Have you ever gone through an episode where you feel thrilled, or particularly productive? Your mind races, while you figure out the next thing to do. While you start things with great enthusiasm, you find it difficult to complete them. It’s arrived. Another episode.
Rapid cycling in Bipolar Disorder will cause drastic but relatively speedy changes in mood, between mania and depression. When depression hits, it feels almost impossible to come out of it. The mind seems to give up rational thought and thinking, spiralling only towards the negative.
Mania, hypomania and depressive episodes are characteristic of Bipolar Disorder, though rapid cycling is more common in some patients than others. It becomes difficult for the person because their brain seems to shift from one agonising emotional thought to another. The common characteristic feature of all these three is that your thoughts seem to be out of control. You find it difficult to consolidate your feelings and think clearly. The one break from this vicious cycle albeit a short one, is a good distraction. Enter mindfulness.
Looking for an effective way to ease seemingly endless rapid cycling? Distractions or mindfulness techniques.
A distraction provides a window. You can break out of your cycle of thoughts by getting involved with something. For example, while in a depressive cycle, the chemical imbalance in your brain is lowering your mood, and likely generating negative thoughts. Mindfulness techniques can go a long way in helping you during the course of your regular treatment. You will really have to work towards consciously learning & applying the techniques day to day, however. It may involve actually telling yourself aloud to stop thinking negative thoughts. Or picturing yourself in a clear, calm setting and allowing negative thoughts to pass by you. Force your brain to think of something else.
Here’s 9 techniques you can put into practice at home to start making mindfulness work for you – stick at it.
- Get involved in housework. Even if it seems repetitive. Good, simple housework will help you get your mind off things for a bit.
- Talk or reach out to someone. Tell them how you feel at that particular moment. You’re focusing on the other person. This becomes a distraction.
- Watch a movie or a TV Show. A good comedy should help your mind focus away from the troubling thoughts that are trying to penetrate it.
- Go for a walk, or a run. Focus on the number of steps you take. Your gait, foot strike technique. Learn something about yourself. Do you need to improve your running stride? Is your back straight enough?
- Read a good book, either in a library or a coffee shop. The point being, change your surroundings. It will help you focus more on the book and less on your thoughts.
- Play with your pet, if you have one. It is the best distraction possible.
- Play a game which you need to think, like Scrabble. When you need to strategise, you will find disturbing thoughts cannot penetrate your mind.
- Lay down in a slightly darkened, quiet room, with your eyes closed. Focus on each part of your body, slowly tensing each muscle, and relaxing, from head to toe. Repeat this for as long as required.
- Focus on your breathing. Breath in for 3. Breathe out for 5. That 2 seconds extra on the exhale is where your body relaxes. Stick with this, it takes time- but it will begin to work for you.
Mindfulness, is a great mental health technique to follow. It helps you get in touch with your thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, etc. Once you connect with yourself, you can identify changes in your mood and pinpoint disturbances in your thought pattern. It helps to practice mindfulness because you can notice mood changes that are characteristic of the highs and lows of Bipolar Disorder. Even if you start with 5 minutes a day, when you can focus and relax, it’ll go a long way in helping you.
When using mindfulness as a tool to get out of a cycle, below are the following steps you could take.
- Observe you thoughts. Is it a depressive thought of being alone or abandoned, for example? Is it the thought of being a burden on someone? Are you experiencing increased self-blame?
- Describe the thought. What is it that is unsettling you so much? Is it pessimism and hopelessness? Is it paranoia?
- Be aware of your surroundings. As you breathe steadily feel the warmth of the sun against your skin. Try hearing the miscellaneous little background noises and demarcate each.
- Notice how your body reacts to what is happening around you. External stimuli like various sounds, different temperatures and varied smells.
- Notice how your body changes affect your thought pattern. How are your feelings linked to what is happening around you?
- Be non-reactive or non-judgemental. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. But no matter how pleasant or unpleasant, do not judge them. There is no need to take any sort of action. Let the feelings flow freely. Just focus on yourself.
While practising the above two methods, in the initial days you might face some difficulty. Distractions may not come easily, or you may not be able to sit still for a whole 5 minutes in order to practice mindfulness. But, with time and effort, both can go a long way in helping you with your recovery.