it to said friend that you just can’t keep up anymore — and that *maybe* it was a bad idea…

These are just some of the things I’ve realized are important when dealing with mania/hypomania, as well as things to do daily to keep track of your moods and such over time. Not only will it help you, but it can also help your therapist or doctor — the tools can be used to recognize any unknown triggers or lifestyle changes you might consider making. Especially if you end up hospitalized (let’s hope not, but the reality is that it happens), looking back on your notes and charts can help you understand what led to the situation.

I hope some of these strategies help you — and others — and if anyone else has other suggestions, please feel free to mention them in the comments as we all can benefit from new techniques and information.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave your feedback here!