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5 Tips to help you manage Bipolar Disorder

Updated: Feb 14


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Living with bipolar disorder presents its own set of challenges, a rollercoaster of highs and lows that can seem overwhelming at times. But there's hope and plenty of strategies to help you steer through the ups and downs, maintaining control over your life. Let's dive into five practical tips that can make a significant difference in managing bipolar disorder.



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What is Bipolar Disorder?

At Wholesome, we understand bipolar disorder as a mental health condition marked by significant mood fluctuations. These include manic or hypomanic highs and depressive lows, impacting sleep, energy, judgment, and clear thinking.


Types of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar I Disorder: Defined by manic episodes lasting at least seven days, or by manic symptoms severe enough to require immediate hospital care, usually followed by depressive episodes.


  • Bipolar II Disorder: A pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes of Bipolar I.


  • Cyclothymic Disorder: Numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years.


 

How to cope with bipolar disorder


No matter how down or out of control you feel, it’s important to remember that you’re not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder. Beyond the treatment you get from your doctor or therapist, there are many things you can do for yourself to reduce your symptoms and stay on track.


Living well with bipolar disorder requires certain adjustments. Like diabetics who take insulin or recovering alcoholics who avoid drinking, if you have bipolar disorder, 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.


Managing bipolar disorder starts with proper treatment, including medication and therapy. But there is so much more you can do to help yourself on a day-to-day basis. These tips can help you influence the course of your illness, enabling you to take greater control over your symptoms, to stay well longer, and to quickly rebound from any mood episode or relapse.


 

Tip 1: Get involved in your treatment


Jump right into managing your care. Try to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. Get to know the illness really well. Look into the signs so you can spot them in yourself, and check out all the ways you can get help. The more you know, the better you can handle what comes and make smart choices.


Work together with your doctor or therapist when planning your care. It's okay to say what you think and ask questions. The best way to get better is by working together as a team. You might even want to make a plan with your care provider that lists your health goals.


Here are some ways to make your treatment work better:


  • Be Patient: Getting better takes time. Don't expect to feel all better right away.


  • Talk to Your Care Team Often: Things change, so keep in touch with your doctor or therapist. Be open about how you're feeling and any side effects from medicines.


  • Take Your Medicine Right: If you have medicine to take, make sure you take it just like the doctor said. Don't skip doses or change how much you take without talking to your doctor first.


  • Go to Therapy: Medicine can help with some things, but talking to a therapist can teach you ways to handle your feelings, solve problems, control your mood, change your thoughts, and get along better with people.


By being a big part of your treatment, you can help make sure you get the best care possible.

 

Tip 2: Monitor your symptoms and moods


In order to stay well, it's important to be closely attuned to the way you feel. By the time obvious symptoms of mania or depression appear, it is often too late to intercept the mood swing, so 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.


Know your triggers and early warning signs


It's important to recognize the warning signs of an oncoming manic or depressive episode. Make a list of early symptoms that preceded your previous mood episodes. Also try to identify the triggers, or outside influences, that have led to mania or depression in the past. Common triggers include:


  • stress

  • financial difficulties

  • arguments with your loved ones

  • problems at school or work

  • seasonal changes

  • lack of sleep


 

Tip 3: Do Something About Warning Signs


If you start seeing signs that you're heading into a high (mania) or a low (depression), it's really important to do something about it fast. Having a set of tools or activities that help you stay calm or feel better when you're not feeling great can be a big help.


Develop a wellness toolbox

The coping techniques that work best will be unique to your situation, symptoms, and preferences. It takes experimentation and time to find a winning strategy. However, many people with bipolar disorder have found the following tools to be helpful in reducing symptoms and maintaining wellness:


  • Talk to someone who understands.


  • Make sure you sleep enough.


  • Slow down and do less stuff.


  • Go to a group where people support each other.


  • Call your doctor or a therapist if you need to.


  • Do something that makes you happy or creative, like writing in a diary.


  • Take some time just to relax.


  • Spend more time in the sunlight.


  • Get some exercise.


  • If you need it, ask people you're close to for extra help.


  • Eat less sugar and drink less alcohol and caffeine.


  • Change how much noise and activity is around you, depending on what you need.


Create an emergency action plan


Even when you're trying your best, sometimes you might still end up feeling really down or way too high. If things get really tough, you might need someone else, like a family member or your doctor, to help take care of you. Having a plan for these times can make you feel a bit better because you know what to do.

A plan of action typically includes:


  • Phone numbers for your doctor, therapist, and people in your family.


  • A list of all the medicines you take and how much you take.


  • Signs that show you need someone else to help take care of you, and any other health stuff they need to know about.


  • What you prefer for your care, like who you want to help you, which

  • treatments and medicines work (or don't work) for you, and who can make decisions for you if you can't.



 

Tip 4: Reach out for face-to-face connection


Having a strong support system is essential to staying happy and healthy. Often, simply having someone to talk to face-to-face can be an enormous help in relieving bipolar depression and boosting your outlook and motivation. The people you turn to don't have to be able to “fix” you; they just have to be good listeners. The more people that you can turn to who will be available and good listeners, the more likely you are to manage your moods.


Don't isolate: 

Support for bipolar disorder starts close to 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. Reaching out to others is not a sign of weakness and it won't make you a burden.


Support for bipolar disorder starts close to home. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. In order to manage bipolar disorder, it's essential that you have people you can count on to help you through rough times.


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.


10 tips for reaching out and building relationships

  1. Talk to one person about your feelings.

  2. Help someone else by volunteering.

  3. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.

  4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.

  5. Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.

  6. Call or email an old friend.

  7. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.

  8. Schedule a weekly dinner date.

  9. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.

  10. Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.


 

Tip 5: Make a Healthy Daily Plan


What you do every day, like how much you sleep, what you eat, and how much you move, really affects your mood. There are lots of things you can do every day to help keep your mood stable and keep depression and high energy (mania) away.


Create a Routine

Adding a regular structure to your day can really help smooth out the mood swings that come with bipolar disorder. Make a plan that has specific times for sleeping, eating, hanging out with friends, exercising, working, and chilling out. Even when your mood changes a lot, try to stick to this routine.


Move Around More

Moving your body is great for your mood and can help reduce how often you have bipolar episodes. Activities that get your whole body moving, like jogging, swimming, dancing, climbing, or drumming, are really good for fighting off low moods. Aim to fit in at least 30 minutes of movement into your day. Even short 10-minute bursts of activity are helpful. Walking is an easy way to start if you're not used to exercising.


Sleep Well

Not getting enough sleep can make high energy levels worse, so it's really important to rest well. Missing just a little bit of sleep can cause problems for some people. But, sleeping too much isn't good either. The best plan is to sleep and wake up at the same times every day.


Tips for Better Sleep

  • Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

  • Avoid long naps during the day, especially if they make it hard to sleep at night.

  • Instead of looking at screens or doing things that wake your brain up before bed, try a warm bath, reading, or listening to calm music.

  • Cut down on caffeine after lunch and alcohol in the evening because they can mess with your sleep.


 

Join Us on Your Journey to Wellness with Wholesome Mind Psychiatry

Facing bipolar disorder can feel like navigating a labyrinth, but you don't have to walk this path alone.


At Wholesome Mind Psychiatry, we're dedicated to transforming the conversation around mental health, proving that a little understanding, kindness, and open-mindedness can go a long way.







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