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11 Unexpected Coping Techniques for People With Bipolar Disorder

Written by Felix Kalvesmaki.

Between dealing with mania and depression, figuring out how to care for yourself when you have bipolar disorder can be challenging at times. When you’re “high,” your symptoms and outlook might be incredibly different from when you’re “low.” This can make it very difficult to decide how to practice self-care.

For some, the answer is a blanket statement: do whatever calms you, regardless of your symptoms. Others decide what they need to do based on how they’re feeling.

Regardless of how you choose to cope with your bipolar disorder, it’s important to have a couple of options. That’s why we asked our bipolar disorder community to give us a few unexpected ways they manage their episodes.

This is what they had to say:

1. Doing Your Makeup

Makeup. Because you have to really focus on technique if you want something to look right, it forces me to sit down and slow my brain down.” — Kailyn B.

2. Reading

“Reading when I’m manic. Reading three or four books keeps me out of trouble, like spending money. When I’m depressed, reading brings me to a whole new world for a few hours.” — Sudanna S.

3. Laundry

“Laundry. Doesn’t matter if I’m stable, depressed or manic, laundry is my coping mechanism. Sorting, folding, washing — it’s soothing and makes me feel in control of something. I also have general anxiety. When I’m stressed, laundry helps then too. I think it’s the repetition that helps me cope so well.” — Bethany B.

4. Driving

“I started Lyft driving when I’m manic. Keeps me busy for 10-12 hours and I make money instead of spending it.” — Sierra H.

“I take drives, mostly back highway or dirt road. And unless it’s freezing, I have the window down. Fresh air rushing through my window, good music on the radio; it is the perfect remedy for anger, anxiety and depression.” — Emily M.

5. Dressing in Costumes

“Costumes. Most are very subtle, but dressing up allows me to be someone else, [someone] who isn’t me with bipolar.” — Sarah W.

6. Reminiscing

“Listening to music and looking through old memories on my phone when I am manic or depressive. It calms me to listen to the songs I love while I relive memories with my friends who keep me sane.” — Jessica K.C.

7. Watching “The Bachelor”

“The Bachelor. Usually makes me feel better about my life or I get absorbed in their life [so] I can ignore my problems.” — Sarah B.

8. Dunking Face in Ice Water

“Dunking my face in a bowl of ice water, or taking a freezing cold shower — mainly when I feel immense emotions I can’t handle or feel like hurting myself.” — Ally F.

9. Storm Chasing

“When it’s severe weather season, I love going out to chase storms. Puts me in my element and helps both my depressed and hypomanic stages.” — Mira N.

10. Using White Noise

“Sounds really bizarre but I listen to my hairdryer! It’s the only thing that blocks out the noise in my brain and relaxes me enough to fall asleep. I’ve always done it, we think it started because my mom used to shower and dry her hair every morning when I was little, and babies love white noise. I kind of haven’t outgrown it. It also blocks out any external noise when I’m irritable and in sensory overload (which is often).” — Aimi C.

11. Running

“I started running. Like a lot. Everyone who knew me before knew that I hated running. I wouldn’t even run to the bus. But listening to your body when you run takes concentration. Positive self-talk is literally the difference between a mile or none. Eventually I was doing it weekly and then a few times a week. Now I’m doing races. Who would have thought?” — Riley D.

It’s important to remember not all of these coping strategies will work for everyone, and that’s OK. Figure out what works for you and stick to it. Mental illness is largely individual, and though some of us might share symptoms, the trick to beating them will vary from person to person. All you have to do is find out what keeps you going, and stick to it. No one can ask any more from you.

Do you have an unexpected way of coping with bipolar disorder? Let us know in the comments!