When My “Go-To” Mood-Management Strategies Aren’t Cutting It

Last Updated: 27 Sep 2021

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve tried everything to manage a mood episode, but nothing seems to “work.” Here’s what I do next.

coping strategies tried everything bipolar disorder mood episode depression mania support relationships

Abundant Advice for Bipolar Mood Management

Fortunately, there are a ton of resources with advice for dealing with the mood episodes that come with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You can read publications like bp Magazine, blog posts (like this one—and thank you for that!), and online Q&A forums or posts about how other people and professionals handle their symptoms and episodes of bipolar. We all give different advice and examples of how it has worked for us … but what happens when all the advice in the world doesn’t work for you? When your depression isn’t allowing you to get out of bed or your manic episode keeps you up at night with racing thoughts?

First, know that you’re not alone in this. It happens to me, too—and I have written about “What to Do”! Sometimes, taking my own advice doesn’t work. So, what do I do next?

When My Usual Mood-Management Strategies Aren’t Working

Bipolar Depression

When depression hits me, I do try all the usual things: talk to family and friends, get outside, … and the list goes on. However, when I find myself back in bed with the covers over my head, I know all of that didn’t work for me. So, on to plan B:

#1 Coaching Myself through a Small, Rewarding Task

I make myself take a shower.

Now, if you are reading this and you are a caregiver or part of someone’s loving support system, this might sound like the oddest thing you have ever heard, but taking a shower can be a rewarding accomplishment.

I pull the covers from over my head and get out of bed. Sometimes, I roll out and find my way to the bathroom. Then, I get into the shower and stand there for a few seconds or minutes.

Sometimes, the water hurts—but it’s not real pain. Then I to talk myself, coaching myself on how to take a shower.

I follow my own directions, and, by the time I am done, I do feel a bit better.

Is the depression totally gone? Absolutely not.

But do I feel better? Yes!

At this point, I put on new pj’s or day clothes, but, no matter what, I accomplished something. And that feeling of accomplishment can carry me forward.

#2 Fulfilling Someone Else’s Needs Can Help Me Feel Needed and Good

Another tactic for when I feel “stuck” in my bipolar depression is this: I do something nice for someone else.

I ignore my brain and instead try to think about someone I can help or do something for. I don’t attempt any over-the-top tasks. I do something that is manageable for how I am feeling.

Over the years, I’ve done my sister’s laundry while she was at work, rearranged the junk drawer, baked cookies for others, and so on. Nothing that feels too “big,” but a “small” win—something that will help another person and maybe bring a smile to their face. It may be a minor task, but it can have a big impact—on them, and on myself and my mood.

For me, doing something for someone else makes me feel good about myself. And if the other person acknowledges what I did, it really brightens my day. In this way, again, I do feel better. Even if the depression is still there, this can help improve my mood in the moment. In part, this is because doing something for others also makes me feel needed at a time when I don’t feel that way.

Bipolar Mania

#3 Talking to Myself to Tame Mania

Being manic is a whole other beast. I know I have said it before, but I would rather not be manic. Yet, at times, I don’t have a choice.

The best thing I can do at these times is talk to myself—out loud.

When I feel that unreasonable anger that builds up for no good reason, I ask myself why:

  • “Why am I so angry?”
  • “Is it really that important?”
  • “Does this really matter?”

When I ask myself these questions out loud, I really have to think about them. And I can’t lie to myself or try to get out of the conversation. I am stuck with myself trying to figure out what is going on.

Once I have worked through what is upsetting me and I feel satisfied with all of my answers, I can feel myself calm down. I realize that I am just manic, and this isn’t something to get upset about.

I can do the same for other symptoms I may be experiencing, too.

Talking to myself calms me down, brings me back to reality, and makes me more aware of what I am doing and how I am feeling.

I am triggered to question my own motives. Again, it’s not something that will “fix” me right away, but it does help.

Any Episode or Mood

#4 Seeking Kind Words

I have one more thing that helps when I’m in a depressive or manic episode, and that is I read the comments that you guys leave me.

Kind words from others are amazing. I am so grateful when I learn that someone else feels the way I do—when I get comments from people who say they are glad they aren’t the only one. Well, me too!

