After a manic episode, I realized the damage done and knew I had to create a strategy to limit (or prevent) this mood episode at the earliest possible sign of onset.
Know Thyself, Know Thy Manic
If you have done a lot of damage in a manic
episode, you might have learned (as I have) to go into damage-control mode at
the very onset of feeling manic.
It’s like learning from past mistakes, well, experiences. And what I found was that I had to be more vigilant of my own tendencies and characteristics of my manic episodes. Like, for me, definitely limiting my spending. I fell into huge spending sprees, and—before I knew it—I spent way too much money over the period of mania. This was because I didn’t realize overspending was a potential hazard of mania.
When I saw for myself how mania affected my spending, I began to be more watchful, specifically of how I was using my money, during manic times. I’ll admit, it took me a few manic episodes to get the hang of them, and also to establish ways to best manage myself in the midst of them—to minimize damage or negative consequences to myself.
From Damage Control to Symptom Management
I became an expert at recognizing the early signs of an oncoming episode—from my sleep patterns, appetite, eating habits, and stress levels—and I would go into symptom-management mode both as soon as the telltale signs of mania were present and through the episode as it ran its course.
Managing my symptoms was really like extreme
self-care. In addition to my psychiatrist adjusting my medication, I also put
additional emphasis on my need to stay on top of my own self-management, which
included proactive measures for the span of the manic episode (usually a couple
of months). During this time, my priority was to de-stress and lay low. Of
course, limiting interactions with people allowed me to manage this time
without too much outside involvement, which I could do, being single.
From my patterns, I recognized it was not good for me to write e-mails, because I saw my tendency to ramble on. I once wrote a guy an email during a manic episode, and he told me “it was too long to finish reading.” It was true, so I used the experience to my benefit and added “limit writing emails” to my list of things to be mindful of when manic. (I also limited my exposure to social media.)
Meeting My Needs for
Self-Care & Relaxation
When I was in a state of mania, my focus
became about tending to my needs, and relaxation was a need. I found getting a
massage helped to relieve stress and ease tension in my body, so I incorporated
the practice of getting a massage as part of my self-care during mania. I found
that the more I took good care of myself, the better I felt, the better I managed
the episode, and I stayed in control of
the situation as best I could.
Maintaining sleep and regular eating were also priorities. I no longer took advantage of the loss of appetite, which only benefitted my dieting, not my mental well-being. I knew to eat regularly because it helped maintain my energy physically and helped me to feel sturdy.
In time, I came to a point where I didn’t mess
around when it came to my bipolar episodes. As soon as I felt the signs, I
shifted into proactively taking good care of myself and being responsible for myself
and my mental needs.
Creating a Self-Care Practice for Mood Episode Prevention
Self-care has really helped me to maintain a lifestyle that minimizes the frequency of my bipolar episodes. This also helped me develop strategies that I started to maintain in between manic episodes. I started to prioritize my sleep, eating regularly, and lowering my stress levels. These three factors became the staples of my routine.
Going through manic episodes really pushed me to be more aware of stress and triggers, and I learned to set limits. I also encouraged me to recognize how sleeping and eating properly factored into mania onset, and I started to make sure I was meeting my needs and prioritizing sleep and nutrition as important to my mental well-being. I feel that I learned this the hard way.
If I had known or appreciated in advance the necessity of both sleep and nutrition for operating in a positive state of being, it would have been very helpful. I struggled with sleep for years. I developed poor sleeping patterns that were very hard to break. My sleep got so out of whack that I was on prescription sleep medications for many years. It was not easy at all to restore normal sleep patterns, but it was well worth the effort I made. As part of my self-care, I cultivated a whole new sleep practice to ensure I was maintaining rest without running into sleep problems again.
Nutrition, & Stress to Maintain Bipolar Stability
The better I maintained these factors, the
more it helped me in managing my bipolar episodes, and the less frequently they
have occurred. The last few times I felt manic, I was able to manage with these
strategies and avoid full-blown episodes. I have had minor triggers due to
stress or extreme circumstances, but found I was able to recover with this
self-care strategy; it kept me from falling into the spin cycle of a manic
Being an entrepreneur, being single, and living alone, I find that it is helpful to operate with lower stress levels. Creating a lifestyle of calm, rational, relaxing, and productive days, along with my self-care, helps to support and stabilize my mental well-being. In turn, maintaining my mental well-being helps to minimize the frequency and intensity of manic episodes. This is what I practice since learning from my manic episodes how best to manage myself and them. Again, worth the effort made!
Debbie Jacobs is an advocate, writer, and healing specialist living in Alexandria, Virginia. She lived most of her adult life with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, and then was diagnosed with bipolar. She speaks out on how self-improvement is life improvement and believes we all can live happy lives by making positive changes to ourselves. Her influences are Louise Hay, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown, and Tony Robbins. She does positivity life coaching and is in the process of writing her first book on her healing process of accomplishing positive thinking, positive effective coping skills, and healthy self-esteem—what she calls “freedom and happiness.” She shares her work to motivate, inspire, and help others make positive changes to themselves for their freedom and happiness, too.
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