Whether you love the thrill of a speeding roller coaster or turn green at the mention of them, living with depression, mania, anxiety, panic attacks or other mood disorders can sometimes force you onto a wild ride. Learning how to adapt to the sometimes sudden changes in moods and functioning is possible, and definitely helpful. When stress, low self-esteem, relationship problems, or life events create overwhelmed emotions, the changes in our moods may be exacerbated. Developing and following a plan while you're on the ride helps to manage the uncertainty of mood changes, and establish a stable foundation you can count on at the end.
So how do you manage unpredictable mood cycles?
Flexible scheduling - Be prepared for mood fluctuations by creating a schedule that allows for flexibility. Many people with anxiety symptoms or other mood disorders find that they function better with consistent schedules for sleeping, eating, exercise, work, family time, and relaxation. If you haven't implemented a consistent schedule for yourself, it's time to try it (Check out this previous blog for info). The key is to make sure that within that routine, you have space to alter it when a panic attack or depressive episode sets in. Giving yourself permission to change the schedule when needed is a necessary part of your self-care plan.
For example, sometimes bipolar symptoms may flare and create a few days of hypo-mania. Communicate your mood change to a family member, friend or your therapist for support. It's important that you're aware of and tracking the mood changes so you can plan on allowing for a temporary schedule change. Knowing your individual cycle and any risk factors that your mood changes may evoke will build in safety and decreased stress. If during a hypo-manic episode, you know that you tend to forget to eat, sleep very little, or have extra energy and focus, plan for it. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to eat at least the minimum amount of nutrients for your body each day. Adapting your sleep routine due to insomnia may include allowing for extra "down time" and sleep when the energy runs out. By knowing that sometimes you'll need to be flexible with daily routines and responsibilities, it can greatly reduce stress, guilt and conflict with family members, employers and others.
Reduce stress, conflict and feelings of guilt or shame by having a treatment plan in place.
Patterns and Triggers - Awareness of specific triggers or patterns that may cause anxiety or depression symptoms can create a pathway for good coping skills. For instance, if over-stimulation from being in a crowded place with lots of interaction elicits anxiety, have a plan ahead of time to help manage it. Create built-in breaks from the crowds by leaving for a short period, go for a walk, talk on the phone to a supportive person, or go sit in the bathroom and listen to a five minute self-soothing meditation. If every winter you're likely to become more depressed, that pattern provides you with great information for establishing a strategy to combat it. Working with a mental health professional can help you devise methods to decrease depressive symptoms. Whether it's through light therapy, adjusting your sleep schedule, closely following an exercise plan, using cognitive behavioral techniques, or trying a new medication regimen, having a treatment plan in place may help prevent the onset of symptoms as well as deal with it if depression develops.
Awareness of your specific scheduling needs, along with any of your patterns and triggers, is the first step to having an awesome plan that may help prevent the onset of mood changes as well as feeling more in charge when you do experience them. If you need help with creating a schedule that works for you or noticing the patterns and triggers, there are online mood charts and phone apps that are handy for keeping track.
Having a good treatment team, which may include a counselor or therapist, doctor, nutritionist, and other health care healers is essential to forming stability. A treatment plan that includes mastery of coping skills will help to build self-confidence and self-worth, and generate healthy functioning at work, home, school and in your relationships.
If you want to feel more in control of your life, understand your triggers and patterns, learn how to increase awareness of changes, and construct a plan specific to your needs, give me a call at 916-295-1819 or email me by clicking here to schedule your FREE 20 minute phone consultation. You can also schedule an appointment to see me at my Sacramento counseling office.
I'd love to hear what works for you to help ride the ups and downs of your moods by leaving a comment below. If you have any favorite tools you use to cope with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, or have favorite apps for tracking moods, symptoms, and routines, let us know. We can all help one another along the journey.