Recently I have been talking about bipolar coping skills. Really, I talk about bipolar coping skills all the time. Recently, though, there have been two:
In both cases, I argue that these techniques can help you in your everyday life. These coping skills are things that you can apply every day (pretty much all day) to try to dampen some of the overwhelmingness that is bipolar disorder.
However, practicing bipolar coping skills is a bit of an art. Sure, you could try to use them every moment of the day, and if that works for you, then great, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. I would suggest that’s not the best way to go about practicing bipolar coping skills.
Bipolar Coping Skills – Watching Your Thoughts, Emotions and Actions
There are many bipolar coping skills out there but let’s just say you are focusing on the above two. Pretty much all bipolar coping skills, including the above, require that you watch your emotions in order to do something to cope with them. So start there. Start your journey to use bipolar coping skills with just watching your emotions, thoughts and actions as you have them. Believe me, that’s a lot of work in and of itself and takes practice before it becomes a habit. It’s hard to see an emotion and not be overwhelmed by it.
Seeing the Bipolar Emotional Chain
Once you have some practice at just looking at your thoughts, feelings and actions, then it’s time to sit down and think about the emotional chains. What emotions led to what thoughts, led to what actions? How do all the pieces fit together? Why, exactly, did I act the way I did?
You have to be able to put together what you’ve seen in order to be able to stop it.
Is What I Felt, Did, Thought, Reasonable?
And then, once you’ve determined what you’ve seen, and how those things relate, you need to view them objectively and decide whether that was reasonable. Certainly some of your emotional chains will be. Others won’t. Others will be entirely inflated and dictated by bipolar.
This is where the logic comes in. What could be your logical response the next time you start to feel, think or act the same way? What would be something you could tell yourself to stop you in your tracks? What would be a logical way of looking at the situation? How can you acknowledge your feelings without being controlled by them?
How to Practice Bipolar Coping Skills
So, when trying to practice these two coping skills, break the practice down into small steps you can manage.
- Learn to watch your own emotions, thoughts and actions. Try to be objective and non-judgemental.
- Put what you’ve seen into the order of an emotional chain so that you can see what feeling, thought or action led to others.
- Determine if your chains are reasonable or are likely being skewed by bipolar disorder.
- Decide what logical responses would be in your given circumstances.
- Form scripts in your mind (even write them down) that you can tell yourself when you start to see the chain emerging again.
Take your time and work through the above steps on your own time. The bipolar is always going to be there so you can take all the time you need. None of this is easy so give yourself a break if all does not go according to plan.
And be gentle with yourself. Coping skills aren’t magic and aren’t going to turn your life around at the flick of a wand. They just are what they are: tools. It’s like building a house. Just because you know how to hammer a nail doesn’t mean the house suddenly appears – but you do need to have that skill for any hope of building that house.