Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects millions of people. It’s a complex disorder that can impact an individual’s quality of life.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16, I was terrified of what my diagnosis meant for my future. Would I succumb to this illness and listen to my suicidal ideations? Would I ever know what it’s like to be happy or live a fulfilling life? Would I ever have a healthy relationship? Can I pass this down to my children? These were just a few of the questions swirling around in my mind.
My psychiatrist at the time reassured me that I could live well despite having bipolar disorder. It took a few years for me to see that she was right.
Bipolar disorder has tried to take my life more than once, but I’ve finally reached a point where I’m able to effectively manage my illness.
If you have bipolar disorder, you know how hard we have to work to stay well.
In this post, I’ll share a few tips to help you live well with bipolar.
11 Tips for Living Well With Bipolar Disorder
1. Educate Yourself
If you’re newly diagnosed, you may not know much about the disorder. When I received my diagnosis, I took a deep dive into research to learn everything I could.
Educating yourself will help you understand what you’re experiencing. It’s essential to learn about things like the symptoms of episodes, potential triggers, treatment options, and coping skills.
Once you start educating yourself, you’ll also become more self-aware.
2. Keep Up With Treatment
One of the most important parts of living well with bipolar disorder is seeking treatment and keeping up with it.
For many, treatment consists of medication and therapy. Medication can help with managing your moods and making it easier to do daily tasks and therapy can teach you new skills that will help you manage your symptoms. Therapy also allows you to work through and process any life challenges you may face.
Even if you begin to feel better, it’s important to stick with treatment.
It’s also important to advocate for yourself when speaking with mental health providers.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed how I tried to advocate for myself several times before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder; however, none of the providers I saw would listen to me. Getting the right diagnosis can be a struggle. Be persistent and don’t give up on trying to receive the proper treatment.
3. Have a Sleep Schedule
When you have bipolar disorder, sleep is essential to staying healthy. A lack of sleep can trigger bipolar symptoms and make it difficult to function. One thing that can be helpful is having good sleep hygiene. This consists of positive habits you do in the hour leading up to bedtime.
Some of these habits include:
- Creating a bedtime routine
- Unplugging from electronic devices
- Creating a comfortable sleep environment
- Limiting daytime naps
- Avoiding caffeine late in the day
Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder struggle with chronic insomnia, and what works best for them is medication.
I was on sleep medicine for years for my insomnia. While I still suffer from chronic insomnia, I’ve been looking into more natural remedies to treat it.
Know that there is nothing wrong with taking sleep medication if you absolutely need it. Getting a good night’s rest is crucial to your well-being.
4. Do Things You Enjoy
Finding time to do things that bring you joy is essential to living well with bipolar disorder. At its worst, this disorder can cause you to stop indulging in activities you once loved doing. You may be so busy trying to manage your symptoms that it seems like there’s no time for pleasure.
Create time daily to do something you enjoy. For me, this usually looks like doing some creative writing, listening to a true crime podcast, or spending time in nature.
If you’ve been wanting to find a new hobby, now is a perfect time.
5. Practice Self-care
Taking care of yourself is vital for staying well. Oftentimes when we’re struggling with our mental health, it is challenging to care for ourselves. Self-care is about doing things to improve your mental, physical, and spiritual health.
It’s sometimes portrayed in the media as bubble baths and face masks which can be self-care. However, self-care is so much more than this. It’s not always about doing the fun things that make you feel good, sometimes it’s doing the hard (but necessary) work.
Self-care is a necessity.
To learn more about self-care practices to help you live well, check out this blog post.
6. Track Your Mood
Monitoring your mood daily can be very helpful for discovering triggers or events that influence your mood. I’ve been tracking my mood for years. There are a plethora of mood tracking apps that you can download on your phone but my favorite to use is Sanvello.
7. Lean on Your Support System
Having a strong support system filled with people who love and care about you can help build you up in difficult moments. Learning how to effectively communicate with the people in your life is important when you need help.
If you don’t have any support from friends or family, another idea is to join a support group or connect with other people online who live with bipolar disorder.
8. Learn Your Triggers
Becoming self-aware can help with managing your symptoms. Take time to learn your triggers. For some people with bipolar, things like lack of sleep or stress can trigger an episode.
It may be helpful to keep a journal where you write about what has triggered you. It’s also vital to learn about what symptoms you experience and how this disorder impacts you.
After living with bipolar disorder for so long, I’m self-aware enough to know when my mood is changing or an episode is coming. This took a while for me to learn but it has helped me with learning to utilize my coping skills to try and keep things from worsening.
9. Be Kind to Yourself
I struggled with frequent negative self-talk for years. It was easy to be unkind to myself because my disorder often convinced me I was a burden to others. I dealt with many negative feelings, especially during and after an episode would pass.
In the last few years, I’ve really made an effort to be nicer to myself. I’ve had to forgive myself for certain things I said or did and let go of the past.
Remember, you are worthy and deserving. This disorder doesn’t have to rule your life.
10. Utilize Positive Coping Skills
One thing you’ll learn in treatment is how to cope with your symptoms. I spent many years engaging in self-destructive behaviors before I found coping strategies that worked for me.
Create a list of positive coping skills you can use when you need to.
11. Plan for A Crisis
It’s important to be prepared for the worst to happen. When you’re living with bipolar disorder, things can go downhill very quickly.
Preparing for a crisis may include creating a plan with your therapist and loved ones. This plan will help keep you safe and keep you prepared just in case you experience a severe episode.
Living with bipolar disorder is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do. This disorder affects every area of my life, but thankfully I’ve learned what to do to help ease my symptoms.
If you’re struggling, it may not seem like things will improve but you can live a joyous and fulfilling life with this disorder. It takes time and a lot of patience. You may experience many episodes before figuring out what works best to help you live well.
Following these tips will set you on the path to reclaiming your life and managing your disorder.