We all do things to destress. Some of them are common — like getting more sleep or taking a bath. Others are unique to each of us.
I use coping skills to manage my bipolar disorder, specifically my depressive episodes. I try to find things that comfort or distract me in the harder moments. Coping skills are also good for preventing an episode from getting worse.
Truthfully, coping can be annoying. When you struggle with mental illness, it can feel like you’re just coping through life because you have no other choice. I experience this, but I also know that eventually, I won’t need something to help me “cope” from moment to moment.
These three coping skills are activities I also enjoy when I’m not in need of a way to cope. If we look at things we enjoy, they can become coping mechanisms for when we struggle.
Here are three ways I cope that might seem weird to others:
I sleep on an air mattress.
I don’t know why people knock air mattresses. Have you ever slept on a really good air mattress? Heck. I even love the cheap ones that gently swallow you throughout the night as air lets out.
I don’t sleep on one often, but I do have one just in case. College friends recently visited, and I stopped one of them from deflating it before they left. I used it for about a week before I realized my back needed the relief of a real bed.
There’s something about blowing up an air mattress in my living room to watch movies that brings me back to childhood. It’s comforting and it’s comfortable — for a while.
I also find changing my environment, even if it’s just sleeping in my living room instead of my bedroom, helps with late-night restlessness. I often wake up in the middle of the night and move to my couch. If I don’t, I’ll spend hours tossing and turning in my bed.
Sometimes coping mechanisms are finding comfort and joy in small things — like sleeping on an air mattress instead of your perfectly good bed.
I take a cold shower.
I can’t take credit for this one because I learned about it in therapy. I use this one multiple times a week. It helps with everything from stress to anxiety and near-crisis moments.
Changing your body’s temperature sort of “resets” your body and mind. If I find that my head is spinning with negative thoughts, a cold shower brings me back to the present. If I can’t stop crying or calm down, the temperature helps my body do what my brain can’t.
I also live in Florida, so hot showers rarely sound appealing. What I usually do is put the shower on warm to bathe, and then turn it to cold. The initial shock is the same as if I were to jump into a pool. I focus on the sensation on my skin, and when I get out, I feel energized but calmer.
I look at real estate in other cities.
Anyone who knows me knows I. Do. Not. Like. Florida. I can’t really change where I live at the moment, but I can think about where I’d like to be.
Right now, I look at houses in Seattle. Buying a house in Seattle is a pipe dream because I’m a “millennial” (and apparently we don’t buy houses) and also because housing prices there are astronomical (which is why millennials don’t buy houses).
I grew up moving a lot, but I always enjoyed searching for a new house with my parents. Also, I watched a lot of HGTV with my mom growing up, so yes, I enjoy jumping on Zillow and looking at the craftsman houses in Seattle.
I’ve put in work to figure out what helps me with my mental illness. While some things may seem weird, they work for now. That’s all that matters.