In the Spring 2015 edition of bp magazine, Robin L. Flanigan wrote this outstanding article on how to get the things that trigger a bipolar event under some kind of control. She explains that self-knowledge and preparation lets you tighten the reins on ‘hot button’ stressors.
The first step in developing a strategy to tame your triggers is to learn what gets you off balance. Mood charts were recommended to help you become more aware of your triggers. There are many free templates online. Try to find a version that requires a lot of information from you such as the number of hours slept, meals eaten, support groups attended and medications taken.
Defensive Approaches to Triggers
The second step in getting a handle on your triggers is to be more defensive than offensive in dealing with your symptoms. Below are some defensive strategies for you to use.
- Be aware that some triggers can be internal as well as external.
- When triggers are emotional, identify past experiences that have caused pain.
- Remind yourself that like all feelings, these will pass.
- Have a strategy that helps you allow time to pass without reacting.
Enlisting Some Friends
The final step is having friends and family help to be mood spotters. Sometimes it is easier for them to notice a mood shift after you have discussed what symptoms are personal red flags. If you have a trusting relationship, you can share with them, ‘hey when I get this way or that, here is what you can tell me’. Another potential benefit is the other person may be less likely to react aggressively or defensively once they know your red flags.
Tips from the Trenches
Be Good to Yourself
If you have a lot going on at the same time, you should pay extra attention to yourself. Get the right amount of sleep and exercise. Be sure to do something fun to let off steam.
Prepare for Seasonal Patterns
There is a correlation between mania onset in the spring and summer and depression in the fall and winter. Plan for this if this is a trigger for you. Be sure not to let this get out of hand.
Arrange for Backup
You need a support system that will be there for you that cares about you and understand where you are. This could be family, friends, your therapist, and your support group friends.