How can I help myself?
There are lots of strategies that can help you to manage your moods, and reduce the unwanted effects of mania or hypomania. Using these strategies does not mean that you need to handle everything on your own – they are often used in combination with other treatments and support from friends, family and professionals.
Recognise your triggers
If you are able to recognise the signs of an approaching episode and what triggers your symptoms, you can take action before things become more serious. For example, if you are going to have a late night and know that lack of sleep is a trigger for you, you might want to plan so you don’t have to get up early the next morning.
“There comes a point when I realise I’m going too fast and thinking too many things, and then I realise what’s happening.?
However, as the symptoms of hypomania and mania can feel exciting or enjoyable, it can be difficult to identify when you are becoming unwell. You may therefore find it helpful to talk to a trusted friend or relative about warning signs and ask them to tell you when they see these.
Keep a mood diary
Keeping a regular mood diary will help you to recognise changes in your mood which can be difficult to spot otherwise. In a mood diary, you record information about how you feel, such as levels of stress, anxiety and energy, as well as information about other factors, such as your diet, how much you are sleeping or how much alcohol you are drinking.
You may want to rate your mood from 1 (very depressed) to 10 (manic), as this will make it easier to look at your mood levels over longer periods of time.
Over time, the diary will begin to show when your mood is changing, and when the risk of an episode is increased.
This is a very simple example to give a sense of what you might record. There are lots of templates, websites and apps designed to help you keep track of your moods, and you might want to try several before you find the most useful for you. Mind does not endorse any particular one. (See ‘Useful contacts’.)
“Hypomania is always preceded by extreme agitation and annoyance, followed by a couldn’t-care-less attitude that could get me into trouble if I didn’t recognise it! I cope with it by using a mood monitoring system and avoiding stressful or exciting situations.”
Write a self-help action plan
It is a good idea to make a plan of things you can do if you notice that you might be becoming unwell. These will depend on your situation, but common examples might include:
- going to bed at the same time each night and prioritising good routine sleep patterns over other activities
- not having too much alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants
- doing calming activities such as meditation or yoga
- asking a close friend or family member to hold your credit cards
- avoiding or postponing making major life decisions
- avoiding situations that could lead to risky sexual encounters
- referring to self-help books or websites which can help you to track your mood
- spending time in nature, exercising and maintaining general wellbeing
- trying to eat well and keep to regular mealtimes
- learning mindfulness skills which help you to focus your thoughts
“Meditation and yoga really help, and time with my lazy old cat too!”
These are just some possible self-help techniques and you might need to try a few things to find out what works for you.
Go to a support group
You may find that going to a support group is helpful. In a support group, you can meet other people with similar experiences of mental health problems and exchange information and tips for coping. (See ‘Useful contacts’)
A number of charities and websites provide online communities and forums where you can discuss your experiences and get support. If you use online support, it’s important to think carefully about what information you want to share, as you don’t always know who you’re talking to. Look for websites of organisations that you trust (See ‘Useful contacts’)