As a woman with bipolar disorder, I’m no stranger to depression. I’ve sunk to some pretty low points just because I have abnormal brain chemistry. Fortunately, due to a combination of medication, talk therapy, and coping strategies, I’ve been stable—and happy!—for the past seven years. So I am willing and able to give you some tips and tricks that may help you recover from the dark pit of depression.
Self-care, defined as actions you take to improve your physical and/or mental outlook, is crucial for recovery from depression. Medication can only help if you take it (which is part of self-care!), and talk therapy is useful, too, but without your meeting your physical and emotional needs on a basic level, there’s only so much the treatments can do.
Self-care is more than just bubble baths and painting your nails. Let me outline some self-care practices below that you can do today to help you recover from depression.
First, there’s the physical side of self-care. Taking care of your body can help you feel loads better and enable you to take on the day—or at least knock some small tasks off your to-do list, like getting the mail.
Physical self-care is an easy and basic way to meet the lowest tier of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs: the physiological section. Without meeting those needs (food, water, warmth, rest), you cannot move on to meeting the next levels of needs on the pyramid.
There are any number of things you can do to take care of your physical body. Hygiene is a big one. I love applying deodorant and brushing my (short) hair when I’m feeling rotten, which takes about 45 seconds.
I’ll outline some hygiene steps below, but please remember that you don’t have to do all or any of these things at first. One step at a time.
The best thing you can do for yourself if you’re at home and safe is take a shower. I know you don’t want to take a shower. I know you don’t want to get out of bed. But if you just can’t bring yourself to endure a full-on shower, at least wash your face.
Maybe from there, you’ll feel good enough that you’ll want to brush your hair. Stop there; if you’re truly in the pits of depression, then you don’t want to overload yourself.
I try to take a shower every night so I feel good when I go to sleep and am ready to wake up refreshed the next morning. It’s easy when I’m stable but a mountain to climb when I’m depressed.
But that mountain is worth climbing. I always feel a little better after a shower, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t, too.
On occasion my legs are itchy because of dry skin, so one of my self-care rituals is to quickly apply lotion to my legs and arms from a pump bottle. My four-year-old daughter enjoys having me apply lotion to her little arms and legs as well! There’s a lot of laughter involved because the lotion tickles her.
You can try to apply lotion, too. A bottle with a pump spigot makes squirting the right amount in your hands easy, so I’d recommend buying one of those. If you take a shower at night, set the lotion on a flat surface near your bed so finding it when you need to apply it before bed is easy.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing your teeth takes two minutes. And you can do anything for two minutes. I have full faith in your ability to handle this task. If you want, brush your teeth and go back to bed until you feel you can manage another aspect of self-care.
Physical self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it doesn’t have to cost too much, either. It means taking care of your body, which is linked to your mind and helps you re-center yourself.
Physical self-care is not an indulgence. It’s a necessity; without taking steps to take care of yourself, you’ll get to the point where someone else has to take care of you.
I’ve been there. My mom drove two hours to my university apartment and washed my hair once because I could no longer function. But after that, I soon started performing self-care and taking my own showers.
I recovered from that depression through a combination of talk therapy, medication, and self-care. Without the building blocks of self-care, I never would have found myself a therapist, which was the beginning of my recovery journey.
You are worth self-care. You are a valuable person who has worth beyond what you produce. And you deserve someone who loves you, even and especially if that person is yourself.
I wish you well.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post: Emotional Self-care.
Note from the Editor: Please welcome the Bipolar Parent back from my hiatus! I will be posting weekly personal, informative pieces on how to manage your bipolar disorder on Friday mornings. I hope that these posts will help you deal with depressive or manic episodes, and that you’ll be able to stabilize soon.
I wish you well!
Self-care. It seems self-explanatory; after all, the term indicates caring for the self. But why is self-care so hard to accomplish, especially for people who suffer from bipolar disorder?
The answer is easy. When we’re manic or hypomanic, we’re usually too busy to settle down and care for ourselves. If we’re depressed, caring for ourselves is the last thing we want to do (mostly because we don’t want to do anything at all).
That must change. Caring for ourselves is putting an oxygen mask on. Self-care is crucial for our daily functioning. We must take self-care seriously to make the most of our lives.
September is Self-Care Awareness Month. There’s no better time than to start giving yourself a sweet, sweet dose of self-care.
Some people believe the self-care is limited to taking bubble baths and painting their toenails. But there are so many more ways to take care of yourself. Read on for 10 self-care ideas for people suffering from bipolar disorder.
Self-care Ideas for When You’re Manic
When you’re manic, life is go go go. In my experience, I barely slow down enough to take a breath. Here are my recommendations for self-care when you’re manic:
1. Pause for two minutes and take deep breaths
I know stopping whatever you’re focused on when you’re manic is incredibly difficult and the last thing you want to do, but hear me out. Mania spends energy you don’t actually have. If you’re constantly on the go, you’re going to wear yourself out. Pausing for two minutes and taking deep breaths (in through the nose, hold for eight seconds, and exhale through the mouth) will help your brain reset.
I like to do the box breathing method. First, find a safe place. Then, breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and release for four seconds. This almost always works to calm me down.
2. Take a bath
When I’m suffering from a bipolar mood episode, my hygiene goes out the window. This is especially true during depressive episodes, but also can happen during mania. I highly recommend making a conscious effort to take a bath or shower during that time. Bubbles are optional. Being clean may help you feel better, and if you slow down enough to take a bath during mania, the hot water may relax you a little.
I like to use Epsom salts in my baths. Even if I can’t take a bath, a hot shower, even if it’s short, helps slow my brain down enough to make me realize I’m manic and need to chill out.
During manic episodes, sleep is your best friend. Aside from medication, sleep is the number one way you can reset your brain back to a non-altered state. Please, try to get some good sleep. Dim the lights, stop using screens two hours before bed, do some deep breathing exercises (see tip #1), and by all means, rest.
I guard my sleep with the fierceness of Cerberus. Whether I’m manic, depressed, or stable, my sleep hygiene is the most important aspect of my day. I sleep in a cold, dark room with two thin blankets, having showered and brushed my teeth right before bed. I have no music or white noise, and I make sure I sleep at least 9-10 hours a night.
