As someone who is bipolar, I am very familiar with the feeling of a racing, manic mind. I am still learning how to bring my minds back into balance, but I thought I would jot down a few things that I find calming when I am in this state.
This list is not just for bipolar or neurodivergent people. I understand that neurotypical (and other neurodivergent) people can also feel overwhelmed by a racing, stressed, busy mind – so these tips are for you too.
1. Clean out your physical life
When my mind is busy, I often find that this is also expressed in the physical things around me. The bookshelf is over-stacked, the fridge is too full, my filing tray is piled high, my wardrobe overflows… It’s like I have been stockpiling for some sort of apocalypse! This can happen when you are manically trying to do too many things at once, or when you simply have not had time to clean out your life. My recommended remedy to this is to take stock of your physical items and clean out your life.
I also find that when I am manic, I have a tendency to be a too productive and throw out too many items that I might regret later. I have learnt to counter this by cleaning out low-value items first, like books. Books are usually easy to find and are quite cheap. If I throw out a book and find that I want to read it again down the track, I can just buy it again from BookDepository.com. The fridge and handbag contents are also easy places to start. When I clean out higher-value items (such as clothing), I leave the plastic bags full of the items that I want to dispose of in my house for a few weeks after the clean out. This gives me an opportunity to have a look at the items again when I am feeling better, and salvage any unnecessary clearances.
2. Do something to help someone else
When I am in a manic state, I find that I can become quite stuck in my own head. I often find that trying to focus on someone else can help anchor my mindset and stop me from focusing on my racing thoughts. This could be as simple as asking a friend about their problems, or could be something more complex, like teaching someone something new or assisting a charity.
If you are bipolar and manic, it is important to ensure that this does not cost much (or any!) money. It is easy for altruism and nonchalant spending habits to join forces and create future financial problems in the form of large loans to acquaintances or over-ambitious charity donations. To counter this tendency, I try to combine steps one and two. I donate some of my less valuable items to charity, and give away some of the ‘cleaned out’ possessions to my friends. For example, earlier in the year I was looking for a job, and purchased a few books on job-seeking. Later in the year, after I had successfully landed a job, I found myself feeling quite manic. At the time, I was talking to an old friend who was having trouble finding a job. Sending her my job-seeking books allowed me to clean out some unnecessary physical baggage from my life, and feel like the books were going to a good home.
Meditation is recommended by a wide range of sources, from psychiatrists to Buddhism. Unfortunately, many people view meditation as some sort of luxury that does not fit in with a busy, Western lifestyle. Even more unfortunately, us Westerners seem to view meditation as synonymous with relaxation.
In reality, meditation is more like brain training. It allows you to gain control over what Buddhists call your “monkey mind.” Viewing meditation as a training exercise for a mind full of raucous monkeys is a far cry from the luxury of relaxation!
I don’t meditate every day of the week, but I am trying to dedicate some regular time to meditation. We can’t all meditate for most of the day, like the Dalai Lama. But meditating even for two minutes a day is a great start.
My favourite guided meditation is available on Spotify, and is called ‘Sky Like Mind’ on ‘Meditation for Beginners – Vajra Yoga Meditation with Jill Satterfield’. In this meditation, the main concept is that your mind is the sky, which does not change as clouds (your thoughts) float through it. The guided meditation itself goes for almost 20 minutes, but it is easy to meditate on the same concept with less time.
By Alaska Green.
Alaska likes art, books, doggo memes, DIY, pizza and punk – not necessarily in that order. She also enjoys writing.