Saturday, November 19, 2016

How Do You Pull Through A Tough Mental Health Day?

HAWMC Day 19:  Everyone has tough days, but how do you pull yourself out of the rut? Maybe you blog, repeat affirmations or listen to a favorite playlist. Write about what tools, tips or practices you use to lift your spirits after a rough patch.

As a mood cycler, this answer varies. It depends on if my tough day is primarily due to depression, hypomania, anxiety, or a combination of these.  As one might imagine, the best thing for me in a depression isn't often the best thing for me in a hypomanic or anxious phase. However, I'll try to provide some overall tips, with any exceptions listed for different states. As always, these work for me personally, at least some of the time, and certainly aren't an across the board "fix."

  • Assess what's happening. For me, it's important to understand what my body and brain are doing in that moment. Am I battling a depressive cycle, a hypomanic cycle, anxiety? Is there an external trigger, or is this simply my brain doing what it does best (worst)? 
  • If there is an external trigger, can I isolate it? i.e. Can I remove myself from the trigger? Is it short-lived (i.e. I'm sitting in a traffic jam and running late and it's raising my anxiety), or is it something more sustained?  These first two steps are important in helping me assess my next moves. 
  • Find a safe place, and stay there as often as I can. This means a non-threatening place. A place that isn't going to trigger me into a worse cycle. A calming, comfortable, familiar place. Usually, this is home, but it can vary depending on the situation. It is almost always a place where I'm alone or with very trusted loved ones. 
  • Say no. This is so difficult to learn. But understand a few things: 1.) the most important thing is your health. You may have to turn down plans, or cancel a meeting, or whatever it is. But if you aren't healthy, you cannot be of help to anyone. So you need to focus on your health. 2.) It's nobody's damn business what's wrong. You're not feeling well. Bottom line. Or if that doesn't do it, you're downright ill. That's all they need to know. You can tell them more of course, but you don't need to. 
  • Cry. Crying is not only 1000 percent OK, but it can be incredibly healing. Sometimes we don't realize how much we're bottling up inside until we let it go. I cry a lot. By which I mean really, really a lot.  
  • Write. I write in my notebook or I blog or I write a random musing in my folder for random musings on Google Drive (I actually have that). It can be how I'm feeling, it can be a story, it can be whatever I feel like. It's like it lifts something that's weighing me down, transferring into the paper or the screen. Sometimes I don't even know what I'm writing. My fingers seem to move automatically. 
  • Yoga and meditation. Ideally, guided. It's easy to lose motivation when you're depressed or anxious. For me, the guided option helps me focus. It helps me regulate my breathing, shift my focus. Ironically it adds in the work of my body, in the case of yoga, so that all of the burden isn't solely held by my mind. *This is extra hard when hypomanic or battling bad anxiety. I try to tailor the yoga to what might suit me best. If I'm in an irritable hypomanic or anxious state, a moderate class involving a decent, but not intense, amount of flow usually helps. It allows me to focus on physical movement without ramping up the adrenaline further than it already feels. If I'm really depressed, yin or restorative is best for me. It seems counter-intuitive, as you'd think I'd want something that might get me moving more. But remember the feelings of absolutely worthlessness and hopelessnes and exhaustion that accompany depression. The action must feel feasible, not too intimidating. An easy, restful yoga. A short, guided meditation. Where I don't have to do overly much physically and am given step by step guidance along the way. 
  • I watch cheesy Hallmark Channel movies. I'm not kidding, you guys. When everything is just too much, unbearable, I need something happy and easy and predictable. And Hallmark movies  offer just that. Light, don't take tons of brain power to follow, and always a happy ending. It occupies my brain without me really having to think, which is ideal. 
  • Nothing. There are times when I literally just need to lie in bed. I try to set an alarm, so that I don't lie in bed too long. But depression, hypomania, anxiety physically exhaust me. They require more sleep than an average day. And so I give myself that. This is primarily when I'm depressed or so anxious that I'm overwhelmed and feel I can't function. As I've described before, trying to do "nothing" in a bad hypomanic state is like drinking a pot or two of coffee and trying to do nothing. 
  • Hypomanic only:  If I'm in a "better" hypomanic state - i.e. not to the point of extreme agitation but just feeling a bit more energy - I try to accomplish things I may not have the courage/motivation to otherwise. These days don't happen often, and they usually mean my hypomania isn't in full swing yet, but when it's preventing me from sleep and restfulness, I try to use it to the best of my advantage. Why is this listed under "tough day" you might ask? Because any cycle of my illness is tough. A "better" hypomanic day isn't "feeling euphoric" for me. It means I'm not depressed or severely anxious, and don't yet feel like I've drunk that pot of coffee and am trying to concentrate. Better is simply compared to a worse episode - not to general daily life without a cycle. 
As always, these work for me. They might not be for everyone. If you have any questions about these, or anything else that you've tried or are thinking about trying, feel free to ask. I'm no expert of course, but I'm happy to share my experiences as they are. 

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