How can I help myself?
There are lots of strategies that can help you manage your mood, and reduce the unwanted effects of mania or hypomania. However, self-help does not mean facing hypomania or mania all on your own. Self-help is often practiced alongside other treatments and support from friends, family and professionals.
Recognise your triggers
If you are able to recognise the signs of an approaching hypomanic or manic episode and to identify what triggers your hypomanic or manic symptoms, you can take action before your symptoms become more severe. For example, if you notice that a lack of sleep is a trigger for your hypomanic or manic episodes, you may want to avoid making plans that require to stay up late at night, or plan ahead to ensure that you are sleeping sufficiently throughout the week.
“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 the signs of an approaching hypomanic or manic episode and ask them to tell you when they notice these signs.
Keep a mood diary
Monitoring your moods through a mood diary can help you to understand more about yourself and your mood patterns, and to recognise changes in your mood which can be difficult to spot otherwise. In a mood diary, rather than recording your daily activities, you record how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Through this, you can better track your emotions, and thereby notice people, places or other stimuli that trigger your hypomanic or manic episodes.
You may want to rate your mood on a scale, such as from 1 (depressed) to 10 (manic), as this will make it easier to look at your mood levels over time, and to identify particular circumstances where the risk of a hypomanic or manic episodes episode is increased.
This is a very simple example of what you might record in a mood diary. There are lots of templates, websites and apps designed to help you keep track of your moods, and you might want to try several in order to find the way that works the best for you. Mind Hong Kong does not endorse any particular one, but have provided a number of templates and apps as a starting point (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 write a self-help action plan to prevent hypomanic or manic episodes and manage bipolar disorder. Although you may not always avoid hypomanic or manic episodes, writing a self-help action plan can help decrease the number of episodes you experience, or help you identify and avoid the triggers that may lead to an episode.
Examples of things to include in your self-help action plan include:
- Maintaining a stable sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up about the same time each night and morning. Irregular sleep patterns can trigger mood changes or make symptoms worse
- Maintaining a daily routine e.g. eat meals at regular times, exercising at regular times
- Avoiding alcohol, or stimulants e.g. caffeine, nicotine. Using alcohol or stimulants can make symptoms worse, or interfere with medicines and treatments used to treat hypomanic or manic episodes
- Practicing relaxation techniques e.g. meditation
- Practicing mindfulness techniques which help you to
- Getting help from family and friends e.g. have a family or friend hold your credit cards during a hypomanic or manic episode
- Postponing major life decisions during a hypomanic or manic episode
- Avoiding situations that could encourage or lead to risky behaviours during a hypomanic or manic episode
“Meditation and yoga really help, and time with my lazy old cat too!”
These are just a few possible self-help techniques you may include in your self-help action plan, and you may need to try a few things to find out what works best for you.
Go to a support group
You may find going to a support group is helpful. In a support group, you can meet other people who experience or have experienced similar 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 for your mental health problem (See ‘Useful contacts’). Remember, if you use online support, it’s important to use common sense when you’re connecting with people online. You don’t always know who exactly it is that you’re talking to, so you should think carefully about what information you want to share. It is a good idea to use well-known websites, and never share personal information such as your personal address or your bank details with people you meet online.