In the mental health community, there is a ton of talk about the importance of self care and coping mechanisms. Both of these are critical parts of the healing process, but today we’re going to focus on coping. I hear you asking: Cope with what? Well, that’s the thing. Joys of bipolar and all means there’s an awful lot you have to cope with. So, here are my top ten that I use pretty much no matter how I’m feeling.
1. Belly Breathing
I seriously cannot beat this one when it comes to quick comfort. The idea is to take a slow deep breath in through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand while keeping your chest still. Hold it for a moment, and then exhale through your mouth. This type of breathing is supposed to trigger an instant (or almost instant) relaxation effect, and I can say that for me, it seriously works. Admittedly, if I’m in a full-blown panic attack, I have to make sure to breathe out before I try to take a deep breath, or sometimes work myself up to bigger breaths. It’s totally worth it, though.
2. Tactile feedback
I’m super oriented to touch. When I’m really anxious or depressed, I have stuffed animals I will pet (or if the rat baby is agreeable, a rat). Generally, I like soft fuzzy textures, but I’ve known people who calm themselves by any kind of touch. Rough rocks, sand between the fingers, a bowl of beads, or any other thing, can work as long as it helps distract you long enough to calm down.
This one comes with a disclaimer: I’m a horrible singer. Doesn’t matter though. if i’m at work and freaking out, you can hear me humming to myself as I make coffee. When I’m alone, I’ll put on my favorite songs and sing them as loud as I can. Either way, the effect is the same. A moment of forgetting and a moment of calm.
Yeah, this one is a little vague, but honestly the method is so flexible. I love warmth when I’m upset, whether it come in the form of tea, a hot shower, or a nest of blankets (bonus points if the blankets are fuzzy). I know some people that prefer cold, but I suppose for me the warmth is a reminder of a childhood spent in the desert.
Colors! Yay! I love the colors and always have. Actually, when I was in high school, my Winnie the Pooh coloring book was my best friend. Now that I’m older, I still love coloring as a calming method. To be honest, I still prefer the kids coloring books even though there are so many more options on the market. I even prefer my crayons. They’re simpler, soothing, and there’s just something about the scent of crayons that makes me feel peaceful.
6. Healthy Snacks
This one is a little trickier, because when I’m really depressed it’s hard to want to do anything. When I’m in a bad streak, though, we tend to plan accordingly and stuff the fridge full of veggies and munchables that don’t take any work at all. And, if I’m really lucky, Mike will make me a snack plate. Then I get good food without the work, and get to feel extra loved and cared for, too!
7. Ice Water
This is a quick and easy kick in the pants to clear the mind. Water is good for you, that goes without saying, but ice water is refreshing. When I’m down, a glass of ice water is usually one of my first few choices to pick me back up again. Worst case, I’m a bit more hydrated.
8. Hugs and Cuddles
Seriously…. I may not always want to be around people, but if I can handle it there’s nothing better than a hug. Especially if the hugger asks for permission before barging into my space. Physical touch has been proven time and again to be important to physical and mental health. So, hugs. Or snuggles. Or whatever works!
This one is close to singing, but not quite the same. When I’m really down, it’s all about the music. And not what some might expect either… I do enjoy my peaceful piano playlist on Spotify, sure, but when I’m really down it’s usually rock. Metallica? Oh, yes. Iron Maiden? Definitely. I’ll even enjoy a little NIN and Korn. May not make sense, but it’s what works for me.
10. Quiet Spaces
This is usually a final step if the others don’t work out. Sometimes, there’s just too much going on for me to be able to focus in enough to actually relax and cope. In that case, I will walk away, find a quiet space to be, and start from the top. In my house, my bedroom is a known quiet space, so I know I always have a place to be, but that doesn’t always work for others. When I was younger and had to share a room, my quiet spot was a closet. As silly as it may sound, I would hide in the bottom corner of my closet and wait for things to calm down. It was my only quiet space.
Everyone has different ways of getting through difficult times. For me, these are my typical tried and true actions, some are about staying healthy while others are about comfort. I’ll admit, though, just because they typically work for me doesn’t mean they always will. It’s important to be open to trying new things. Keep growing and learning because you never know what might help you break through to the other side of your bad spell.