One of the hardest parts of bipolar disorder is coming to terms with the mood fluctuations, whether it be from depression to mania.

It’s hard to differentiate what’s really happening and what’s being affected by your mood. You’re not going crazy—you’re just dealing with what’s going on inside your head.

Research suggests that neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain that help cells communicate with each other—are slightly amiss with people with bipolar disorder. This disruption causes mood swings, which can make them feel like the good or bad feelings will last forever.

As you most likely already know, this isn’t true. The depression and the mania with bipolar disorder don’t last forever. They fluctuate.

Both depression and mania can create difficult feelings and emotions that can seem hard to escape. Depression is often reported as the most difficult aspect of bipolar because the lingering feelings of unhappiness, despair, and disinterest make it completely unbearable compared to the exciting euphoria of mania.

However, both can be dangerous if you lose grip of the fact that the good or bad feelings won’t last. Even without treatment, therapy, and other proactive steps, your brain will automatically pull away from the depths of depression or the highs of mania.

Depression could lead to suicide, and mania could lead to erratic, irresponsible behavior. Both can have lasting, irreversible effects on your life if you give into the notion that there’s no escape from the bad or an end to the good.

The best way to protect yourself is to remind yourself (with the help of your therapist or others) that what you’re going through won’t last.

Here are some tips to help protect yourself from the highest of highs or the lowest of lows:

This is the most important thing you can do. Actions you take during mania or depression can have lasting effects, especially ones you wouldn’t normally make with a clear head.

Moments filled with high emotions can become intense. The hardest part is removing yourself from the situation and calming down so you can think with a rational, clear head.

Thinking about a situation objectively can help you see where emotion is taking place. This means trying to look at the facts of the situation without imposing your view of them. Here are some questions to ask yourself when viewing a situation:

  • What has changed?
  • What can I do to make it better?
  • If nothing can be done, can I accept it?
  • How can I react in a constructive manner?

In moments of distress, talk to someone. This can be a family member or close friend. While you’re talking about your problems, don’t forget to listen to what he or she is telling you. They may have some good advice that can help out your situation.

In moments of extreme distress, calling a professional, such as your therapist or a crisis hotline, may be in order.

If mania is driving you crazy, try doing something physical. Stress and anxiety do a fantastic job of muddling up your head, so getting your heart rate pumping through exercise instead of stress can help you clear your head when things get worrisome.

Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, not just for its benefits to the physical body, but it also helps with mental health. It can be an extremely helpful way of getting through a hectic mania, or a good way to boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain during depression.

The time spent exercising can help you clear your head so you don’t rush into a decision you could regret later.