When I’m suffering from insomnia, I pray fiercely, and commit my sleep to God. If you’re not religious and you’re up for all hours of the night, you can try meditation and see if it helps. Definitely try the box breathing method.
4. Limit yourself to one project.
My mania manifests as crafting binges. I dive into embroidery or painting projects, and neglect everything around me and even myself until I produce something. I’m always rushing, so these projects never turn out well. I also bounce between projects. I highly recommend sticking to one project, so you’re not leaving half-finished projects lying around.
Since you have plenty of energy to burn during mania, burn it. Put on a workout video. Run some laps. Climb your stairs up and down. Anything to get your heart rate up and tire you out.
I can’t run due to knee issues, so when I’m manic and full of energy, I put on music and dance with my kids or talk walks around the park and neighborhood with them. I try to incorporate my kids into my manic phases as much as possible, and ask for their patience with me as I struggle to regain control of myself.
Self-care Ideas for When You’re Depressed
Depression is a beast. You feel awful and don’t have the energy to do anything. So what can you do? Here are some self-care ideas for when you’re depressed:
1. Go outside
I know that when you’re depressed, you’d rather stick your hand in a box of tarantulas than get out of bed. Trust me, I’ve been there. But staying in bed all day doesn’t help. In fact, that can worsen or prolong feelings of intense sadness. If you go outside and breathe some fresh air, then your mood may lift even if only slightly.
I try to take my four-year-old to a park every single morning except on Sundays, when we have church services. Forcing myself to get outside on a daily basis is sometimes the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but standing outside in the sun helps me re-center and realize that my depression won’t last forever.
2. Clean the closest surface to you, like a nightstand
Clutter deepens and prolongs feelings of depression. If you can clean the closest surface to your bed, like a nightstand, then you’ll have both a feeling of accomplishment and a clear surface to look at.
I have a problem with my brain: every time I think I’m not doing enough, my brain screams at me that I am useless and unworthy of love. I am fixated on being useful, even though logically I know I have value as a person beyond what I produce.
And when I’m depressed, the screaming intensifies as I don’t tend to get anything done, nor do I want to get anything done. So rather than sinking fully into the pit of despair and allowing my brain to figuratively beat me over the head, I try to cross off at least three items on my (small) to-do list and call that good. I recognize that I can’t get as much done when I’m depressed as when I’m stable, but I do accomplish something everyday. That helps me a lot, and it could help you, too.
3. Drink water
Hydration is so important to a healthy body and mind. You’re not at your best when you’re dehydrated. Focus on drinking a gallon of water over the course of a day. Even if you do nothing else but drink, you’ll win the day.
I drink about 144 ounces of water a day. I bring water bottles with me whenever I’m out, and I have a 32-ounce cup at home that I continuously guzzle and refill at the tap all day long when I’m there.
When I’m even slightly dehydrated, I can feel it: I suffer headaches and a dry, scratchy throat, and my mood takes a nosedive. One of my symptoms of depression is a lack of self-care, and that starts with not drinking water, which only worsens my condition. So I would highly recommend putting drinking water as one of the three items on your to-do list. Hydration is crucial for your mental health.
4. Socialize with an actual person
Call a supportive friend. Check in with your family. Even go out to the store and say hello to the cashier. When we’re depressed, we often isolate ourselves, which makes depression worse. Don’t do that.
When my brain is screaming at me that I’m worthless, I like tapping my online friends. I can sign on and leave them a message and say, “My brain is being mean to me today, and here’s why,” and they’ll respond to me whenever they’re available. Because they’ve been depressed themselves, they’ll listen and acknowledge my pain, and maybe even offer some suggestions about how to conquer my specific challenges that I’ve mentioned.
Relationships are so important to mental health. Don’t isolate yourself. Get out there and put yourself among people, and hopefully you’ll find someone who can support you.
Your friends want to help you. They’re there to listen. Lean on them.
5. Say “no” to some things
Feeling overwhelmed is common when suffering from depression. If you can, say no to some things filling your schedule. Freeing up enough space to let yourself heal is one of the best things you can do for depression.
As I’ve touched on in previous points, when I’m depressed, I absolutely cannot do as much as I can when I’m stable (which is, admittedly, a lot). So when I’m suffering a depressive episode, I assess my capabilities and cut way, way back on everything I need to do.
I try to give myself three main things on my to-do list, one of which is drinking enough water. Other things that I’ve put on there may be brushing my teeth, showering, eating an easy meal, or socializing with a person. If I’ve done all three things, I win the day.
Self-care for people who suffer from bipolar disorder doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep in mind your various struggles when you’re depressed and manic, and tailor your self-care to those episodes. Showers, sleep, and indulging in things that make you happy are crucial to your well-being.
I believe you can conquer these mood episodes. Good luck.
Note from the Editor: Please welcome the Bipolar Parent back from my hiatus! I will be posting weekly personal, informative pieces on how to manage your bipolar disorder on Friday mornings. I hope that these posts will help you deal with depressive or manic episodes, and that you’ll be able to stabilize soon.
I wish you well!
Trigger Warning: This post contains a discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please:
Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Text TALK to 741741
Or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
For a post with a list of domestic crisis lines, click here. For a post with a list of international crisis lines, click here.
What My Experience Being Suicidal Taught Me — and What It Can Teach You, Too
During my pregnancy with my son, I was so miserable, I not only almost ended my life, but his, too.
I was lonely and isolated, having moved 1500 miles away from my family and friends. I endured morning sickness for nine months straight and vomited so much, I lost 30 pounds rather than gaining any weight, putting me on a forced bed rest for six months.
And I was suffering from an undiagnosed bipolar depressive episode. At that time, I couldn’t handle just drifting from day to day in an interminable fog. I wasn’t able to make basic decisions, like what to eat or whether to shower. And it wasn’t like I wanted to die, I just couldn’t live anymore.
After I made an attempt on my life, trying to drown myself in the bath immediately after my son was born, things got better. I committed myself to a mental hospital where I was stabilized on medication and asked to create a Suicide Prevention Safety Plan.
