Bad mental health days. We all have them, but when you live with bipolar disorder, it adds another dimension to the struggle. Are you not sure what a bonafide bad mental health day looks like? Read on and see if you can relate.
You overslept because you forgot to set your alarm. You stumble into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and find your coffee pot is broken. Meanwhile, your ten-year-old has a meltdown because her clothes are touching her body. You have a fight with your husband because you forgot to wash the pants he was planning on wearing to work today.
You finally get the house to yourself and get to work on that blog post you’ve been struggling to write. As soon as you get into the groove, your laptop freezes up, so you have to reboot it. You didn’t save your document, so you lost all your progress.
Does that sound familiar? There are bad days, and there are BAD days. We all have days when nothing seems to go right. Days when everything you try to do fails and blows up in your face.
Or if you live with bipolar disorder, you may just have a day when your symptoms combined with the everyday annoyances of life drive you to distraction.
For me, the worst days are the ones when I get so sucked into those trying moments that I lose myself. I become this other crazy person. I act out, and I am humiliated by my behavior.
Bad Mental Health Days
To be perfectly honest, you do not need a bipolar disorder diagnosis to have a bad mental health day. We all have triggers that cause us to lose our cool and go into a negative headspace.
Your mind becomes a landmine. The enemy. You can’t focus on anything except on the thing you’re trying not to focus on.
I am here to tell you I don’t have all the answers. As I sit here writing this post, I must stifle a giggle because putting together a list of strategies to use on a bad mental health day is on the verge of giving me a bad mental health day!
What can you do when you feel your day spiraling out of control? Use these seven strategies to redirect, regroup, and reboot your brain, so you can stop your bad mental health day in its tracks.
Here are seven strategies to redirect, regroup and reboot your brain on bad mental health days.
1. Put yourself in a time-out.
Sometimes the best way to redirect your mind is by removing yourself from a situation. Find a quiet place and just breathe for a moment. Concentrate on each breath as you breathe in and exhale out. Identify the overpowering emotion you are feeling. Listen to the silence and use it to quiet your anxious thoughts.
For those of us who are mothers, finding the time and space to have a quiet moment of reflection can be challenging. The world has programmed us to believe we must be available for our children 24/7. We have lost sight of the fact that self-care should be a crucial part of our daily routine. We can’t pour into our children’s lives if our own cup is empty.
2. Engage in positive self-talk.
Words have the power to bring life or death. When I am having a bad mental health day, I often get caught up in speaking death over myself. I spew self-loathing comments out loud or bombard my mind with a deluge of negativity.
You live what you believe about yourself. If you fill your mind with negativity, it will spill over into your reality.
Instead, take a moment to count your blessings, and remember something that makes your heart sing. Remind yourself of every good quality you possess. Replace the phrases “I never” and “I always” with “I can” and “I will.”
3. Engage in some form of exercise.
Exercise is a powerful mood enhancer. The endorphins released during exercise produce a sense of well-being that can’t be denied.
If you take exercise and bring it outside, you receive the added benefit of sunshine and nature’s restorative properties. A change of scenery may be just the thing to turn your day around.
Put on your tennis shoes and let the sunshine and physical exertion do the job. You may just need a leisurely walk with your dog to clear your mind, or you may need more vigorous exercise to help you regroup.
4. Listen to your favorite music.
If you are familiar with my blog, you know that music is my favorite form of therapy. It is my happy place. It is the one thing I can always count on to change my focus.
While many people require quiet time to reboot their brains, I am usually the opposite. If I am having an exceptionally hard day, quiet just exacerbates the problem. The silence allows the voices in my head to reign supreme.
Cue the loud music. What does loud music do? It allows you to disconnect from the dialogue in your head and replace it with the words of your favorite song. The music reboots your brain and helps you switch gears.
5. Complete mindless chores.
Pull out your favorite recipe and cook a meal or pull out your vacuum cleaner and clean your floors. Dust your house, declutter your closet or detail your car.
What do all these activities have in common? They are mindless chores that can be done on autopilot.
A magical thing happens when you fill a difficult day with a list of mindless chores to complete. Somewhere in the middle of checking items off your to-do list, your brain settles down.
6. Engage in escapist behaviors.
When I wrote about the ways we all self-medicate, binge-watching television shows made the list. And while I stand by the idea that binge-watching can be a negative habit, it can also be a powerful way to reboot your brain.
I don’t suggest binge-watching for hours on end every time you have a bad mental health day, but hiding in your bedroom and watching an episode or two of your favorite television show may have a positive effect on your mood.
Your escape may be a favorite book or movie or even a game. The type of activity is not important. It is more important that it takes you outside of yourself long enough for you to regroup and reboot your brain.
7. Spend some time in prayer and meditation.
I am an unapologetic follower of Jesus Christ. You would think prayer would rank higher on this list of strategies. On some bad mental health days, it does. While I am in that time-out, breathing in and out and soaking in the silence, I can identify my emotions and what causes them and form my thoughts into prayers.
But I’ll be honest. That’s not the norm. If I am having a horrible mental health day, chances are actual prayer and meditation are not even possible. When my brain is overwrought and cluttered, I am so hyperfocused on what is wrong that I can barely form the prayer, “Help me.” I can’t focus on God. I can’t focus on anything but the noise in my head.
Even though prayer is not the first strategy on my list, it doesn’t mean that it is not an essential one. Whatever strategies I employ to get through a bad mental health day, ultimately, I must thank God for seeing me through those trying moments.
Everyone has days they wish they could do over. We all have bad mental health days when our brain and our life get the best of us. When you add bipolar disorder to the mix, it adds a new depth to the struggle.
The seven strategies I outlined are not an exhaustive list of methods to redirect, regroup and reboot your brain when it is distracted and filled with negativity. Everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you.
It will take trial and error to find which methods you find most effective. It may be a strategy mentioned here, or you may have your own list of strategies that work for you. Find what works for you and do that.
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