Self-Care and Bipolar Disorder
Being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder was shocking, relieving and overwhelming all at the same time. Shocking because it felt like I didn't know who I really was. Relieving because I finally knew why I felt so different, like a yo-yo, while everyone around me seemed so together, so perfect, so normal. Overwhelming because it felt like everything in my life was beginning to change faster than I was ready for - faster than I could control.
Self care is the actions we take to benefit our physical health, our mental health, and our emotional health. These actions will not cure or solely treat any mental health illness but it has the ability to help us function at a higher, healthier level in an attempt to continue to keep Bipolar Disorder at bay.
The #1 self-care step necessary for health and wellness in the management of Bipolar Disorder is ensuring your medications are your first priority always. Without taking your medication, you will be at an increased risk for episodes - likely resulting in damages to your life, your relationships, and your future. Medications are essential to helping manage Bipolar Disorder by bringing control to hypomania, mania, and deep depression - allowing for mood stabilization and more control.
Set an alarm(s) every day to help ensure you aren't missing a dose. Carry a pill box to help keep which medications you take at what time in order. If you do miss more than one dose, reach out to your therapist or physician to ensure they are aware of possible episode reoccurrences. Letting close family and friends know can also help ensure that if an episode does happen - you are surrounded by people that understand and can help manage your symptoms until they pass or get you the help you need if necessary.
One of the main symptoms of Bipolar Disorder is decreased need for sleep. One of the most important things someone with Bipolar Disorder can do is get an adequate amount of sleep every single night. According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, sleep loss is one of the most prevalent triggers for bipolar episodes. I cannot say enough how important this self-care topic is for anyone who has been diagnosed. Making a serious effort can be the reason for decreased mood episodes, less depression, and more positive lifestyle choices all around.
The adequate amount of sleep for adults is estimated to be between 7-9 hours a night. Ensuring you're in bed by a certain time will help guarantee you get the right amount of sleep for your body each night. Turning off lights, phones, televisions and any other distracting devices will help make sure you're not staying up later despite being in bed. Lights from electronic devices have been proven to keep your body and mind awake long after you turn them off.
Starting or keeping exercise as an essential part of your weekly routine will keep endorphins in your brain "happy" and your body feeling energized. Exercise is also a great way to reduce anxiety and stress as it releases the tension and energy into a more positive avenue. The American Psychological Association describes "regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience those fight-or-flight sensations."
The recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes of moderate minutes a week. This can include anything from running, yoga, horseback riding, or swimming to much more. If you have a disability or your doctor does not recommend any form of moderate exercise, you can follow up with your primary care physician to determine which routes of exercise would be the best for you.
Reducing stress can be a key part of maintaining a lifestyle that supports a healthy mind and healthy body to help keep you on track for a healthy life. Less stress equals more sleep which in turn helps keep symptoms under control.
Unplug for an hour or two from all devices
Read a book
Take a relaxing bath with calming music
Spend time with your pets
Manage boundaries with your work load
Color, sketch, or do an art/craft project
Get a massage
Drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day
There is no way to cure Bipolar Disorder but we do have the ability to help manage the risks and possibility of recurrent episodes. We have the option to live our lives to the best of our ability to help improve our mental health along the way. The less stress, the less pressure - the less likely we are to engage in behaviors that will diminish our mental health and encourage episodes.
Begin to practice self-care and don't stop!