If you’ve faced suicidal thoughts and have no desire to return to that place or even if you suffer from depression and think you might be suicidal, one powerful preventative action you can take is to create one of these plans.
The plan is a written set of steps to follow if you start to think of harming yourself. The benefit to making a suicide prevention plan is simple: following pre-determined steps is much, much easier than trying to figure out your next moves when you’re actively suicidal.
September 5th-11th is National Suicide Prevention Week, an annual campaign in the United States to raise awareness about suicide prevention techniques and the triggers of suicide. The week also tries to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and normalize steps to prevent suicide and improve mental health. What better time to make a Suicide Prevention Safety Plan?
Are you ready to develop your plan? Find a template of the Brown Stanley Safety Plan, a plan recommended by the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website, here.
Have you printed your plan? Great. Here’s some information to include.
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide, both in general and specifically how they manifest to you. The first step in making a plan is to write down your warning signs. During what sorts of moods and situations do you find yourself thinking about self-harm? List three to five experiences that lead you down dark paths.
Being a woman with bipolar disorder, I have a few warning signs for when I’m sliding into a depressive episodes and may end up facing suicidal thoughts that I added to my plan. The first and most obvious one is a total lack of self-care. I usually drink up to 144 ounces of water a day, shower daily, and eat three meals. When I stop doing any of those, it’s time for me to take a look at whether I’m sliding into a depression.
Other warning signs are more subtle. I may feel tired all the time and can’t get out of bed, or I may feel weepy and more emotional than usual. One notable sign that’s very specific to me is that I’m no longer creative. Writing flows through my blood; I adore informing my readers or tugging on their heartstrings or both, and when writing becomes a chore and I start dreading it, that sends off klaxons in my brain that let me know I need to take action to get on a more even keel.
Think hard about specific triggers that you may have for depression or suicidal thoughts. List them here.
Next, write down three to five self-care techniques. What can you do for yourself that will help you re-center? List out physical activities that calm you down, like taking a nap, getting a snack, or even something as simple as brushing your teeth. For a long list of self-care techniques, click here.
My personal plan from the hospital didn’t have this section, but because I love self-care, I think it’s a great one. One of the quickest and easiest ways for me to feel better about myself is to take a brief, hot shower. If I can’t do that because I’m too busy with my four-year-old, then I wash my face and arms, brush my hair, and apply deodorant, all of which takes less than five minutes.
Another self-care tactic I use is to eat a healthy snack, like a yogurt or a piece of cheese or, if I have time, some sautéed zucchini squash. Yet another self-care tactic I like is to go outside and breathe in some fresh air, which helps me re-center and realize that life isn’t all about my problems.
Think about what helps you the most in the moment. List your specific self-care techniques here.
Step three is to write down three to five names and numbers of people who are good distractions for you. Who can you rely on to cheer you up with something other than focusing on yourself? If you have no one, write down social situations or place where you feel calm instead, such as in a library.
I wrote down my sister’s number. When my brain is screaming at me that I’m worthless, she can always acknowledge my pain and cheer me up by reminding me that I am valuable as a person to her specifically.
I also tap my online friends. I can message them with something like, “My brain is being mean to me and here’s why,” and they can respond whenever they’re available with virtual hugs and advice on the challenges I may be facing.
Think hard about trusted people in your life that you can rely on. If you do not have any, think about places with people that you can go to instead, like a park.
People You Can Ask for Help
After you write down distractions, write down three to five names and numbers of people you can ask for help. I know it’s hard to think of people who are genuinely interested in your problems and can help you. You may feel as if you have no friends. But think hard. There are likely people out there who want to help you.
This is where I wrote down my husband’s number, as he’s the person closest to me. It’s saved in my phone and I have it memorized, but he is the one who needs to know that I’m thinking of these things so he can tailor his approach, and possibly call in the big guns for me, such as:
Professionals or Agencies
Step five is to list out the names and numbers of doctors and addresses of crisis centers that you can go to in times of trouble. If you have a therapist, list him or her here. (If you need help finding a therapist, click here.) If you have a psychiatrist, this is where he or she needs to be. (For help getting a psychiatric evaluation, click here.) Write down the crisis center numbers and addresses as well. Then write down a suicide hotline for your country.
At the time of my hospitalization, I did not have a psychiatrist, but I did have a therapist. I wrote her number down, and then I wrote down the information for the psychiatrist that the hospital referred me to.
I filled this plan out at a discharge appointment with a doctor, so they were there to help me figure out what numbers to write down. But the crisis centers in your area are only a simple Google search away.
Making the Environment Safe
If you’ve followed all the steps in your plan up to this point, having called the professionals to help you with your suicidal thoughts, you need to make your environment safe until they can help you. What this means is that when making your plan, you need to joy down the two most effective ways to ensure your safety.
Be it withdrawing from other people or putting yourself among them, make sure these instructions resonate with you. You need to be able to take these steps, and if you’re on step six already and you’ve already called your doctors or an emergency number, then keep yourself from acting rashly. Take away anything that will help you enact your suicide plan to the best of your ability. Call a friend to help (step four) and ask them to remove temptations from your home, like knives or pills.
For my plan, I wrote down that I needed to secure child care for my infant son. I didn’t want to do anything to hurt him or even leave him behind in a place where he could get hurt, so making my environment safe was all about making the environment safe for him, too.
Finally, write down the most important positive aspect of your life. What is the one thing worth living for? What is your reason not to give up? What’s the driving force of your life that you would hate to leave behind? Hopefully the reason comes to you quickly, but if not, take some time to think hard and figure something out.
At the time of my hospitalization, my clear reason for living was to take care of my newborn. I printed a picture of him from the hospital’s computer, writing on the bottom, “The Reason I Am Here!” in bold, black and red markers.
Focusing on the care of my son helped me survive through suicidal thoughts.
Find your reason.
My experience with suicidal thoughts gave me the tools to use if I ever found myself in a situation again, such as if my medication ever stopped working or external or internal factors sent me back into a deep depression. The Suicide Prevention Safety Plan is one of those tools.
