Tomorrow I’m flying off to see some family I don’t know at all. Oh, and my dying father. I won’t get into the specifics but suffice it to say I’m scared of family in general and my father is in a very bad way.
So at the moment, I’m being eaten up with fear and anxiety.
My mother says to me: “But I know you know how to handle that sort of thing.” And I say, “Yes, it’s a wonderful drug called lorazepam.”
I was only half joking.
(They call meditation “practice.” I suppose it’s to indicate that we’re all students and that we’re never done learning. It’s kind of a warm, fuzzy concept but I think it’s worth remembering.)
These are simple, easy-to-remember tips on creating a mindfulness meditation practice according to the course (and a little bit from me.)
Here are the tips provided when beginning a mindfulness meditation practice:
- Choose a sacred space and time – there is no perfect time for a practice but if you make it part of your routine, you’re more likely to do it. Make sure to minimize distractions. (And realize that your space might just be the corner of your living room. We don’t all have ashrams to retire to.) Many people find meditation earlier in the day easier.
- Sit in a comfortable and strong position – either in a chair or on the floor, sit with a straight back with your legs uncrossed. Let your face relax into a natural smile and let your hands rest on your lap or cupped in each other.
- Use a gentle-sounding alarm to time your practice – so you relieve the worry of time.
- Make your mantra, “meditate anyway…” – things will always seem “more important” than meditating and things will always stand in the way of your meditation practice – do the meditation anyway. Even if it is only 5-10 minutes, this is better than nothing and it’s daily practice that’s going to make this meditation useful (not to mention easier to continue in the future).
- Be gentle – let go of any preconceived notions of what a meditation “should” be and just be curious about whatever arises.
- Gently bring your mind back – when meditating, if your mind wanders, understand that this is normal and gently bring your mind back to the here and now.
I admit to not using all of these tips but I do think they are a good idea.
I’ll talk about how I put these mindfulness medication tips to work with some mindfulness meditation exercised next.
The holidays are here. I know; it seems like they shouldn’t be; but all the inflatable snowmen, tacky garland and lit icicles cannot be denied – it’s holiday time.
Many of us dread the holidays, and even those who don’t can find it difficult to stay even-keeled throughout. Mood shifts are all too common this time of year and many people spend the New Year looking for ways to get back from mania (or hypomania) or depression.
So here’s my guide to staying sane, or at least dealing with bipolar, during the holidays.
I started the Bipolar Burble eight years ago anonymously. And for the vast majority of that time, no one read my blog. Oh, sure, I had a few avid readers and a person would stumble on it now and then, but even after I started producing decent content, no one read it.
Which initially was OK by me. I didn’t write for others, I wrote for myself, so if I had one, lonely reader, then that was fine, I still felt the urge to push pixels around.
Until, of course, it wasn’t fine. Then I had to figure out why no one read me and figure out how to actually get people out there to know about me. And so people ask me all the time: How do I get people to read my blog? How do I find an audience?
Figure Out What Your Blog is About
Ah, you say, but I know what it’s about, it’s about me!
Well, good for you. How many people are putting your name into a search engine? Unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, I’d wager, not many. You might want to alter your focus.
Pick a topic that interests you and that you can stick to, day after day after month after year – like, say, mental illness. And then be prepared to write on your topic and only your topic for a long time. Changing topics (like I’m doing right now) might confuse and fracture your audience.
Make the blog topic broad enough so that you can write many things but narrow enough so that you can identify a group of people who would be interested. For example, My Pet Parakeet, Pete is specific, but may not find much of an audience. Whereas Cheery Chairs is a pretty broad topic but it might be difficult to identify the segments of people deeply devoted to it. Chairs for Parakeets might be something in the middle.
Write Great Blog Content
No matter what you choose to write about, your content had better be stellar. It has to be something that connects with people so that people will want to go back to it again and again.
And make sure that content stream is constant – 2 blog posts per week at a minimum – more is better when building an audience.
Figure Out Who Cares about your Blog’s Subject
Once you’ve decided to go with a topic, figure out who cares about that topic and target them. Perhaps the National Society of Parakeets? Maybe the International Council for Chair Care? Perhaps Pets for Rest?
And then access those groups. Become a member. Participate in their events. Discuss things with other members. Get the word out that your Chairs for Parakeets blog is the very best.
Get an Audience – Get Loud, Proud and Social
Tell everyone under the sun you have a blog. Tell your family and friends and neighbours and school chums. If they don’t know about it, then they can’t support it or you. You can never tell too many people about your work.
And seriously, start social networking. Don’t roll your eyes at me – Twitter and Facebook have been the major drivers of my audience and they can be for you as well. I can’t go into all the ins and outs of social networking here, but set it up, do it, and use it for promotion every day. (But don’t be obnoxious.) (See how to write a Twitter bio here.) Also promote sharing and subscribing to your blog.
Learn About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Yes, this one is last because if you’ve done all those other things, then blog SEO will (sort of) happen naturally. SEO keys in on keywords (subject focus), connections (networking) and quality content – things you should always be doing anyway. To get finer-grained, you’ll need to start learning about how Google works and that could take some time. For now just know that those other rules really matter.
