by Kristeen Cherney
Bipolar disorder is one of the most challenging mental health issues to treat due to the combination of ups (mania) and downs (depression). While long-term treatment can be tough, it is certainly not impossible. Work with your doctor for a comprehensive treatment plan and learn these seven best tips for managing your condition.
1. Stay on top of your medications.
Medications are just one important aspect in the proper management of bipolar disorder. According to Psych Central, 89 percent of bipolar patients reported doing “well” as a result of a taking more than one medication. Since the disorder is characterized by both depression and mania, it makes sense to treat both symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.
The downside to taking more than one medication is that it’s easy to lose track of your routine. Psych Central estimates that an astonishing 60 percent of patients either skip their meds or stop taking them altogether. This makes bipolar management extremely difficult. Consider keeping a journal with all the instructions for your meds. Also write down when you need to take your meds, and take note of when you do. (You may even want to set an alarm so you don’t forget.)
2. Get moving.
Regular exercise is good for the body and the mind. In bipolar disorder, working out can act as a mood stabilizer through the release of feel-good endorphins. Patients who exercise on a regular basis also find it easier to sleep at night. Aim for moderate workouts that you can perform on a regular basis, such as daily walking.
3. Avoid alcohol.
Alcohol is problematic in bipolar disorder because it’s a depressant. Not only can it interact with your medications, but alcohol may even worsen depression symptoms. Even worse are illegal drugs—if you need help with substance abuse, seek help right away.
4. Be wary of caffeine.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which has the opposite effects of alcohol. While an occasional cup of Joe may help you wake up, too much caffeine can cause problems like insomnia and anxiety. In bipolar disorder, such side effects are even more severe. If you can’t give up caffeine entirely, try to stick with one beverage a day in the mornings only.
5. Stick with a regular sleep pattern.
Sleep is often a challenge for bipolar patients: mania symptoms can cause insomnia, while depression can make you want to sleep all day. Falling into these symptom-based patterns makes it more difficult to break them. Aim for skipping naps and sleeping eight hours a night. Also, make sure you wake up around the same hour every day for the best results.
6. Assess your personal relationships.
Personal relationships can make or break your bipolar management plan. Assess the people closest to you and determine whether they lead you into bad habits, or whether they support your treatment plan. Stick with those who exert a positive influence.
7. Practice mindfulness.
Medications help manage your symptoms, but they can’t automatically help you change the way you think. This is why many doctors recommend psychotherapy in conjunction with bipolar meds to help patients recognize and prepare for the ups and downs. Mindfulness can also be practiced through yoga and meditation. The goal is to help you experience your thoughts and emotions so you’re not overtaken by them.
Long-term management for better quality of life
Like many mental health concerns, there is no one step to solve bipolar disorder. This is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing management with a variety of approaches. If you feel that your treatment isn’t working, don’t be shy to speak up—your doctor will work with you to develop a more adequate management plan.
• Bipolar disorder in adults. (2012). Retrieved from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-adults/index.shtml
• Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, February 10). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/definition/con-20027544
• Tartakovsky, M. (2013). The 4 keys to managing bipolar disorder. Retrieved from psychcentral.com/lib/the-4-keys-to-managing-bipolar-disorder/00015476