Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder or have been dealing with it for a long time, it’s likely that nobody has taken the time to sit you down and explain what you can and should be doing to help yourself. We’ve put together this Top 10 list to bring you up to speed on bipolar self-help strategies that really work:
- Take ownership of your illness. No, it’s not your fault you have bipolar disorder, but now that you have it, do your part to get help, lead a healthier lifestyle, and follow your treatment regimen.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Most of the medications used to treat depression or mania need to be taken daily, not just when you feel depressed or manic or think you need them.
- Don’t drink alcohol. (This is a biggie.) Drinking alcohol can neutralize the beneficial effects of the medications and interact with some medications to cause liver damage, seizures, unpredictable shifts in mood, and other health problems. (Avoid illicit drugs, too. Before taking any medication or herbal “all-natural” remedy, consult your doctor.)
- Sleep seven to eight hours per night… every night. Sleep deprivation can really throw your moods out of whack. For tips on getting some restful sleep, visit www.SleeplessInAmerica.org (now part of DBSA – the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).
- Steer clear of stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants could tip your mood balance, especially if they cause you to lose sleep. Yep, those energy drinks gotta go.
- Establish healthy routines. You’d be surprised at how much a daily routine can relieve stress and level your moods. Exercise can help, too.
- Avoid triggers and stressors. Situations or people that get you hyped up, agitated, or upset may aggravate the condition (in addition to aggravating you).
- Team up with your doctor and therapist. They can provide much more effective treatment if you make and keep regular appointments, consult them prior to making any medication or treatment changes, and are honest about what’s going on (and whether you’ve been following your treatment plan).
- Educate yourself. The more you and others around you learn about the disorder, the better equipped you’ll be to keep it under control.
- Ask for help. Your friends, family members, and the people you work with probably want to help but don’t know what to do. Let them know what they can do to help you (and when you need them to back off).
Warning: If you can’t tolerate the side effects of a particular medication, consult your doctor – he or she may have suggestions on how to reduce or eliminate the side effects without stopping the medication. See the previous post, “Managing Bipolar Medication Side Effects.”
These ten tips may be easier in theory than in practice, particularly if your moods are currently cycling. If you happen to wander off course, don’t beat yourself up over it. Nobody’s perfect, and you are battling an illness that can be very difficult to manage. Just come back to the Bipolar Blog, refresh your memory on these ten tips, and get back on track.
If you have any self-help tips that you have found useful in the course of your journey with bipolar disorder, please share them with visitors to the Bipolar Blog.