Living and Coping with Bipolar Disorder
Living and Coping with
Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. It’s important to make healthy choices for yourself. Making these healthy choices will help you keep your symptoms under control, minimize mood episodes, and take control of your life.
Bipolar disorder support tip #1: Get involved in your treatment
Be a full and active participant in your own treatment. Learn everything you can about bipolar disorder. Become an expert on the illness. Study up on the symptoms, so you can recognize them in yourself, and research all your available treatment options. The more informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with symptoms and make good choices for yourself.
Bipolar disorder support tip #2: Monitor your symptoms and moods
Keep a close watch for subtle changes in your mood, sleeping patterns, energy level, and thoughts. If you catch the problem early and act swiftly, you may be able to prevent a minor mood change from turning into a full-blown episode of mania or depression. Keep a Mood Dairy.
Also try to identify the triggers, or outside influences, that have led to mania or depression in the past. Common triggers include:
- financial difficulties
- arguments with your loved ones
- problems at school or work
- seasonal changes
- lack of sleep
Bipolar disorder support tip #3: Reach out to other people
Having a strong support system is vital to staying happy and healthy. Spend time with people who truly value you and make you feel better.
Turn to friends and family – Support for bipolar disorder starts at home. It’s important to have people you can count on to help you through rough times. Isolation and loneliness can cause depression, so regular contact with supportive friends and family members is therapeutic in itself.
Join a bipolar disorder support group – Spending time with people who know what you’re going through and can honestly say they’ve “been there” can be very therapeutic. You can also benefit from the shared experiences and advice of the group members.
Build new relationships – Isolation and loneliness make bipolar disorder worse. If you don’t have a support network you can count on, take steps to develop new relationships. Try taking a class, joining a church or a civic group, volunteering, or attending events in your community.
Tips for reaching out and building relationships
· Talk to one person about your feelings.
- Help someone else by volunteering.
- Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
- Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
- Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.
- Call or email an old friend.
- Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
- Schedule a weekly dinner date
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
Bipolar disorder support tip #4: Develop a daily routine
Your lifestyle choices, including your sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns, have a significant impact on your moods. There are many things you can do in your daily life to get your symptoms under control and to keep depression and mania at bay.
Build structure into your life. Developing and sticking to a daily schedule can help stabilize the mood swings of bipolar disorder. Include set times for sleeping, eating, socializing, exercising, working, and relaxing. Try to maintain a regular pattern of activity, even through emotional ups and downs.
Exercise regularly. Exercise has a beneficial impact on mood and may reduce the number of bipolar episodes you experience. Aerobic exercise is especially effective at treating depression. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of activity five times a week into your routine. Walking is a good choice for people of all fitness levels.
Keep a strict sleep schedule. Getting too little sleep can trigger mania, so it’s important to get plenty of rest. For some people, losing even a few hours can cause problems. However, too much sleep can also worsen your mood. The best advice is to maintain a normal sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day.
Bipolar disorder support tip #5: Keep stress to a minimum
Stress can trigger episodes of mania and depression in people with bipolar disorder, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Learn how to relax. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery can be very effective at reducing stress and keeping you on an even keel. Studies show that a daily relaxation practice of 30 minutes or more can improve your mood and keep depression at bay.
Make leisure time a priority. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend.
Bipolar disorder support tip #6: Watch what you put in your body
From the food you eat to the vitamins and drugs you take, the substances you put in your body have an impact on the symptoms of bipolar disorder – both for better or worse.
Eat a healthy diet. There is an undeniable link between food and mood. For optimal mood, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit your fat and sugar intake.
Space your meals out through the day, so your blood sugar never dips too low. High-carbohydrate diets can cause mood crashes, so they should also be avoided.
Other mood-damaging foods include, caffeine, and processed foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease mood swings in bipolar disorder. Omega-3 is available as a nutritional supplement. You can also increase your intake of omega-3 by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut, and sardines, soybeans, flaxseeds, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.