Now I am a happy, stable woman who happens to have a mental illness, one which I treat with a combination of medication, talk therapy, and self-care. While I’ve had hypomanic and depressive episodes in the interim years since my son’s birth, they’ve been nothing like my deep, debilitating depression during my pregnancy.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have learned how to manage my mental illness, but I still follow my plan when I need it.
I would highly recommend filling out a Suicide Prevention Safety Plan to use as one of the tools to help yourself. It will not only benefit you, but it’ll also benefit your loved ones as well. No one wants you to hurt yourself. And filling out a plan when you’re not in a time of crisis will help you know what to do when a problem hits.
Fill out the plan and place it in a spot where you and your loved ones can find it in times of trouble. You may not be able to prevent thoughts of self-harm but you can take steps to prevent yourself from leaving your life behind.
This post appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation website, here.
If you suffer from bipolar disorder, then you may already know how difficult managing romantic relationships can be. Even being a partner with a bipolar disorder sufferer is difficult.
The manic and hypomanic phases of the disease can include lapses in judgment, promiscuity, overspending, risky behaviors like alcohol or drug abuse, and other problems which can wreak havoc on any relationship, especially a romantic one.
Depressive episodes can be frustrating for everyone involved because a person suffering from depression may withdraw from the world. If you’re partnered with a person going through a depressive episode, you may not be able to draw them out of their shell.
So how do you manage a romantic relationship if you have bipolar disorder? Here are some tips to do just that.
Tip #1: Communicate Honestly
Everyone involved in a romantic relationship needs to communicate honestly with their partners, but this is especially true when bipolar disorder is involved.
If you have bipolar disorder, be honest about your everyday feelings, and let your partner know when you’re tripping into mania or slipping into depression. Bipolar episodes can be disorienting to anyone, not just the sufferer, and especially when people are unprepared for them. Your partner needs to know if you’re becoming manic or depressed.
Financial concerns are also something to be honest about. If you don’t tell your partner that you overspent during a manic episode, he or she might be counting on money in the budget that you don’t have. Similarly, you need to be honest if you’ve cheated on your partner when you’ve been manic because you need to maintain trust in the relationship.
If you are partnered with someone with bipolar disorder, be honest about whether you’re overwhelmed by the disease. You can’t always be a rock, and your partner needs to know when you feel overwhelmed. Do your best to separate the illness from your partner and try not to judge him or her for suffering from bipolar disorder. But be honest with your partner about how the mental illness affects you.
Tip #2: Stick With Your Treatment Plan
Adequately treating your bipolar disorder with talk therapy and/or medication is crucial for managing romantic relationships. If you don’t have your disease under control and aren’t handling your mood episodes properly, then you run the risk of destroying everything you’ve worked for when it comes to your partner.
If you are dating or married to a person suffering from bipolar disorder, regularly ask your partner how they’re feeling and if their meds are working for them. Managing mental illnesses is much easier with an appropriate level of support. Oftentimes, the partner is the one who spots the manic or depressive episode.
But try to avoid nagging. Set up rules about communicating ahead of time, such as “I can only bring up meds three times, and then I need to let it go.”
Tip #3: Practice Self-care
Self-care isn’t limited to bubble baths and painting your nails. Self-care is taking responsibility for your well-being. If you can’t take care of yourself, your romantic relationships will suffer. People suffering depressive episodes especially need to commit to a self-care routine, as they tend to neglect themselves.
So, whether you have bipolar disorder or are partnered with someone with bipolar, practice daily self-care.
If you do these “big six” self-care steps daily, as outlined by a post about self-care at WellandWealthy.org then you will see improvements in your physical and mental health. These improvements will help you be a better spouse.
A special note for the partners of people with bipolar disorder: one way to practice self-care is to not be your partner’s only support. Make sure that he or she has a therapist and/or a psychiatrist to talk to, as well as supportive friends and possibly family. The more you can spread the support around, the better.
You can’t be everything to your partner. Setting up a codependent relationship will only harm you and him or her in the long run.
For a post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here. For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.
Managing romance when you suffer from bipolar disorder is not impossible. It just takes a little extra work and self-awareness from both people in the partnership. If you can communicate honestly, stick to your treatment plans, and practice the “big six” daily self-care tenants, then you will be able to better handle your romantic relationships.
Trigger warning: This post contains a discussions of suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
When a loved one dies by suicide, the survivors are shattered. Facing a death by suicide can easily overwhelm a survivor with grief.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018, suicide claimed the lives of over 48,000 American people. In 1999, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, reeling from the suicide of his father, introduced a resolution that created International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.
Also known as Survivor Day, the awareness day was intended for those who survived the loss of a loved one to suicide to come together for support and healing. Survivor Day always falls on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving (November 21, 2020), as the holidays are difficult for many suicide loss survivors.
But how can you slupport a friend who is dealing with the poignant loss of a loved one by suicide?
Be There and Listen
One of the best ways to support a friend whose loved one died by suicide is to simply be there for them. Your friend will be suffering a world of conflicting emotions such as grief, anger, and helplessness, and they will need you to listen to their anxious worries.
Listening to your friend’s concerns means trying not to offer solutions to their problems. Most people who are overwhelmed by grief don’t want to listen to advice you can give them. They simply want you to listen.
Ask how they feel. Don’t assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day; they might feel differently from moment to moment.
The Dos and Don’ts of What to Say
Oftentimes when dealing with a grieving friend, we want to say the right thing. As it turns out, there are a few good things to say and a lot of bad things to say. Here are the dos and don’ts of what to say.
Do tell them that you love them and are thinking of them. Let them know you will be there for them no matter what.
Do tell them that you are sorry for their loss. You can and should of course offer your condolences.
Do tell them that you want to listen to stories about their loved one. Do reminisce with your friend. If you have good memories of their loved one, share those memories with them.
Don’t tell them that you understand their pain. Even if you’ve been through a similar situation, everyone’s grief is different.
Don’t tell them that they’ll get over it soon. You do not know when your friend will recover from the loss of their loved one, if ever. Don’t presume to know when their grieving cycle will finish.
Don’t tell them they are lucky to have other loved ones, especially children. Nothing will substitute for the loved one they have lost.