If reading positive feedback isn’t an option for you, I would suggest that you reach out and ask someone how they feel about you. Let them know that you want to know what you mean to them. Now, you might feel as if you sound “needy,” but think of it this way: they might need to hear kind words as well. You could return the favor and let them know what they mean to you, too.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:24: “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Finding What Works for You

I don’t have all the answers, you do. You have the answers inside your heart, and you must find them. Even when you don’t want to.

These are just a few examples of what works for me when it feels like nothing else is “working.”

I am just like you—probably more so than you realize. I have a great respect for the other bloggers and writers here on bphope. They are doctors and award-winning, published authors, but they have contributed to the mental health community. All while dealing with their own mental health struggles.

However, I am not a professional—I’m just me. I am not sure why I was picked to contribute to bphope blog, but here I am, and I feel honored to speak my truth.

I do not have a PhD; no award-winning published anything; and no large contribution to the mental health community—or any community, for that matter.

I work a 40-hour-plus week at a corporate job as an accountant. I have a husband and dogs, and I am trying to figure out what to make for dinner.

I am just a regular person, and I know how rough bipolar can be.

I am standing here right next to you and with you. Life is tough sometimes, but know that you aren’t alone in this.

There are no straightforward answers, but if you have one or two or three more ideas, please share them. We are all here to help each other.

Originally posted August 17, 2021

About the author
Jessica Walker lives in the Tampa Bay area. She has an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in accounting from the University of South Florida. She was diagnosed with bipolar II in 2016, at age 35. She has been with the love of her life for almost two decades. A corporate accountant who found her passion for this career in 2004, Jessica is also an avid outdoorsman. She loves Jesus and spending time with her family. Her hope is to shine a light on living with bipolar from what she has learned.
  1. I am a cat lover and have 2 beautiful felines. I find they help me greatly without words or discussions. They just love unconditionaly. I don’t have the same luck with men. That doesn’t, matter anymore. I am content even though I struggle daily. I live alone as I am better that way.

  2. We struggle together with help it’s easier

    1. Great ideas to think and grow on! Haven’t had this much new information in a while. My caretaker also thanks you for the way you wrote this article. It made him comprehend the topic better.
      Also, go Bulls!
      I graduated with my M.A. in Strategic Communications Management in 2016. I really enjoyed my time there!

  3. Really appreciate the questions given to deal with anger. I just had a conversation with the Love of my life, my husband, that took a tailspin downward fueled by my frustration and inability to be empathetic. While I was talking to myself in my head as we conversed, these questions would have come in handy, especially if I would’ve left the room and headed to my study for some Quiet Reflection. Perhaps prayed some too. Did a few jumping jacks, body squats or push-ups. Those are some of my strategies, ones that are newish to me, and ones I am struggling to implement. Thank you for this blog! I copied those questions down. And hope to use them next time irritability is about to get the best of me… and then… maybe it won’t!

  4. Jessica, thank you for your article. Today I was going between the anger and depression, making little pains into huge troubles, and reading this helps to ground me.

  5. Hi, Jessica.

    Thank you for this article. You’ve given me some practical and useful ideas to try the next time I have a mood disturbance.

    I wish you’d have given an exhaustive list of what you try when down. That’s a real bugaboo for me. The part where you said, “When depression hits me, I do try all the usual things: talk to family and friends, get outside, … and the list goes on.” I wish you’d laid out the entire list you’re thinking of. I don’t know. You mention that lots of people give their version of what helps them the most. Maybe I’d be able to find that stuff next time I get down from some kind of search on here.

    I had a therapist who advocated keeping letters and other written things people have given you that give you boost in a drawer somewhere. When you’re struggling, you open that drawer and read those things. You said you read the positive feedback you’ve gotten from readers. For us non-writers, this could be an equivalent.

    Keep writing. You say that you have no special awards to qualify you for being able to share on here, but maybe that IS your special qualification. I don’t have any special awards or noticeable massive contribution to the mental health community, either. You struggle in the trenches just like me, so your experiences are relatable. I feel like there’s somebody out there I can read who understands and is like me in some way. That’s a comforting thing.

Load More Comments

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.