I have been taking an interest in an American website www.psychcentral.com recently. I am not sure how I found it but think, possibly, it was via a link on Facebook or on another bi-polar blog. These blogs, far from being morbid and self-indulgent, are positive, uplifting and provide much useful advice even if only via a link to a website. A psychcentral blogger, Margarita Tartakovsky has written several articles. One of these is Ten Things to Improve Life and these are my interpretations. The first is write a better story for your day. I say this can be on paper or in your head. I make a list of things to do each day such as exercises, yoga, walks and playing my piano. Reflecting on the positive aspects of a day is also a good idea so writing a diary – something I wish I had done throughout my life – where you log all the good things that happened – can make you feel better.
A more difficult item on her list is Identify what is keeping you stuck. This can be negative thinking or perhaps even another person. Low self esteem can prevent us doing what we need to do. I am stuck at present in ‘Writers’ Block’ although those reading this might think this is not the case. I have a novel that needs a ‘middle’ and lots of re-working and my view is that it is ‘in a mess’. When I looked at it recently I reckoned it was a load of rubbish. When my mood lifts, I may see that it is not so bad. Making myself write up my ideas from Margarita’s blog is releasing something.
Easier is go to bed earlier. I have been doing this for some time now and I do feel better when I am in bed between 10.30 and 11 especially if it means I have time to READ.
Also easier is participate in physical activity which you enjoy. I like walking and yoga so I have built this up in the last two or three weeks and it has made a difference to my mood. I hope to start swimming again in a nearby pool but the weather has been so wet, cold and miserable. This is a form of ‘being stuck’. If I could force myself to go I would benefit.
More difficult is to focus on ‘right now’ and be grounded in the present. I know people on Mindfulness courses at present. Mindfulness has been found to help with depression and negative thinking. Staying in the moment, without looking back or worrying about the future, really does help the mind to stay positive. I find that when I am writing I am purely in the moment which is, I am sure, why writing has been found to be so therapeutic.
Physical Action is another one of the Ten Things. Often anxiety and depression can make us ‘freeze’ and fail to do things which we need to do. Being pre-occupied prevents us from pushing on with pleasurable activities, leaves us confused and unable to make decisions which then leads us to feel angry with ourselves. ‘Just do something’ even if it is only a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle. Along with this improvement, however, we must ensure we set realistic and attainable goals. For example, don’t struggle with the Telegraph crossword if a concise one in another paper brings more success.
The seventh item was to reframe a situation in a more positive light. Margarita quotes the well-known saying ‘when life throws lemons at you, make lemonade’. When I am struck with a low period I try to tell myself it is nature’s way of making me rest and accept it instead of fighting it. I take my breakfast back to bed and have my laptop and a book at the ready. I tell myself that not socialising is my need for solitude. Of course, it doesn’t work all the time but it is worth a try. However, it is a fact that over-stimulation is not good for those with bi-polar so the lows are often nature’s way of reducing stimulation. On a more basic level, if someone shows they do not want to be friendly, tell yourself that you are deciding you don’t want to be friendly with that person. When you suffer with Bi-Polar it is important to choose your friends and avoid those who cause aggravation. Decisions also need to be yours and yours alone.
Number eight on Margarita’s list is be grateful. This, according to her, attracts positivity, opportunity and success. Writing down a list of ‘blessings’ has worked for me in the past. So often when we are depressed we forget what is good in our lives.
For control freaks, the next on the list is let go of what you can’t control. Sometimes we can’t see what it is that is holding us back or depressing us. Identifying what we can change and what we cannot change is key to combating depression. We might not be able to change a situation but we CAN change our attitude to it. Sometimes we cannot control something but we can manage it. This is true of Bi-Polar Disorder. We can’t control this as, even with medication, the brain will sometimes do it worst, but we can watch for Early Warning Signs (EWS) and be aware of triggers that can either bring us down or send us into over-exuberance. Then we can take appropriate action. If we know we have ‘tried’ then we will not beat ourselves up about it.
Finally there is create an intention. After reading this, I decided to have some things on my TO DO list that could be prefaced by ‘I will ….’ However, somewhere we have to remember our realistic and attainable goals. Don’t say ‘I will …..’ if it is something that would be hard to achieve, expensive or detrimental to your well-being.
Good luck with the Ten Things. Let me know how you do.