If you are with someone who is grieving but you don’t know what to say, you don’t have to say anything. Simply placing your arms around your friend’s shoulders and letting them cry in silence can help them feel less alone.
And remember: Finding the right words to say is less important than simply listening.
Grief makes people do ridiculous things. In the course of their grief, your friend may want to rail against God, or scream about the deceased not getting help, or yell at anyone and everyone who failed their loved one.
Let your friend scream. Let them say whatever they want to say without judging them or trying to offer them advice. Don’t show off your skills in psychology. Your friend will need you to be there for them, not lecture them.
Tell them, “I love you and I am here for you.” In their moments of difficulty, calm, non-judgemental acceptance can be incredibly powerful.
Night time can be particularly difficult for survivors of suicide loss. Your friend may struggle with their sleep. They may need a listening ear at three in the morning.
Keep your phone on. Your friend may feel awkward or tell you that they won’t call, but when it comes to long nights, they may need you to be available at any time of the day for them.
Try to let them wake you up with grace. Their grief won’t be a permanent thing–they’ll only need you temporarily. But do be there for them.
Remember Your Friend Throughout the Year
Your friend will undoubtedly find that the first year after the loss of their loved one is difficult. And about two weeks after the loved one dies, most of the cards and flowers and well wishers dissipate.
Don’t forget your friend. Send them a note on the month markers–for example, if their loved one died on the 6th of March, then the 6th of April may be difficult, as well as the 6th of May, and so on.
Other important dates to remember are birthdays and special holidays that the deceased loved, especially Christmas and the other holidays in the November-December-January season. If your friend lost a spouse, the anniversary of their wedding date is incredibly important to remember.
Send your friend a note or give them a call on these important days. Let them know you are thinking of them and their loved one hasn’t been forgotten.
Watch for Warning Signs
After the death of a loved one, your friend may spiral into a deep depression. If your friend exhibits any of the warning signs of suicide themselves, encourage them to talk to a mental health professional.
Watch for these warning signs, especially up to two months after the death:
Extreme focus on the death
Declining grades or work performance
Lack of concern for personal welfare
Excessive alcohol or drug use
Anhedonia – the lack of pleasure in normal activities
Extreme and persistent anger, bitterness, or guilt
Talking about needing to escape the pain
Neglect of personal hygiene
Planning a suicide attempt
If your friend is acting strangely and trying to say goodbye to their life, they may be planning a suicide attempt. If you suspect that they will act on their plan, call 911 immediately.
People who are grieving will never “get over” their loss. They will constantly have a loved-one-shaped hole in their life. The best you can do to support them is to help them begin to heal.
Be there for your friend, listen actively and ask them how they feel, don’t judge them, be available anytime, remember them throughout the year, and watch for warning signs of deeper problems.
You can help your friend who is suffering suicide loss. You can be there for them.
One of the last tasks my doctors at the psychiatric hospital made me do before releasing me to the wider world was to make an emergency health care plan for future mental health crises.
At the time, I thought this plan was stupid. I was manic and therefore invincible, and I would not be having any more mental health crises, thank you very much.
Once I came down from my high, I realized that having such a plan—with emergency numbers and the names of my doctors—in an accessible place was an excellent idea.
But how do you make a mental health crisis plan? And what is it?
What the Plan Is
A mental health crisis plan is a series of steps to take when you experience a psychiatric crisis. You write down the steps when you are well and place the completed plan in a place where you and your loved ones can reach any time you need it.
As a person with mental illness, having a crisis plan is of utmost importance. You never know when a mental health episode will strike and will knock you off your metaphorical feet.
Caregivers and crisis teams can help you best when they’ve been prepared to honor your wishes. So you need to tell them what those wishes are with a mental health crisis plan.
Making the Plan
An emergency mental health crisis plan should include:
Your contact information and directions to your home.
A description of what a crisis situation looks like for you.
Contact information for your supporters.
Phone numbers for your therapist, psychiatrist, and primary care physician, as well as any other doctors working closely with you to manage your mental health.
A phone number for the local Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT). Do not hesitate to call the emergency number for your country as well.
A list of all prescribed medications and doctors who prescribed them.
A signed waiver from you giving all providers permission to speak to your supporters during the crisis, as well as giving supporters permission to speak to each other.
Anything you need to be mindful about for your health in general (e.g. allergies, dietary restrictions, etc).
Arrangements for your children should you need to be away from home.
Similarly, arrangements for your pets should you need to be away from home.
How supporters should settle disputes.
A list of all prior hospitalization dates and previous major crises.
A list of acceptable and unacceptable treatments and why (allergies, etc).
A list of acceptable and unacceptable people involved in your treatment and why.
Your signature and the signatures of two witnesses and (preferably) your attorney.
If you type a document up on a computer, you can change it whenever you like. Simply email an attached copy to your supporters. But keep a printed copy available in an accessible place in your home for your supporters as well.
If you are in a crisis, the last thing you need is to make decisions about your care. Make a mental health crisis plan today to prepare yourself and your caregivers to take care of your in a way that you find acceptable.
A lot of the gifts on this list overlap with that one, but feel free to check the depression post out for even more ideas!
I’d like to preface this gift guide by saying that whomever you’re giving gifts to, keep in mind whether the recipient will actually be able to use the gift. People who suffer from depression are easily overwhelmed. You want to offer them a present which won’t overwhelm them, and you definitely don’t want to have expectations that they will use the gift.
Presents don’t have to be expensive, but if they’re thoughtful, your loved one will appreciate them. If you can, do some research to figure out what your loved one likes and is into. Look into their social media posts and find out what he or she is posting about. That can give you a clue as to what your friend or loved one enjoys.
If you are a frugal person buying for a frugal person, the best gifts you can give are practical ones. Most frugal people are content with what they have, and don’t want to fill their houses with stuff they won’t use. So the best gifts you can give, aside from time, are consumables, like food, journals, or gift certificates to places they like.
With that in mind, here are 10 frugal gifts for people who suffer from anxiety:
1. Weighted Blanket
Imagine a situation where you’re antsy and distracted. Then imagine a full-body embrace. Imagine deep pressure enfolding your arms, your legs, your chest. Now imagine a calm passing over your frantic mind.
