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My Favorite Coping Mechanism for Bipolar Disorder

There are a lot of strategies out there for managing mental illness and bipolar disorder.  Self-care looks different for everyone and can include everything from daily tasks, like meditating or long baths, to large indulgences, like trips to the amusement park.

In over 15 years of managing bipolar disorder, I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve tried being better to myself through meditation and mindfulness (almost always helpful, except in the midst of a deep depression), exercise (not easy to maintain) and eating better (lots of work, with mixed results for me). I’ve also tried more “gimmicky” solutions like sunlight lamps, fish oil pills and hypnosis, most of which barely moved the needle.

But one thing that always boosts my mood for weeks or months at a time is a substantial life change.

I have found moving every year and a half to two years does absolute wonders for my mood. Even if its just across town, the process of settling into a new place seems to uproot all of the negativity I’ve gathered. On a smaller scale, rearranging furniture in my living space can make me feel productive and clean, even if the old arrangement was functionally better.

This has worked for me in the career department as well. Though I would prefer not to lose jobs because of my bipolar disorder, I have to admit that a change of scenery is always refreshing. There’s something about starting a new job that just fills me with life and vitality. You get to have new coworkers, new bosses and all sorts of potential new career paths now available. If I didn’t have to worry about money at all, I think I would change jobs every year anyway, just to challenge my mind.

That’s one of the reasons I love school so much. It’s a new professor, new classmates, new topics and new discoveries every semester. And now there are so many options to take online classes for free or for a steeply discounted rate, it’s almost easy to be enrolled in too many classes!

Yes, depression can be burdensome. It can be so easy to give in to anhedonia and submit to a routine of drudgery. Yes, it takes a lot of effort to get going after your world seems to collapse. And yes, it can be easy to get carried away with change if mania is its driving force.

But there’s wisdom in that old saying, “Variety is the spice of life.” Change is something precious, something beautiful. It keeps a sense of wonder and possibility alive. When doing battle with that old foe, bipolar disorder, change can be your sharpest ally and your firmest support.

And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover something about yourself you never knew before. So as we make our way into the holidays, here’s a toast to change. May the forces of fate bring new experiences to you soon.

Getty image by Lordn

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