Overall Tips on How to Have a Popular Blog
- Talk about what’s in the news – people are looking for commentary on it and they likely have thoughts on it too
- Be controversial (or not) – this always gets readers but you might not like the fall-out
- Answer your comments – this builds community and conversation and keeps people coming back
- Use headings, bullet points, paragraph breaks and images liberally – no one wants to read a large chunk of text
- Create solid, frequent content – oh, did I mention that one already?
- Keep articles to 400-600 words – people don’t have the attention span for more than that
- Link everything together – social networks, to blog, to homepage, etc.
- Guest post elsewhere
- Comment on other blogs or in forums where your audience hangs out
- Care for and about your audience
And keep in mind, becoming popular takes time. I have more than 6 times the traffic than I did a year ago, but that took a year. So be patient. If you want people to read you – they will – but it isn’t as simple as build it and they will come.
I’m a pretty busy gal right now, so not a lot of time to write new material. I promise I’ll try to get to something new next week.
- Last Minute Holiday Tips for the Bipolar – just published today. Here are four things you should know before you get any deeper into the holidays.
- What 2011 Taught us About Mental Illness – a wrap-up of the top ten things research taught us about mental illness last year including: bipolar misdiagnosis, bipolar treatment success predictor, mania treatment comparison and antipsychotic information. Part one and part two.
- You’re Narcissistic! Getting Over Insults – How one reader got to me even though I knew they shouldn’t have.
- Celebrating Mental Health News – on why we should celebrate the good moments in mental illness.
- How to Choose a Good Psychiatrist – one I’ve touched on here but in more detail.
- Bipolar Disorder Thought Types – have you ever considered the odd types of thoughts you have a person with a mental illness? I have.
- The Importance of Self-Care in Bipolar Disorder – tips on self-care plus a video.
- Sexual Health and Bipolar Disorder – the sexual concerns of people with mental illness.
Last time we discussed the routines involved around sleep, part of sleep hygiene, and how to train your brain to get a better night’s sleep. This time I’ll be sharing additional tips and information on how to beat insomnia and sleep better every night.
Daytime Lifestyle and Sleeping Well
What you do in the day can make a big difference to how to sleep at night. As some of the commenters pointed out after the last sleep better post, sunlight is key in getting your body’s rhythm set. If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for half-an-hour that would be ideal. That would trigger the signal in your brain that it was “time to be awake.”
[push]If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for a half-an-hour that would be ideal.[/push]
This though, isn’t the most practical thing for most people. While I dream of a time in life when I can wake up, get a coffee and croissant and enjoy them in the sun on my balcony, that time has not yet arrived. An alternative would be using a light box in the morning (more on light boxes in part 3).
You can also change the light bulbs in your house to full-spectrum lights (like a light box) so that when you turn on the lights, it’s like getting a little bit of sun. That way you can flood your apartment in light even on the darkest winter days.
Other daytime habits to help beat insomnia include:
- Don’t drink coffee after noon
- Don’t eat or drink two hours before bed
- Don’t nap (yes, I know I said it, but it’s particularly true)
Alcohol and Sleep Don’t Mix
Many people think alcohol will help them sleep. This is not true. Alcohol will make your sleep worse, not better.
What alcohol does is induce sleep, which people think is a good thing, but in actual fact, alcohol will decrease the quality of the sleep to the point where getting to sleep sooner will be the least of your worries. Alcohol affects the brain in ways that prevent it from going into stage 3 sleep (or deep sleep) which means you never feel fully rested. This will also negatively effect your mood.
People who drink alcohol also tend to toss and turn all night as they drift in and out of sleep, but they may not remember this in the morning. If alcohol alone disrupts sleep, imagine what mixing alcohol and other drugs could do to your sleeping patterns.
Alcohol and quality sleep don’t mix. Really.
Other Bits of Good Sleep Hygiene
Make sure it’s dark at night. No, not just where you’re sleeping, but for the hour before that as well. Turn off lights and try to signal to your brain that it’s “sleepy time.” Ideally, do something quiet before bed like reading a book using a book light.
This includes not using electronics (yes, the TV and computer) at night. Electronics emit the type of light that makes your brain think it’s time to wake up, not go to sleep, so by staring at them right before bed, you are doing yourself (and your brain) a disservice.
Other tips on sleeping better:
- Cover the time on the alarm clock – clock-watching leads to anxiety and stress which hampers sleep
- Keep a worry book by your bed to write down your anxieties should they arise when you’re trying to go to sleep. This way it’s easier to let them go.
- Sleep on a firm mattress
- Stop doing mental work one hour before bed
- Learn relaxation or meditation techniques
More on Beating Insomnia, Getting Better Sleep and Improving Mood
In part 3, I’ll discuss how important light and darkness is to your brain and how it might just help your mood. (Link to part one of the sleeping better series.)
(Yes, that’s my cat Oliver. Yes, he’s adorable.)