This is the soothing feeling of a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets have been used by occupational therapists the world over to help calm their patients, both children and adults alike. Glass beads are partitioned out in pockets and sewn together in sections.
When picking out a weighted blanket, there are two rules of thumb to follow: the chin-to-feet rule, where you use a blanket that covers your whole body, and the 10% rule, where you use a blanket that is 10% of your body weight.
Keep these rules in mind when picking out a weighted blanket for your loved one, and you’ll be golden.
2. Essential Oil Diffuser
Aromatherapy has long been a practice to soothe people. Scents like lavender and pine have calming effects on the mind.
This is due to the fact that lavender has been linked to the same neuron receptors as powerful anti-anxiety medications. Calming scents, and lavender in particular, trigger your brain to produce more feel-good chemicals.
So why not get your loved one an essential oil diffuser? They’ll love it.
3. Worry Rings
A “worry item” is something you can hold in your hands to fidget with. Fidgeting is a natural habit that helps ground people who suffer from anxiety, so a worry item can be very useful.
A worry ring or spinner ring helps take your loved one’s mind off whatever’s distressing them. They will wear their ring and think of you every time they fidget.
4. Mini Zen Garden
Raking sand and setting up stones doesn’t sound like it will relieve anxiety.
But a miniature zen garden is perfect for creating a small environment where your loved one will have complete control over the patterns of the sand. A zen garden can be a very soothing activity for your friend or loved one.
Everyone needs someone to talk to.
Depending on how your loved one feels about therapy, signing them up with a few virtual sessions with a licensed therapist may be a wonderful gift. Your giftee may benefit immensely from only a few sessions and be encouraged to continue.
But take care when giving this gift.
You must know your recipient well and be able to preempt their reaction. And don’t let the sessions be a surprise. Talk with the person before giving them therapy as a gift, so they know what your intentions are.
If you give therapy to the right person, a few sessions could really help them!
For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.
6. Adult Coloring Book
Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore.
This soothing activity is now for adults in the form of adult coloring books, which show complex patterns of animals, words, and mandalas, among other pictures.
Give your loved one a box of crayons and an adult coloring book, and watch their face light up.
Journaling has been proven to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Give your loved one the gift of a journal this holiday season. A nice Moleskin is a bit on the pricey side, but Moleskin makes excellent notebooks with leather-bound covers.
If you want to make the journal very special to your recipient, purchase it ahead of the gifting and write a positive affirmation or quote on the bottom of each page.
8. Yoga Mat
Downward facing dog. Mountain pose. Warrior I.
These are all yoga poses, from a practice which has been proven to help with stress and anxiety.
Why not give your loved one a yoga mat, so they can enjoy a few virtual sessions of yoga? If you want to go all out, spring for a work out DVD or some sessions with a professional yogi.
Like therapy, only give yoga sessions/mats if you know your recipient well and expect that they would enjoy working out.
9. Bath Salts
One of the best birthday gifts I ever received was a gift basket from my sister containing lotions, soaps, and a set of organic, deliciously-scented bath salts.
The salts were an especially soothing gift for me, as I was able to soak my troubles away in a tub that left my skin soft and my mind calmed with the scents.
Give your loved one the gift of scented bath salts this holiday season. Everyone needs to be clean.
10. Mug of Hot Chocolate to Share
And finally, the last gift on this list but certainly not the least, is a mug of hot chocolate to share.
There are some pretty cute mugs out there, some of which are funny and others of which can be sweet. Purchase a mug and some instant, powdered hot chocolate–or DIY some of your own with a recipe you can find online.
And then offer to share some hot chocolate with your loved one. What your loved one needs most is the gift of your time.
Even during a global pandemic, you can still set aside some time to virtually share a cup of hot cocoa with your loved one, right? You may have to schedule the visit and you can’t exactly hug each other, but your loved one will appreciate seeing your smiling face and catching up with you.
Shopping for gifts for a person who suffers from anxiety isn’t difficult.
You simply have to think about what you think would soothe your friend or loved one the most. Be it a yoga or therapy session, a long soak in the tub, or time spent sharing a mug of hot chocolate, do some thinking about what gift your loved one will enjoy.
Trigger Warning: This post discusses hotlines that apply to people contemplating suicide, as well as domestic and sexual violence.
According to Our World in Data, up to 10.7% of the world suffers from some sort of mental health condition. These conditions include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, eating disorders, and a whole host of other issues. That’s over 792 million people. For bipolar disorder specifically, the global incidence rate is 0.6%, or 46 million people.
Needless to say, a lot of people need help. And sometimes, people end up in a mental health crisis, which is any situation where a person’s mood and behaviors impair functioning to the point where he or she can no longer care for himself or herself or perform his or her role in the community at large. This crisis can lead them to hurt himself or herself or others, so it needs to be addressed.
If you or a loved one are in a metal health crisis and need to talk to someone immediately, pick up the phone. You can call a crisis hotline and talk to a line operator who will be able to connect you with resources to tackle your current challenge. Hotlines are available to you whether you have insurance or not, and they are private. Some crisis lines won’t even appear on a phone bill, ensuring the confidentiality of the caller. Thoroughly-trained hotline operators will be able connect you with treatment providers in your area.
What Should I Ask the Hotline Operator?
Calling a mental health hotline doesn’t have to be intimidating. Hotline operators have a wealth of information to answer your questions about your issues Consider asking some of these questions:
How do I get diagnosed? (For a post covering this topic from the Bipolar Parent, click here.)
Are there special techniques will work better for me, based on my diagnosis?
What happens if I have more than one condition?
How are metal health conditions treated?
What treatments are available in my area?
How do I know which type of doctor to see? (For a post covering this topic from the Bipolar Parent, click here.)
If you need a warmline, which is a line run by volunteer peers who will listen to you vent your troubles confidentially before you hit a crisis, please see this post on the Bipolar Parent.
In any crisis, if you are in immediate danger, call your country’s emergency line. Make sure to let the operator know that you are in a psychiatric crisis and ask for officers trained in crisis intervention.
