10 Ways to Cope with a Suicidal Mood Swing.
26 Mar 2016
Suicidal thoughts and feelings are a routine part of many psychological problems including depression and psychoses. Although frightening, most people, most of the time, know they will not act on their suicidal thoughts.
For some people, their suicidal thoughts and feelings go to a whole new level. Their mood collapses, and they feel that suicide is the only way to end their pain.
For anyone who has not experienced a suicidal mood swing, it is hard to exaggerate just how devastating one can be. The person feels the pain of despair with acute sensitivity, and their mind is fixated on just one thing, whether to live or die.
Clearly this is a psychological emergency and potentially life threatening.
If this happens to you, or is happening to you now, you need to know two things. First, what keeps a suicidal mood swing going, and second, what can be done to stop it.
In a suicidal mood swing the pain of the emotion is so intense, and the focus of the mind is very narrow: Should I die and if so how? People can ruminate, that is to say, endlessly dwell on this question, for hours. It is this rumination that feeds the intense feelings and can only make the situation worse.
Whatever you do, you need to stop ruminating and do something different instead. Here are some suggestions.
1. Let someone know how you are feeling.
Social support in these situations can be very healing. Is there a family member or friend you could call, or better still, visit? If there is no one you feel comfortable talking to, try a crises helpline like The Samaritans in the UK. Their number is 116 123 and is free to use. The volunteers are trained to help with suicidal mood swings and will not judge you.
2. Take some light exercise.
Part of why you are feeling so bad is your body responds, quite naturally, to the threat of possible death with a stress response. Taking some light exercises, even if it’s just a walk, will help take your mind off your distressing thoughts but also sooth your stressed body.
3. Meditate or do a relaxation exercise.
Another way to sooth your stressed body and take your mind off your distressing thoughts is to do a meditation or relaxation exercise. If you have never tried one before, try an active progressive muscular relaxation exercise. This technique is body focussed, requires a lot of attention, and should help to shift your mood in the shortest amount of time.
4. Make a list of your achievements.
When the suicidal mood swing hits, you in all likelihood feel pretty worthless. One helpful thing can be to make a list of your achievements. Nobody is all bad, and we all have things to be proud of. Beware of the impulse to discount your achievements, just keep making the list. Try to get to 30 achievements, even if they are very small.
5. Make a list of all the things you have to be grateful for.
Gratitude is the one thing that consistently shows up in research on people who cope well with life. Take some time to reflect on those things in your life for which you can be grateful. Again, beware of the tendency to discount what you come up with, and keep going until the list is about 30 items.
6. Dance to uplifting music.
When I used to get depressed many years ago I used to listen to the Smiths. There is a perverse logic to this. If you are feeling down you are magnetically attracted to things that make your miserable. So to get out of a suicidal mood swing, you need to do the opposite. Play and even dance to the most uplifting music you can find. I have a playlist especially for my low moments. I call it ‘my favourite up lifters’. If you haven’t got a playlist like this yet, try starting one now.
7. Cook a nutritious meal.
When we have a suicidal mood swing, we often don’t eat and if we do, we eat unhealthy comfort food. Look after yourself by preparing a nutritious meal from raw ingredients. The task will take your mind off your suicidal thoughts and send a message that you are worth looking after.
8. Do some chores.
One of the key aspects of low mood is a lack of a sense of mastery. This is the term therapists use to describe the idea that we feel powerless and unable to change the direction of our lives. Start by doing a simple chore or DIY project. Once you have completed one try another, slightly more complicated one, and try to build some forward moving momentum.
9. Write a “Bounce Back Plan”.
Often when we feel overwhelmed with despair we feel our life is out of control. Pick four or 5 simple ‘quick wins’ that are easy to do, and move your life forward in the right direction. Every time you have completed a task, take some time to celebrate your achievement.
10. Make an appointment with your Doctor or therapist.
A suicidal mood swing is a serious, life-threatening event. It is right you should let the professionals involved in your care know how you are feeling. If you feel you can’t wait, and you are in danger of acting on your suicidal thoughts and feelings, go to Accident and Emergency or dial 999.