When I find myself struggling with bipolar symptoms, I like to mix things up by experiencing opposite or conflicting sensations. Here are several ways I embrace seemingly “bipolar” activities to get out of a rut.
Is It My Personality,
Astrological Sign, or Bipolar?
Whenever an acquaintance asks me what my
zodiac sign is, I tell them to guess. They guess correctly. Every. Single.
I’ve always liked to do things that are a little bit “wonky,” and before my bipolar diagnosis, I chalked that up to personality and/or my astrological sign. Who would have such a penchant for duplicity, other than a Gemini? … I’ll tell ya who! People with bipolar! 😉
OK, all kidding aside, there’s something special and unique about experiencing opposite or conflicting sensations. To me, it feels like finding a healing balance. It changes my perspective by helping me to think differently, restore my mind-body connection, or just change things up. Read on for some of my favorites—you don’t even have to be a bipolar Gemini to enjoy them!
#1 Hot/Cold Plunge
Not for the faint of heart, this activity is incredibly invigorating. It’s like a hard reset for the body, mind, and spirit. Any time I have access—like at a pool with a jacuzzi, or at a spa—I take advantage of the opportunity. (Unfortunately, these opportunities have become few and far between…)
Less-extreme alternatives are taking a hot
shower while drinking a cold beverage, or alternating sips of a hot drink and a
cold drink in one sitting.
#2 Inversion—Literally Seeing Things from a Different Perspective
I like to do this by using an inversion table or aerial yoga silks. [Note: Before you try these activities, it’s very important clear them with your doctor first, and to learn how to do them safely.] For a more low-key version, you can simply lie down on a bed or couch, and look at the world upside-down from the comfort and safety of your own home.
#3 Watching Flames at Night & Igniting Change
Whether you’re camping, relaxing by a fire
pit, or partying at Burning Man—if there’s fire, you can bet people will be
staring at it. There’s something about watching flames against the dark that
causes people to fall into a reverent silence—I’ve seen and experienced the
phenomenon dozens, if not hundreds, of times.
Is it because fire can be dangerous? Or because it’s a fascinating light show? I’m not sure. But watching flames glow against the black of night puts us in a high-contrast environment that can shift our ideas. This simple activity deserves more respect, in my opinion; because, in addition to providing warmth and light, fire can ignite a change in our cognition.
#4 Pairing Yoga & Jogging for Mind-Body Awareness
Physically, these activities are opposites. With one, you are trying to remain still; with the other, you are trying to remain mobile. Cognitively, yoga and jogging can be similar when performed individually. They both provide space for uninterrupted mental processing, aka meditation. Whether you do a sun salutation before a morning jog or a few down dogs before bed or a weekend trail run—try to work these activities into your regular routine when possible. Each can be considered a meditative practice; focusing on both can provide a cathartic mind-body connection.
Of all of the different exercise regimens I’ve
done, these two activities gave me the most peace of mind—plus the
best agility and flexibility, to boot!
#5 Climbing & Rappelling—Shifting Focus & Trust
Climbing, in itself, is a wonderful human challenge. It’s so life-affirming! Your perspective narrows as you become focused only on the rock a few inches away from your face as you make decision after decision to get to the top. Up top, your perspective widens again—with an expansive view of the obstacle you conquered.
It’s all fun and games until you remember that
it’s time to step right off that cliff you’ve just climbed up … backward. You made it up to the top by
virtue of your own hands, feet, and strength; but on the way down, you must
trust the expertise, skill, and strength of your belayer.
#6 Applying Perfume Before Bedtime
It’s a bit counterintuitive but surprisingly pleasant. Typically, we wear fragrances for the benefit of other people. It’s nice to extend that pleasantry to yourself and choose to wear it even when you’re not going out. Swapping a morning routine for a bedtime one is a treat that also changes your mindset as your head hits the pillow. You could spritz your regular fragrance or try a new one. The tiny sample bottles they hand out at cosmetics stores are perfect for keeping in your bedside table.
#7 Bathing in Mud & Minerals and Scrubbing with Salt
I think we can all agree that slathering
yourself with mud is awkward, but as long as you’re using
refined/mineral-rich/volcanic mud, it’s an intensive nourishment ritual for our
skin. I have done it at a hot springs spa, at home (with purchased refined
products), and even in the Dead Sea!
Beyond the skin-nourishment benefit, there’s a
therapeutic story that unfolds in the mind during this process. Being covered
in mud feels—you guessed it—really dirty.
You will feel dirtier than you have ever felt—and you did it willingly! You’re
even scrubbing it in! But the rinse—ahhh, the rinse! Coming clean after being scrubbed with mud and/or salt will
leave you feeling like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.
#8 Napping … in the Sun
Though it may require an eye mask (plus appropriate sunblock), you can actually bask and nap at the same time. We’re accustomed to sleeping in a dark and chilly environment, covered in blankets or sheets. But in the sunshine, you’ll feel warmed from head to toe. It’s like a hug from the universe. It may feel a bit mischievous or self-indulgent, but I think that just adds to the appeal.
These are some of the best ways I’ve found to flip my script when struggling with bipolar. When I need to think my way through a difficult situation, or get out of my head and back in my body, these are my go-tos. It’s kind of the equivalent of shaking a vending machine to get snacks out: I’m uncertain about the physics of all of it—but I know if I disrupt the physics, then I just might get my treat!
*I often get mentally bombarded with a certain
song or musical style when I’m writing, and I’ve come to embrace it—so these
are my musical muses for the post. Please note, I’m sharing links to the songs
for convenience of listening—it’s not about the video element at all.
Brooke Baron has a BA in English, a minor in philosophy, and a lifelong obsession with language. She is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Being Bipolar.
Although born and raised in Alabama, she has been a proud California resident for 10+ years. During a professional stint in Silicon Valley—in both the corporate and private business sectors—she handled internal and external communications, office design and construction, photography and graphic design, executive assistance, and functioning on very little sleep.
Brooke now specializes in "New Human Orientation" from her home in the suburbs. She has a young, loving, growing family of five and is fueled by that love and coffee.
In addition to caring for the rest of Team Baron, she enjoys writing, reading, researching miscellaneous topics, and funneling manic energy into creative projects. With so many balls in the air—including bipolar II disorder—balancing her life is like balancing two kangaroos on a see-saw. She offers consulting services for the bipolar community at Better Bipolar Balance.
Times have been tough. But so are we. The end-of-year holidays can be difficult any year, and, this time around, they pose new challenges to our mood and well-being. Let’s not forget: Living with bipolar has taught us how to navigate through uncertainty. Here are the coping skills I’ve been relying on to remain stable...
Mood symptoms such as overspending, hypersexuality, anger attacks, and self-isolation hurt those around us. A simple apology is just the starting point of making things right. When Our Actions during Bipolar Mood Episodes Harm Others Olivia S. of Colorado got up one morning to unexpectedly find two of her four grown children in her living...
Mixed episodes of mania and depression aren’t easy to spot, but when they hit, they’re among my most exhausting experiences. Not only did I learn how these mood episodes affect me, but I realized the risk they carry—and that is my biggest fear. “Mood Episodes with Mixed Features,” aka Bipolar Mixed Episodes Something that I...
I love a good mood-tracking checklist, but to recognize and address my symptoms, I look to specific factors that provide the context of impending episodes. One thing I am currently trying to sear into my memory (and others’, too!) is that bipolar is a cognitive disorder—so the symptoms are incredibly sneaky…. And, unfortunately, undetected shifts...