If you are looking for support, resources, and knowledge from an highly-trained hotline operator, call one of these international crisis hotlines. If you find this list unmanageable, search for your country in the following ways:
On a desktop, hold down the ‘Ctrl’ + ‘F’ keys. This will bring up a search bar that you can look for anything.
On Safari for mobile devices, tap share icon (bottom), scroll down, select “Find on page.”
On Chrome for mobile devices, tap three dots (bottom right), scroll down, select “Find in page.
International Mental Health Crisis Hotlines Resource List
Trust Social Work and Sociological Research Centre: (2) 538194 and (2) 538197. Trust Social Work and Sociological Research Centre provides 24-hour face-to-face, phone, and letter support for people in Armenia who are lonely, in distress, in despair or having suicidal thoughts.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
National Hotline on Domestic Violence: +374 105 428 280800 80 850
Psychotherapy Helpline of the Professional Association for Psychotherapy: +43 720 12 00 12. Daily from 08.00-22.00. Psychotherapeutic crisis therapy offered by psychotherapists. Competent, free, and anonymous.
0800 222 555 from 0.00 – 24.00. Advice for women who are victims of violence.
Coronavirus hotline of the AGES (Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety): 0800 555 621. The AGES answers questions on the topic of coronavirus (general information about how it is passed on, symptoms and prevention) from 07.00 to 20.00, seven days a week on 0800 555 621.
Health advice hotline: 1450. If you have genuine symptoms (a high temperature, a cough, shortness of breath), stay at home and please call the health hotline on 1450 to receive information on the next steps (diagnosis). 0:00 – 24:00.
Open Counseling has a comprehensive list of hotlines that apply to Australia. Here are a few:
Emergency line: 000
Lifeline: 13 11 141. Lifeline is a 24-hour nationwide service that provides crisis support.
Beyond Blue: 1 (300) 22 3646. Beyond Blue provides nationwide information and support regarding anxiety, depression, and suicide.
The Samaritans: 1 (800) 198 313. Samaritans is a not for profit organization working on reducing the suicide rate and promoting the importance of mental health. They are one of the only 24/7 anonymous crisis support services in Australia.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse:
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: 1 (300) 858 584. Celebrating more than 55 years of service to the community, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) is Australia’s leading organization committed to preventing alcohol and other drug harms. They were established in 1959 to support the many post-war veterans who were suffering from alcohol dependence as a release from the trauma of war.
Drug and Alcohol Helpline: 1 (300) 887 000. Support and referral services for people with drug and/or alcohol problems.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
Bravehearts: 1 (800) 272 831. Bravehearts sets the standard in the provision of specialist therapeutic services and support to children and young people, adults and non-offending family members impacted by child sexual assault.
1 800 RESPPECT: 1 (800) 614 434. National sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling services 24-hour online support for workers and professionals.
Youth, Pregnancy, and Parenting:
Kids Helpline: 1 (800) 551 800. A 24-hour nationwide service that provides access to crisis support, suicide prevention and counselling services for Australians aged 5–25.
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA): 1 (300) 726 306. The PANDA telephone hotline provides support and counselling to new parents who may be experiencing anti-natal or postnatal depression. Concerned partners, family, friends and health professionals are also able to call PANDA and seek their support.
Children and Youth Health: 1 (300) 364 100. The Child and Youth Health organization provides user-friendly information about many aspects of health for all those involved, including parents and caregivers.
1800 020 080 if you suspect you may have contracted COVID-19.
1800 022 222 for more general advice relating to your symptoms.
Bahamas Crisis Centre: (242) 328-0922. The Bahamas Crisis Centre offers 24/7 free counselling and services for men, women and children in the Bahamas who are experiencing any form of abuse; family, relationship or behavioral problem.
Kaan Pete Roi is an emotional support helpline in Bangladesh whose mission is to alleviate feelings of despair, isolation, distress, and suicidal feelings among members of the community, through confidential listening. The helpline is intended for suicide prevention and the promotion of mental health. You can call Friday- Wednesday from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from Thursday noon to three o’clock.
1712 (Flemish). Hotline for all types of violence, domestic (any member of the family) sexual violence, honor-related violence and more, child abuse, elder abuse.
Belgium Community Help Service: 32 (0) 2 648 40 14. Belgium Community Help Service is an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English for children, adolescents and adults, providing information, support, and help in a crisis.
Tele Onthaal: 106. Tele Onthaal is a 24-hour support line in Belgium for people who are experiencing emotional problems of any kind.
Open Counseling has a comprehensive list of hotlines in Brazil. Here are a few of them:
AMA National Association: 90035191Hospital de Pronto Socorro Largo Teodor Herzl S/NO Primero Andar
Centro de Valorização da Vida: 188. Centro de Valorização da Vida provides voluntary and free service of emotional support and suicide prevention for all people in Uruguay who want and need to talk.
The CVV – Life Valuation Center: 55 11 31514109. The CVV – Life Valuation Center provides 24-hour emotional support and suicide prevention, voluntarily serving all people in Brazil who want and need to talk.
Bulgarian National Helpline for Children: 116 111. Bulgarian National Helpline for Children offers 24-hour services for children in Bulgaria who need someone to talk to or be with them at a difficult time.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
Women’s Helpline: +359 2 981 76 86
Open Counseling has a comprehensive list of hotline numbers in Canada. Here are a few of them:
First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness:1 (855) 242 3310. 24/7 Help Line for those who are thinking about committing suicide.
Youth and Parenting:
Kids Help Phone: 1 (800) 668 6868. Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only national 24-hour, bilingual and anonymous phone counselling, web counselling and referral service for children and youth. Completely anonymous and confidential.
Parentline: (778) 782 3548. The Parent Helpline is a free telephone service to parents and others experiencing family life or parenting challenges. This nonjudgmental service provides a listening ear, support and guidance to parents and caregivers who are upset or troubled about a family issue, have parenting-related questions or just need someone to speak to.
Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center: 0800 810 1117 or 010 8295 1332. Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center provides 24-hour service for individuals in Beijing who are depressed or suicidal.
