Coping in the down times

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

– Victor Hugo

Hello and welcome back. I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me in launching my blog.  It means so much that it was well-received!  

This week, I’m sharing coping mechanisms I use when I’m in a depressive phase of my Bipolar II Disorder. However, I want to emphasize that these are just my experiences and opinions.  Mental health issues and self-care are highly subjective.

In my last post I mentioned that, when I’m at the beginning of a depressive episode, I don’t immediately notice. I feel tired, unmotivated, and I wonder why my sleep schedule is off.  I go through the motions but I’m apathetic.  When I do start rounding the bend and recognizing where I am mentally, I’m more able to pull myself right again.  Luckily, I have a fantastic support team in my family and friends who will point out when I’m “off” and get me back on track.

This brings me to my first tip: reach out and talk to others; even if you start by talking to the cat. Then, talk to a human whom you trust and who makes you feel safe and cared for.  Though depression can make you feel incredibly isolated, you are not alone. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Approximately 9.5% of American adults ages 18 and over, will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year.”

Stick to a routine. If you take medication, be sure to take it as prescribed. It’s so important to make sure you’re getting the proper dosage at the right time. 

Set an alarm and try to get out of bed around the same time every day. This is probably the hardest one for me.

Take a shower. Change into clean clothes. Brush your teeth. 

Open the curtains and let in the daylight.  If it’s seasonally appropriate, open the windows for some fresh air.  If the sun is shining, sit outside for a few minutes and soak up some vitamin D.  When you’re able you can add in a short walk to get your blood flowing. 

Hydrate, and then hydrate some more.  According to this article from Solara Mental Health, “about 75 percent of brain tissue is water. Research has linked dehydration to depression and anxiety, because mental health is driven primarily by your brain’s activity. Long story short, dehydration causes brain functioning to slow down and not function properly. It is important to think of water as a nutrient your brain needs.” (I highly recommend reading the entire article.)

Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out.

Love on your pets. If you don’t or can’t have a pet, consider volunteering at your local humane society and/or animal shelter.  

Perhaps you qualify for a service dog?  Once used only for assistance with physical disabilities, service dogs are now an option for mental health support. Note that the ADA’s requirements state that service dogs are working animals, not pets. “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Finally, Brain dump. Sit down and write whatever comes to mind.  No matter how negative, just let it flow where it needs to and get it OUT. Then, immediately trash it. Burn it (safely!) if that helps.  Whatever you do, don’t read it.  It doesn’t serve you anymore. 

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list but I hope it will give you guidance.  If you feel you simply cannot function and it’s just too much, there is NO shame in seeking help.  If you don’t already have a mental health care provider, your primary care doctor can point you in the right direction.  If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others or you need immediate emotional support, trained counselors are available through the suicide prevention lifeline.  Call 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and confidential.

Until next time, all the best. 🌹

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