When I’ve looked around, at books and on the internet, I haven’t found anything particularly useful for dealing with mania and hypomania RIGHT NOW (except this). There is a lot on spotting early warning signs, lots about making sure you sleep well, keep a routine, and eat properly, but nothing about what you yourself can do if you’re already past that point. The articles point you in the direction of doctors, therapists, and whatnot, but what if you’re on a bus somewhere and you need to calm down, stop talking to everyone around you, and sit still (or at least still-ish).
There’s nothing you can do to stop the mania in an instant, but I thought there might be techniques around that at least allow you to get home without getting sectioned. Or techniques you can use that get you through until you can talk to mental health professional.
Now Matters Now have a series of short videos on dealing with suicidal thoughts and anxiety, one of which is paced breathing. I’ve found this technique really useful to slow myself down physically, although it can take quite a lot of concentration to do more than a few breaths.
But a few breaths is enough! It acts as a sort of reset button, so whilst your physical agitation is likely to start up again any second now, it gives you just a short break. It takes so practice, but it’s well worth it.
I found paced breathing much easier when using the app they recommended in one of the videos (Tactical Breather for Android). The addition of a graphic really helped me to visualise the breathing.
I have a list of short, achievable tasks stuck to my wall for when I have no concentration but I need to do something. Think about what you could reasonably achieve right now. Some suggestions:
- tidy a small area of one room
- do a small bit of weeding in your garden
- paint a 10×10 cm square of paper
- colour in one page of a colouring book
- put together a playlist
Office exercises can be really quiet and strangers wouldn’t necessarily see anything you’re doing as more than a stretch. If you have the option to stand up there are some different exercises you could do. Just make sure not to overdo it – this is just a way to fulfil the need to move without other people noticing. Keep drinking water.
Use ADHD Techniques
Sometimes techniques for managing ADHD can be useful for dealing with some of the symptoms of mania.
In one technique, you direct your verbosity towards questioning your own actions. For example if you are pacing restlessly around your house, you would ask yourself “why am I pacing around? It’s because I’m agitated, I can’t sit still. So what should I do to stop pacing around? Maybe I could do some exercise.” This questioning of your actions forces you to slow down physically which can in turn slow down your thinking. Similarly, deliberately slowing down your speech can help to slow your thinking.
People with ADHD find making a plan for the day (or the next hour or two) helpful, and this goal-orientated approach can mean that some important tasks are actually achieved, for example at 12:30 pm I am going to make a sandwich and eat all of it. This is especially good if you have trouble remembering to eat and drink.
Break things down into short, achievable tasks. When it comes to complex things like cooking dinner, I find it impossible to work out the order of events, ingredients, and the like. Things get burnt a lot. If I can write down all the ingredients, and get the exact method down on paper then things get burnt less. Obviously making the least is a feat in itself.
There is often, for me at least, a need to write and write. There are lots of ways I can deal with this and actually it’s quite a good technique because it keeps me relatively still and unobtrusive. I usually start out trying to write what I’m feeling and end up just writing out rhyming couplets over and over. You can also just write out the text from any book or website, just to feel the ink go on the paper. Some people do the same but with typing.
Dealing with Psychotic Symptoms
You can also write to help deal with psychotic symptoms – if you hear voices, writing down what they say can be a really useful way of acknowledging them without alerting other people.
If you really need to talk to your voices and you’re in public, put your phone on silent and pretend someone has rung you. That way you can say what you want and people won’t think anything more of it than they would if anyone else was on the phone.
If you’re agitated, use the paced breathing technique as above.
Obviously none of these things will ever cure mania, but they might just help you get through the next minute or hour until you can see a mental health professional, or talk to someone. Follow your crisis plan (if you have one).
As always, if you feel like you want to hurt yourself of others, go straight to A&E. Disclaimer over.