Mental Health Center of School of Medicine of Zhejiang University: 0571-85029595. Mental Health Center of School of Medicine of Zhejiang University offers a 24-hour psychological assistance to people in Hangzhou.
Guangzhou Crisis Research and Intervention Center: 020-81899120 or 020-12320-5. Guangzhou Crisis Research and Intervention Center is available 24/7 for those who need help.
Shenzhen Mental Health Center: 0755-25629459. Shenzhen Mental Health Center offers free professional counseling available 24/7.
Plavi Telefon: (01) 4833-888. Plavi Telefon- Blue Phone provides support to people in Croatia for issues such as depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide that traditional centers might not accomplish. 24/7 national hotline.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
Women’s Help Now – SOS Line for Women and Children Victims of Violence:
S.O.S. Amitié: 09 72 39 40 50. SOS Amitié offers 24/7 service in France for anyone who needs to speak anonymously and confidentially. They have 1,700 trained listening volunteers that can listen to your malaise.
Lesbenberatung: 030 – 215 20 00. The “Lesbenberatung” center offers counselling to lesbian and bi-sexual women of all ages, transgender people and all women in crisis or conflict situations irrespective of age, nationality or cultural background.
Site Niebuhrstraße: 49 (030) 233 690 70. Schwulenberatung Berlin Niebuhrstraße 59/60 10629 Berlin. Open: Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 08:00pm.
The Governing Mayor of Berlin – Senate Chancellery: 030 / 90 28 28 28
Ministry of Social Protection’s Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Policy Unit: 640-1011
Ministry of Public Health:
de Luisterlijn: 09000767. de Luisterlijn offers 24-hour telephone emergency service throughout the Netherlands. When you are in pain or worry about something, they can provide a listening ear, and you can easily tell your story anonymously.
113 Zelfmoordpreventie: 0900-0113. 113 Zelfmoordpreventie offers 24-hour anonymous and confidential talk that can help you to share your thoughts if you’re in distress or having suicidal thoughts. Their crisis telephone number is accessible for people calling from within the Netherlands.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
Velig Thuis: 0800 2000. For victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
0800 1202 (or +31 850 659 063 if you’re calling from a foreign phone) to arrange for coronavirus testing for adults and children younger than 12. For children 12-17, call the same number, but they will have to consent over the phone.
Suicide Prevention Services: 00852-2382 0000. Suicide Prevention Services provides beneficial friends and other suicide prevention services to people in Hong Kong who are suicidal, desperate and emotionally distressed
The Samaritans, Hong Kong: 00852 2896 0000. The Samaritans Hong Kong offers 24-hour unconditional emotional support to anyone in distress or at risk of suicide throughout Hong Kong.
Domestic and Sexual Violence:
Harmony House: 2522 0434 (24 hour hotline for women), for men, call: 2295 1386
Wai On Home for Women: 2793 0223
Serene Court: 2787 6865
Les Corner (lesbian victims of domestic violence): 5281 5201
Rainbow of Hong Kong (gay victims of domestic violence): 2769 1069
Centre for Health ProtectionHotline:
HKSAR Government COVID-19WhatsApp Helpline: 9617 1823
Alcohol, the social lubricant. Some people drink because alcohol relaxes them in social situations. The drink isn’t called “liquid courage” for nothing.
But alcohol is an addictive substance, which has great potential to be misused, especially by people who also suffer from bipolar disorder.
The Connections Between Alcohol Use and Bipolar Disorder
Studies have shown that people who abuse alcohol are more likely to have bipolar disorder. According to a 2013 review, up to 45% of people with bipolar disorder also have alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Overwhelming feelings of sadness from bipolar depression make people more likely to self-medicate with substances like alcohol. And self-medicating makes it more likely for people with bipolar disorder to not stick to their medication regime or attend therapy sessions.
Alcohol also affects people with bipolar disorder in different ways than the neurotypical population.
A 2006 study showed that people with bipolar disorder are adversely affected by even small amounts of alcohol, which may both trigger and worsen manic and depressive symptoms.
Mania is known to increase impulsiveness. Because alcohol reduces inhibitions, consuming alcohol during a manic episode may encourage risky and irrational behaviors.
Alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, also contributes to lethargy and sadness during depressive episodes. The symptoms of depression triggered by alcohol are increased when people first stop drinking, so recovering alcoholics with a history of depression may relapse in the first few weeks of dealing with withdrawal.
People who suffer from psychosis triggered by manic episodes are also adversely affected by alcohol. Consuming alcohol during psychosis contributes to both long-term and short-term complications. Alcohol also complicates the treatment of psychosis, contributing to dangerous medication interactions.
How Alcohol Affects Medications
Medications that are part of your treatment plan are strongly affected by alcohol.
Valproic acid, known commonly as Depakote, is often prescribed to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. Similar to alcohol, Depakote is a central nervous system depressant which affects the liver. Combining alcohol and Depakote increases the chance of liver damage.
Similarly, consuming alcohol with lithium, which is frequently prescribed to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder, can contribute to liver disease. Lithium has side effects such as gastrointestinal problems, lethargy, and tremors, all of which alcohol can increase.
Antidepressants and antipsychotics may not work as well when combined with alcohol. Side effects can be increased, and you may feel more depressed and anxious.
You may decide to skip your medication in order to drink. This is a bad idea, as your symptoms of bipolar disorder may return quickly, triggering an episode. Stopping your dosages of medications without tapering off under the guidance of a professional is detrimental to your mental and physical health.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Alcohol can help you relax and socialize. Cutting down on alcohol can be difficult. It may be helpful to replace some of your drinking with relaxing habits.
Some alternatives to having a drink are:
Getting a massage
Attending a yoga or taekwondo class
Taking a warm bath
Drinking responsibly takes on a whole new level when you suffer from bipolar disorder. You not only need to be aware that drinking, especially to excess, triggers and worsens manic and depressive episodes, but also that your medication may interact poorly with the substance.
I’m not saying to cut all alcohol out of your life if you have bipolar disorder. If you are a responsible adult, there is no reason you can’t drink. But be aware of the complications alcohol brings to your life. You may find it easier to abstain.