Nearly 3% of the US population currently has bipolar disorder, and this condition doesn't discriminate against whom it impacts. Moreover, people of all ages, demographics, and social classes can develop bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, bipolar disorder can affect every area of your functioning. If left untreated, manic or depressive symptoms may interfere with your relationships, job, and physical health.
That said, bipolar disorder is treatable, and you can live a meaningful, fulfilling life despite your condition. In addition, having a self-care plan allows you to prepare to cope with various triggers. It also encourages you to implement effective strategies to manage any distressing symptoms.
Recognize Your Primary Triggers
It may seem like anything can trigger depression or mania, but there's a good chance that certain situations, people, or events exacerbate particular symptoms.
Understanding your triggers may require taking time to reflect on your ordinary patterns. You may benefit from tracking your moods and emotions to gain insight into this information.
In developing a self-care plan for bipolar disorder, you want to focus on how you can mitigate and cope with various triggers. It may not be possible to eliminate all of them, but it's reasonable to reduce your involvement in specific situations that often cause distress.
For example, let's say you know spending time with your parents often makes you feel depressed. As the first line of defense, you may consider cutting down on your visits.
Or, you might keep seeing them, but you commit to shifting your focus on keeping topics light and neutral during your discussions. You may consider calling a trusted friend or engaging in a pleasant activity immediately after these interactions.
Stick with a routine: Try to build small routines throughout the day. For example, maybe you will devote five minutes to meditating when you wake up before brushing your teeth. Or, you might consider meeting up with a good friend every Wednesday for coffee. These routines can keep you feeling organized and disciplined.
Practice healthy goal-setting: Each day, write down the tasks you must accomplish before you go to bed. Try to get those tasks done no matter what. Completing your goals can build your momentum, and it may encourage you to make larger goals.
Pause before you make large decisions: Practice delayed gratification as often as possible. Doing so can strengthen your impulse control. Commit to waiting 48 hours or writing a pros and cons list before making any significant choice.
Take Care of Your Physical Health Each Day
The mind and body work in tandem, and neglecting your physical well-being can wreak havoc on your mood.
Stick with a consistent sleep schedule: It's common for people to skip out on sleep during a manic episode. At the same time, it's also common to oversleep when depressed. No matter your mood, try to commit to falling asleep and waking up around the same time each day.
Stay physically active: Find an exercise that you enjoy and dedicate yourself to working out consistently several times a week. Exercise releases feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which can boost your mental health.
Limit/avoid caffeine, nicotine, and refined sugars: While these substances may provide initial energy boosts, they can exacerbate feelings of irritability and anxiety. They may also interfere with sleep and appetite. Consider cutting back or eliminating them altogether.
Spend more time outdoors: Research shows that spending time in nature can boost your Vitamin D levels, stimulate creativity, and improve mental clarity. Even if you work most of the day indoors, try to think of small ways to sneak in more fresh air.
Stay Active In Your Treatment
Don't make the mistake of neglecting your recovery plan when things are going well. Bipolar disorder can be tricky, and it's important to maintain a sense of structure and accountability, even when life feels relatively smooth.
Communicate your needs to your treatment providers: Try to be as honest as possible about any emerging symptoms or stressful events. Let your providers know if you're concerned a treatment intervention isn't effective.
Take your medications as prescribed: It's important to adhere to your medication requirements. Making sudden changes may result in dangerous side effects. If you want to cut back or change prescriptions, talk with your healthcare provider first.
Participate in ongoing therapy: Work with a qualified therapist who understands bipolar disorder. If you struggle with co-occurring issues like substance use or trauma, make sure that you talk about these topics in your sessions. Treatment is most beneficial when it's comprehensive.
Final Thoughts on Making Your Self-Care Plan For Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder doesn't have to define your happiness or health. Many people enjoy a wonderful life despite their condition. It's not about getting rid of your symptoms entirely- it's about learning how to manage them productively.
At The Mental Health House, we support people with various mental illnesses. No matter your condition, we are here to help. Contact us today to get started!