15 'Small,' but Significant, Lifestyle Changes That Help People With Bipolar Disorder
It’s easy — and understandable — to roll your eyes when someone offers you unsolicited advice about managing bipolar disorder. Maybe they think you should ditch your medication and try a more “natural” solution. (Yuck.) Maybe they swear running “cured” them, so assume it should be your solution, too. Maybe they don’t really understand what bipolar disorder is, and think with positive thinking or a better attitude, you’d be all better.
Everyone has an opinion — but only you know what works for you. And despite how annoying that kind of advice can be, it’s also important to remember you are not powerless on your journey with bipolar disorder. Along with whatever medication and therapy (if any) you’ve found helpful for you, there are other little things people with bipolar disorder find make their lives a little better. While something that worked for one person might not work for you, that doesn’t mean nothing works for you — or that it’s impossible to live well with bipolar disorder.
That being said, bad days still happen, and when they come, it’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean you didn’t “try hard enough.” Be gentle with yourself on this journey, and know there are options out there.
To find out some small changes people made that made a significant difference in their life with bipolar disorder, we reached out to our mental health community. Is there something on this list you’d try? Tell us in the comments below.
1. Using a Pill Organizer
“Pill organizers. Helps me remember to take my meds on time, and that’s keeping my symptoms under control.” — Kristi S.
“I fill two pill organizers at a time so I don’t have to refill again for two weeks. I take my meds at night and sometimes if I think about it too much, I just don’t want to take them. Having them in organizers makes it easier to take the pills before I talk myself out of it.” — Elizabeth V.
“I have a pill organizer that helps me take my medication. I’ve always struggled with complying with medication but this makes it a bit more ‘fun’ and makes me take a more active and organized role in taking them.” — Amy W.
2. Practicing Positive Affirmations
“I look at myself in the mirror every morning, making eye contact and all, and tell myself, ‘You’ve got this.’ It’s been a lifesaver since I started my new job.” — Jenna L.
“Keep a mood journal. Write down the dates and symptoms anytime I feel I’m starting to tip towards a hypomanic episode or slip into a depression. This way, I can go back to reference it later when meeting with my psychiatrist. ” — Jessi L.
“Keeping a daily mood journal to notice as quickly as possible when I’m going through an episode.” — Jocelin B.
4. Getting Enough Sleep
“Getting enough sleep. I can’t stress the importance of this enough!” — Emily L.
“Sleep. Getting on a decent sleep schedule has made a huge difference in my life.” — Karoline D.
“Journaling every day. When I put my racing thoughts onto paper (well, screen), it helps get them out of my head so I can relax and/or sleep.” — Rachael T.
“Having a thought diary. This helps me recognize and control my compulsions. It is split into columns. What happened, how did I feel, what did I think/do and what could I have done or thought differently. My psychologist and I go through it weekly.” — Thando T.
“I started a diary. When I’m finished I will take a break for 10 minutes, come back, read what I wrote and write up what I could [have] done differently, etc. Also [I] took up going to the gym. Last week I barely went but starting to go again this week, and showering.” — Candice P.
6. Keeping a Routine
“Keeping a strict routine has saved me. The days I do not follow my routine I slowly become more unstable.” — Sarah G.
“Routine! It doesn’t have to be precise or overly-complicated. Try and do certain tasks before/at/after a certain time, every day. It helps me feel motivated knowing that I can accomplish simple, everyday tasks. And at the end of the day, even if I didn’t get around to everything on my list, I can relax knowing I at least got a few things done! It also helps keep depression at bay.” — Zaryn M.
“A strict routine has helped me immensely. I don’t put myself in situations where my routine can be broken. I have tried (a few times) to do some fun things over the summer that ‘broke’ my routine, which resulted in a negative, angry and irritated episode. So for now (until I learn other ways to cope when I’m not in my routine) I stick to my routines which keeps me level… most of the time. ” — Ronnie R.
7. Cutting Back on Caffeine
“I cut caffeine out of my diet and added two to three cups of herbal tea per day, which has been life-changing!” — Anna A.
“Cutting out caffeine. Sleep or lack there of is my primary trigger for becoming more elevated.” — Maddison D.
8. Expressing Yourself to People You Trust
“I have made a conscious effort to voice when I’m not OK as soon as I realize it. I may not be able to explain exactly what I’m feeling or know what will help make things more comfortable, but it informs my significant other that I may need something a little extra. A little extra patience or love or space, whatever it may be. It has been great for myself in recognizing swings along with assisting my significant other feel a bit more powerful in helping me through it.” — Lauren B.
“I started to start asking for things I need, whether it be small favors that seem big to me, or asking for help when I’m struggling mentally. Asking for things has always been extremely hard for me, so taking small steps towards asking for what I need is really helpful.” — Ari R.
9. Being Gentle With Yourself
“I’ve stopped being so hard on myself. I always hold myself to a very high standard and I’ve always felt like if I didn’t do that well, I haven’t accomplished anything. Being hard on myself has hurt me more than helped. After talking to my bosses and doctors, they’ve all told me that they don’t expect perfection. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I worked myself almost to death and was always having panic attacks if I did something incorrectly. Now I take my time in doing my work and try not to do it all. Trying to be a superhero didn’t work for me. Trying to be a human being has been a lot easier.” — Kat C.
“I quit keeping score. No more comparing my life with other people’s lives, it’s pointless. Focusing on things I am in control of has made a huge difference in my quality of life.” — Nicole S.
10. Practicing Acceptance
“Accepting that I have bipolar has been huge for me. I’ve started looking at my thoughts from a different angle and I think I’ll be able to help myself more. Along with my new treatments of course.” — Alane P.
11. Adjusting Your Work Schedule to Meet Your Needs
“Moving from shift work to working 9 to 5 made an unexpectedly huge difference to my mental health. It really helped me to normalize my sleep patterns.” — Saria G.
“Work from home. I do the same thing I used to do at the office, but from home. That gives me the chance to be in my own environment. I have my dogs (ESAs) with me, and have been able to reduce stress and anxiety. No commute, no waking up early, no co-workers or bosses watching my every move. Just me in my own space.” — Danmaris D.
12. Learning When to Say “No”
“Two things that made a significant difference in managing bipolar, anxiety and OCD in my life is making my health my first priority even when it seems silly to others. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you a heartless person, it means you are doing what’s needed to maintain a balance in the chaos of mental health. The second priority is to always separate emotions from facts. This allows me to think clearly and rationally about the ups and downs of emotions and gives me a better understanding of managing my episodes. It’s less destructive and I’m a lot kinder to myself.” — Chene B.
13. Educating Yourself About What You’re Going Through
“I try to read a lot about the disorder itself and spread awareness to help break the stigma. The better I understand it, the easier it is for me to be able to learn that I can live with it. And I also want to help other people understand mental health.” — Felicia C.
14. Carrying Cash (Instead of a Debit or Credit Card)
“Leaving my debit and credit cards at home and only carrying a little bit of cash, not saving my debit card info on my computer and phone so I have to go get my card to buy something online. (If you can’t tell, overspending is a big thing in my life, lol.)” — Lex S.
15. Taking Time for Yourself
“Taking time out. Having a cup of tea and reading a book.” — Lily B.
“Not being afraid to take a break if I need it. If I can feel the wheels turning faster and faster and I start to lose control, even if I’m at work, I’d just tell my manager I need to go out back for a few. It would help me reorient myself so that I could push through the rest of the day.” — Jordan S.
Is there a small change that’s made a huge impact on your life? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Photo by Blake Lisk on Unsplash