I have had to brave many low phases during my journey as a Bipolar II, some of them lasting months, the worst of them stretching for years without mercy. I would like to share what really works to help one break free from the bear hug of depression.
1) Begin with the end in mind, a commitment to brighter days ahead – for yourself as well as your loved ones, no matter what. Self belief is half the battle won for it motivates you to stick on the recovery path.
2) They say ‘Be active.’ Honestly it is very difficult to motivate oneself to be active. The trick is to set small time bound goals and then actually accomplishing them. Say, a fifteen minute walk in a garden. Begin small, gradually scale up. The resultant satisfaction sets in a virtuous cycle and drives one to attempt bigger goals.
3) Maintain a task list, jot down the goals to be achieved. Written down tasks, however trivial they might be, are known to have a higher completion rate than those merely in your mind. (As a bonus, you could strike them out and draw smileys next to them as and when you accomplish them.) This a fantastic procrastination beater! For one, small tasks do not appear overwhelming. By regularly getting small tasks done, before you know it, you have accomplished a lot!
4) Nightly journal writing also helps. My Psychologist instructed me to jot down ONLY the positives of the day. When I began doing that just before going to bed, it primed my mind for a positive feeling with the entire night to process the ‘feel good’ rub off.
5) Walking, esp. in natural surroundings, releases feel good chemicals in the brain (I love walking on a beach). It also offers you the opportunity to meet people, get out of home and feel more energetic. Any form of light exercise, preferably outdoors and done in daytime works well. Exercise is also a stress buster.
6) In one of my darkest phases, almost as if destined, I chanced upon a goldmine of a Book, ‘Feeling Good‘ by Dr. David Burns. A life changing experience and I STRONGLY recommend this Book to everyone. It hinges on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which is based on the premise that thoughts determine our moods. By modifying our thought process we can take charge of our moods. I experienced a measurable change in mood after following and implementing its teaching.
7) Yoga~ specific asanas help revitalise a tired and lethargic body. The mind body soul connection on which yoga is based, helps in holistic healing. I find it ironical that more of my Social Media connections in the US and Europe derive benefit from this age old practice than we do. Returning to our roots is called for to get rid of problems of the modern era. Meditation, also known as Dhyanyoga, is virtually a magic wand. Regular practice makes one feel calmer, in control and of course, it heightens creativity. It also heals.
8) Let Go~ is a powerful mantra! We are often burdened by guilt, by misgivings about the past and our feelings about relationship issues. Change what you can, accept what you can’t change, This is why mindfulness or living in the moment has caught on so much in the West. The other aspect of mindfulness is that when we shift our focus to the now, doubts and fears about an uncertain future also lose their hold over us.
9) Opening up~ Stepping out into the open, esp. in India, can be daunting. I leapt, no holds barred, using Social Media as my platform. It made me feel lighter and took such a load off my shoulders! Am not suggesting you blindly follow suit: rather, look before you leap. One big advantage of Western culture is openness. We being a more closed society, making public admission of our deep secrets and what we consider to be ‘our flaws’ can be challenging. Remember, the human mind is not designed to keep secrets closeted.
10) Creative expression~ most of us dogged by Bipolar or depression also have a distinct creative streak in us. A gift so to say. Writing it was for me and it freed me. Similarly, even if you have not already identified your strong area, you could develop one. Music, painting and dance, among other art forms have therapeutic power. Mastering an art increases self worth and can well open up doors to a new career.
To wind up, remember point one~
Begin with the end in mind. Smile, and take the first confident step forward.
So, Let’s Walk Together….the future is bright!
And watch this cult Song to make it even better!! Oh yeah, It’s a wonderful, wonderful life..