I mentioned in my panic attack post about how stressful life has been. It continues to be. Still trying to adjust to life in a new home, being on a new schedule and just life in general keeps stress levels up. However, this weekend I was able to take time and get away from it all. This made all the difference. When you get stuck in the circle of worry, mania or depression, sometimes exactly what you need when you’re feeling out of your mind is to actually get out of your mind. It’s important to be able to step back and escape all of it for a while. Sure, the problems will probably still be there when you return, but you can look at them with a fresh perspective and more focus than you would have been able to if you would have just continued to push through.
There are a few ways you can do this. I took an actual vacation. It was almost impossible for me to fulfill my perceived immediate obligations. That’s great, but not always an option. Okay, let’s be real. It’s rarely an option. So what can you do when you can’t actually leave to take the mental break you need? My preferred method is escapism.
Escapism is often seen on lists of bipolar symptoms as a negative aspect. It’s right along side of isolation, guilt and depression. I understand the theory behind this. Sometimes the idea of disappearing or escaping from my bipolar life sounds amazing. The thought of just a little relief pulls at you from every corner. Maybe if you go inside yourself and ignore everything you can catch a breath and make it a little longer.
That’s not the kind of escapism I’m talking about. If you continuously refuse to engage in the world around you then coping with bipolar disorder will just as continuously become more difficult. So let’s talk about some positive escapism. How do you get out of your own mind and away from the swirling thoughts that threaten to take over your consciousness? There are a few ways.
Go outside. Literally changing your environment can give you a new perspective. Being outside makes it even better. Natural environments help decrease stress. So get out of the house, take a walk and breathe in some fresh air.
Get some exercise. Sure. That sounds exactly like something you want to do when you’re overwhelmed with anxiety or depression. I’m right there with you. Encouraging yourself to actually exercise is often more difficult than the activity itself. In the end, though, it’s worth it. Exercise gets your blood flowing. It releases endorphins that can help fight off depression, and, when you’re done, you get the bonus sense of accomplishment. Pair this with going outside and you have a winner. Find it hard to do yourself? Join a sport. You’ll have a regular schedule and teammates to help keep you accountable. Besides, when you’re playing it’s hard to focus about whatever else might be going on.
Read a book. This is probably my most favorite form of escapism. Bibliotherapy is a real coping mechanism used for depression, and it’s not just about reading self-help books. Who wants to read about their problem when they’re trying to get a break from it? When you read a book, you get to insert yourself into a completely different world. Aside from getting to live there for a while, reading has numerous mental-health benefits. It increases empathy by exposing you to the lives and feeling of people that you might not normally experience. It also literally changes your brain. How you feel when you read a book can still have an effect on you five days later, even if you haven’t picked it up since.
Basically, you can choose anything you like that gets your mind off of your experience for a while. Well, not anything. There are plenty of things that will take stress away that are in no way healthy. That’s why 60% of people with bipolar experience some form of substance abuse problem. The temptation of escapism is very real and can also be very dangerous if left unwatched.
So, keep your head up and find the small ways that help you cope and talk to your doctor and/or therapist if you’re finding the little things just aren’t cutting it. My bipolar mind can be a scary place, so getting out of it on occasion is essential, and having healthy ways to get there even more so.