Living with bipolar is often like living a lifelong roller coaster ride. And though bipolar disorder cannot be cured, it can be very efficiently managed with medications and positive practices.
While seeking treatment from a doctor is critical, you can begin to stabilize yourself with a few good habits that can help limit the symptoms of bipolar. I recently helped a friend diagnosed with bipolar disorder — I, myself, have struggled with depression for many years — experiment with a few of these positive habits, and we made some exciting progress. Here are a few changes we tried and that you may want to consider if you’re struggling with bipolar symptoms.
Set a Consistent Daily Routine
Even people without mental illness benefit from routine. The human brain naturally seeks consistency in our daily schedule and is far happier when it can find it. For people who are living with a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, it becomes even more important to create and stick to a set routine. When bipolar people experience a shift or disturbance of their routine, they become more at risk for an episode.
Some key aspects of a good daily routine include a sleep schedule, a work schedule, set mealtimes, scheduled exercise time, and regularly scheduled social time. We found that although the first few days or weeks of such a schedule can be quite the adjustment, once your body and mind have become accustomed, you will see stabilization in your moods. Though my friend still sees the occasional episode, she said that the consistency of knowing exactly what to expect each day — and when to expect it — has kept her on top of her schedule and eliminated a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
Engage in Stress-Reducing Activities
Excess stress can trigger episodes, meaning reducing your stress is key to coping with your illness. While avoidance of stress altogether is best, it isn’t exactly feasible. Instead, schedule some time for stress-reducing activities like coloring, meditation, and exercise. Yoga is a great way to fit both meditation and exercise into one session. We combined steps one and two here, adding a weekly yoga class into our set schedules so we never have to worry about “having time” for it. Swimming is also a great form of exercise and has a meditative quality.
And if you have a four-legged friend, spend a little extra time with them. Doing so can help boost your mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Or if you want to make a little money while you’re eliminating some stress from your life, you might try your hand at dog walking or pet sitting. Both options will allow you to take advantage of the mental health benefits that being around dogs can provide and will also boost your income in the process.
Track your Mood Swings
With the help of a loved one, it can be extremely helpful to your doctor if you take the time to track your moods every day. Identifying a pattern or potential triggers can aid your doctor’s attempts to stabilize your disorder and make daily life easier.
Of course, it can be very difficult to track your own moods as you may not recognize when you are having an episode. Have a trusted loved one help take notes on your moods and behaviors throughout the day. Enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member can improve your ability to recognize symptoms as well as manic or depressive episodes in time as you learn triggers and other signs that point to an exacerbation of your symptoms. There are even mood tracking apps if you prefer a technological approach as we do. We like having access on our phones so we never have to worry about forgetting a notebook at home, plus it adds a little discretion, especially at work — coworkers might notice you have a special notebook you always write in after a bad meeting, but they probably won’t think much of it if they see you on your phone.
Living with bipolar disorder is no easy task for you or those around you. The best way to guarantee a normal, well-rounded life is to seek advice and treatment from a doctor. A counselor can also be very beneficial in mitigating the effects of the disease.
In the meantime, you can be doing a number of things to ease your way into normalcy such as exercising, limiting stress, and keeping close track of your moods and episodes. If you engage in these positive behaviors, you also reduce your risk of addiction while simultaneously smoothing any hardships in your personal relationships. Experiment with a few different methods to discover what works best for you.
Jennifer Scott experiences anxiety and depression on a regular basis. She started SpiritFinder.org in order to tell her story and empower others to share theirs. In her free time, she loves to write, study fashion, and spend time with animals.