Before my diagnosis, when I thought what my brain was telling me to do was only a part of my personality, I developed various ways to cope with the symptoms of a hypomanic episode. My main goal during the years was to find ways to satisfy the creative excitement, variety, and risk that my brain craved without endangering my relationships or financial well being.
The ways I cope with depressed moods is different than the techniques I outline below, and may be covered in a later post.
To begin with, lets get on the same page about what is meant by a “manic episode”. The National Institute of Mental Health describes a manic episode like this:
Feel very “up,” “high,” or elated
Have a lot of energy
Have increased activity levels
Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
Have trouble sleeping
Become more active than usual
Talk really fast about a lot of different things
Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
Think they can do a lot of things at once
Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex
There is going to be a theme to this post, so let’s start with my first encouragement that you go out today and get yourself a library card! Libraries are a godsend when it comes to coping with manic symptoms.
To start with, library cards are free! Checking out physical books, audio books, movies, CDs, etc. is also all free. Remember one of the tenets I push strongly is that manic episodes should not have a negative impact on financial well being. If your library is hooked up with OverDrive, then you can even check out e-books and audio books straight to your mobile device using your library card number (super free). When I feel a manic episode come on, I want a crazy amount of variety that very instant. Libraries satisfy that request because I can walk out with a half dozen books that I can then return when the episode’s symptoms deplete, no harm done to my wallet.
Libraries are no longer the only place to get free reads. You can download the free Amazon Kindle app to your phone and get some of the thousands of free books offered on the Amazon marketplace. Project Gutenberg also hosts a massive collection of free e-books from out-of-copyright sources, and as a bonus you can get the books in the kindle app format for reading on your phone/tablet/phablet/etc.
If you are in the mood for shorter reads, like I typically am, than a great alternative to a book is a blog. I keep all of my blog subscriptions in the Feedly app. Feedly has search functionality built in, which is how I found some really great other blogs that take on the topic of bipolar disorder.You can create categories (tech, finance, mental health, etc.) and view the latest entries from those categories.Best of all, blogs are free, there is a ton of variety, and no risk in exploring to your hearts content! Are you seeing the theme? 🙂
Podcasts and Audio Books
I already mentioned that you can get free audio books from your library, but lets talk about podcasts. Podcasts are to blogs what audio books are to, well , regular books :). Podcasts are usually 10 -30 minute long episodes covering a specific topic. I use the Overcast app to find, subscribe, and play episodes from the many many available podcasts out there. Overcast is an iOS app, but there are very good alternatives for you Android fans.
Exercise is an important part of caring for yourself. I use podcasts and audio books when I do my daily 30-minutes of walking. I really encourage you to try this if you are like me and need a distraction to get you through an exercise session. Getting the recommended amount of exercise each day leaves me feeling much calmer in the evenings, gives me an outlet for my increased energy, and helps wear you out so you can fall asleep easier.
Music is a huge double-edged sword. Music when used correctly can be calming, but can also amplify an already bad state of mind depending on what you listen to. Regardless of the device you use, there is a TON of free (legal!) music available online. My favorite listening platform is Pandora. Pandora has a free ad-supported listening option. The basic premise behind Pandora is that you create stations based on your interest in Artist A and Pandora will populate the station with music similar to Artist A’s. If you are not into Pandora, simply searching for your favorite artist/genre on YouTube is enough to find quality music to listen to.
When I am in an aggressive/angry mood (half the time I am manic-y, the other half being a workaholic) I steer away from my “Disturbed” Pandora station and choose “Classical for Studying” instead. Heavy metal is a great way to amplify aggressive thoughts and feelings. A better way to manage manic episodes is to feed your brain calming music. Just try it, the result is an almost physical change in your mood!
Notebook in the Cloud
Most of the time, my manic episodes take the form of a period of heightened creativity and a seemingly endless amount of energy to pursue them. I usually get obsessive about an idea (my latest idea being to start a blog 😉 ) to the point that I am neglecting duties at work and at home. A better outlet for all those creative ideas is to simply write them down. You can now use your Mindful Progress account to record these as Mood Logs.
If you have ever looked into Mindfulness you know the basic routine is to see thoughts come in, observe them, but let them leave. I feel like Mindful Progress allows me to meditate by storing my thoughts instead of acting on them.
The purpose of this post was to share with you some of the techniques I use to channel manic episodes in ways that do not hurt my wallet, friends, or family. I would be very happy to hear from you any other techniques that have worked in the past.