Here is one of the most powerful tools I’ve developed over the past twelve years since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I call it “Bites and Bridges.”
I must stay extremely aware of being “bitten” with a bad mood. I must know my trigger points. I must recognize the moment a downward spiral begins. Some of the most common triggers for myself and other bipolar people I've talked with are: physical pain (especially a flare-up of chronic pain), financial worries, or insensitive remarks by a family member.
A computer freezing up or running slowly, difficulty learning a new computer skill, or misplacing car keys are other common triggers. Basically, resistance to what is happening right now--not getting the outcome we hoped for--can be the start of the two-year-old-within throwing a tantrum.
So I keep a list of Bridges Back to Sanity:
Move away from the source of irritation—stand up and leave the room
Go outside—connecting with nature is calming, balancing, and renewing
Touch plants, water plants, do some gardening of any sort for a few minutes
Take a walk—don’t drive
Jolly Giant: I imagine my strong, calm side growing ten stories tall while my problems shrink to the size of an ant I could easily squash.
Watch funny videos on YouTube
Drink a big glass of water
Pet the cat or dog
Ask myself: Have I eaten today? Have I taken my proper meds?
Do some yoga poses
A relaxing bath (if there’s time for this luxury)
Splash water on my face
Read poems or an uplifting book
Read an uplifting blog or website about managing depression such as this one or others: A Splintered Mind, or FindingOptimism.com and the blogs recommended there: Good Depression Blogs
Say affirmations out loud such as “I know just what to do, and I do it now!” or “I am joyful inspiration!”
Start saying “Thank You” to everything around me: “Thank you, pen for the gifts you bring to me.” “Thank you, lamp, for the gifts you bring to me.” “Thank you, body, for the gifts you bring to me...” You can never be too thankful.
Write, journal, or draw
Complete a small task like sweeping the kitchen floor
Watch TV—distraction from worries
My husband and I have a standing rule: If we start to argue, we quit talking and start writing our feelings down instead—then we hand each other the paper we’ve written, write a response to that, and continue until we feel some resolution. This prevents shouting really stupid things to each other.
I suggest that you write down a list of your most common “bites” or triggers. And more importantly, write a list of your “bridges.” Use my list of bridges if you’d like—I call it my “Turn-a-crappy-day-into-a-happy-day kit.” Add to it. Modify it. Hang it up in your office.
It takes careful preparation to manage your moods:
* Keep some healthy snacks readily available, such as cashews, soup, sunflower seeds, carrots, or apples
*Put an understanding friend or two on speed dial
* Keep a list of affirmations handy
*Set up a bird feeder by your window
*Give yourself permission in advance to remedy a mood immediately rather than let it spiral to an unmanageable state.
I still have a sensitive nature. But now I am able to minimize my downward spirals. My life becomes smoother and happier all the time. The whole universe is there to support me—and to support you too!