My 5 Steps for Getting Through a Manic Episode
Bipolar mania can start off fun. Life takes on a heightened excitement, ideas flow, passions burn and the world ignites in a huge array of colors. It’s all great, until it is too much. The colors become too bright, the ideas are too many, the thoughts won’t slow down and my world explodes. Having the tools to assess and help your mental state, especially when in mania, is a crucial thing. These are five things I have found helpful in my own manic struggles.
1. Accept Reality
Mania is most dangerous when I don’t realize I am in it. It’s equally bad when I deny it. The first key to controlling a manic episode is to acknowledge it is happening. This is much easier said than done — who wants to talk themselves out of all their good euphoric ideas? Who wants to stop the energy, zest or bubbly feelings? I usually don’t, until it’s too late – until I have lost control and I’m flipping and falling inside my mind. It takes courage to accept reality, and to be humble enough to admit to yourself you are struggling. But, it is the first step into both stopping and recovering from a manic episode.
It may seem embarrassing, talking about the validity of your thoughts and actions while you’re struggling with mania. It may even be uncomfortable for you to look at yourself like you’ve fallen prey again. It can be disappointing when you’re not in control of yourself. But, I have found sitting down and discussing how I feel when I am manic with my parents, my husband and even my therapist, helps me see myself more clearly. I can then separate myself from the illness, and recognize my actions aren’t necessarily my own – my brain is simply acting up again. This is another way to get a grip on what is going on and start moving forward.
3. Sit Still
When mania makes my world catch on fire, I want to do everything all at once. My brain is firing at a million synapses a minute, and I want to keep the energy going. It is so tempting to fuel the fire by submitting to all of the impulses and racing thoughts. Don’t — it will burn you in the end. My psychiatrist always tells me stopping the mania is like putting out a wildfire. Mania is never controlled, as much as we would like to think it is when we are enjoying the high. I’ve learned one of the best things to do to calm the impulses is making myself sit still. I will sit down outside in a comfy chair by the window, sip on some decaf tea and practice staying calm. It definitely takes some control and self-discipline, because who wants to tell their euphoric mind it needs to tone it down? But it helps calm the episode for me, and that’s more important.
4. Deep Breathing
This one goes hand in hand with sitting still. When my thoughts are starting to race, I make myself sit down and breathe. Five to ten seconds on the intake, slowly, and five to ten seconds exhaling, slowly. I close my eyes, imagine calm places and practice breathing. I will do this a few times throughout the day, especially when the mania rears up particularly hard. It helps with the sense of urgency I get in manic times and tones down the impulsiveness.
The last thing, which is probably the most helpful for me, is staying in my routine. I go to bed, wake up, go to work, eat and workout all at the same times every day in moderation. I try hard not to overdo anything or take on more than I know I can handle. This can be tricky, especially when you think you can handle everything while you’re manic. Pace yourself. Routine is key to resetting your internal clock, which is what gets frenzied while in mania. Sleeping, especially, is a necessary way to reset this clock and help pull you from the mania.
Mania is never easy to recover from. The earlier you can catch it, the less destruction it can cause. I have found these steps lessen mania’s impact on me and help my ability to cope with it. Like the depressive side of bipolar, mania is not within your control. You can’t pick and choose when it hits, how hard or for how long. But, you can use steps to get through it, and pick yourself up when it’s done. It isn’t easy, but I promise it’s worth it.
**Editor’s note: This piece is based on an individual’s experience, and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice