Top 5 'Survival Guide' Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder

1. Be kind to yourself.

Every new year comes with new resolutions. For those of us with bipolar disorder, these things are inevitably a little more difficult to achieve. By all means, make your resolutions! Just be sure to be kind to yourself if they don’t get achieved within the timeframe you give yourself. Don’t beat yourself up; no one is perfect, so enjoy the process. If you keep on actively taking steps towards your goal(s), you will get there!

2. Take this year one day at a time.

Days can get away from us pretty easily depending on our mood. We can start to worry about everything that needs to get done this week, month, year etc. Take things one day at a time. Worrying about the days, months or years to come more times than not will lead to anxiety, depression or manic episodes. Focus on tasks needing to get done today (and even then, take it one thing at a time). Making a checklist will help if you’re prone to anxiety. The very act of making a daily to-do list and checking them off one by one could stop anxiety in its tracks. That allows you to feel in control of your day. Remember: Either you run the day, or the day runs you.

3. Celebrate the small wins and learn from your losses.

Living with bipolar disorder means not being able to predict when you go manic (whether high or low). When that happens, if you can get on top of it before it really starts, celebrate that small win over the battle you go through with your mind. If you sense a trigger and are able to control your mood, again celebrate that small win. Battling our minds is a task we, unfortunately, have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt, whether we like it or not. Anytime we can win that battle, it’s a win! No matter what! If you lose (and inevitably it will happen), reassess the situation when you’re balanced again and see what you can learn from the experience. The more you know, the better off you’ll be.

4. Assess your “inner circle” and modify as needed.

Your “inner circle” makes up your support system. These are the people we choose to trust, to share our lives with. Keeping a positive support system around you will make getting through the year a lot easier. If there’s a pessimist or someone negative in your inner circle, do yourself a favor and let them go. Some of us get more easily triggered by negativity than others, but if that’s something you’re dealing with constantly; you’re only doing yourself a disservice. I’m not saying kick them out of your life completely, but definitely kick them out of your trusted inner circle.

5. Practice self-awareness.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve told yourself this lie at some period after you got diagnosed with bipolar disorder or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): “Bipolar disorder/GAD is who I am.” Wrong. You are not your diagnosis. I repeat: you are not your diagnosis! Please hear me when I say that. We deal with enough grief with people who just don’t understand our diagnosis. People have told me “you’re just a little depressed, pull yourself out of it and stop feeling sorry for yourself,” and more of the like. Do not buy into those lies! Suffocate those lies with self-love and positive self-thought. Commit to spending time with yourself, and get to know who you are aside from your diagnosis. Alone time is key to getting a better understanding of ourselves. Meditation helps too. Practicing self-awareness helps us recognize triggers, our mood changes and helps us overcome the daily battles with our minds.

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