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7 rules for living a fulfilling life with bipolar disorder
7 rules for living a fulfilling life with bipolar disorder

A daily routine, eating well, and being mindful can help you cope with mood swings.

7 rules for living a fulfilling life with bipolar disorder
7 rules for living a fulfilling life with bipolar disorder

For three years I have been leading a community that brings together people with mood disorders and their loved ones. They are very different personalities - from schoolchildren to company leaders, but they all have a common problem: sharp and often unpredictable fluctuations in emotions that affect all areas of life. Many people understand that medications and psychotherapy can help curb mood swings. But not everyone is ready to admit that the results of treatment largely depend on themselves - their daily activities and lifestyle. Bad habits can provoke attacks of the disease and slow down treatment, and good ones help to maintain balance.

1. More order, less chaos

I know very well how difficult it is for a creative person to fit within the framework. After all, you really want to ride on a wave of mood: either hang out all night long or work 20 hours in a row on an interesting project, or spend weeks watching TV shows without leaving your room. But a chaotic lifestyle is exactly what shakes an already unstable psyche.

The more order in the life of a bipolar, the smoother his mood. In addition, if you are accustomed to a certain regime, it will be much easier for you to maintain it even in depression - automatically, without gigantic volitional efforts.

The most important parts of your daily routine are:

  • Quality sleep. At least 8 hours a night, at the same time. During depression, it is normal to sleep more, but for a couple of hours, and not twice.
  • Stable operation. Even if you are a freelancer, try to work at about the same time and the same number of hours in a row. Night shifts, and even more so their alternation with day shifts, are categorically contraindicated.
  • No gadgets or activities before bed. The bipolar brain can be very difficult to calm down, thoughts are spinning in it without stopping. To fall asleep normally, you need to exclude external stimulation an hour or two before bedtime. A common culprit for insomnia is gadgets with bright screens.
  • Regular walks or exercise in the fresh air. Even if you have to literally force yourself out of the house, the sun and fresh air improve your mood - that's a fact!

2. Support of loved ones saves

When you shock those around you with crazy ideas, then lie low, turning off your phone, it is easy to lose friends. But the support of understanding loved ones is what can save you in the most difficult moment.

First, this is an outside perspective: if a friend knows you well, he will notice suspicious changes and advise you to take action. Second, when you are understood and supported, it’s easier to get through difficult times.

It is very important that on days of deterioration there is a person who is aware of what is happening and does not blame you for it. Talk to your loved one ahead of time about what actions they can take if they notice something is wrong. And don't forget to thank him when you feel better.

If your family does not recognize and understand your problems, seek support elsewhere. For example, in support groups, which are both in real life and online.

3. Mindfulness is important

Many associate mindfulness with yoga and Buddhist practices. But this is a universal skill, very useful for people who are constantly captured by a storm of emotions. It is needed in order to notice changes in mood in time, track what could have caused them, and separate emotions from facts.

One of the popular techniques is keeping a mood chart. Every day you rate your mood on a 10-point scale, enter information about medications and triggers (that is, events that provoke a deterioration in you).

There are many smartphone apps for developing mindfulness and other self-control skills. I can recommend, Daylio, Mood Tracker, Woebot, DBT.

4. Less stress

Severe stress is one of the main enemies. The psyche of a person with bipolar disorder is much less resistant to excessive stress. Stress can trigger another mania or depression. Just take it for granted and do not demand great feats from yourself. Perhaps some trials and "exits from the comfort zone" really temper, but this is definitely not about people with mood swings.

But this does not mean that you do not need to work on your resistance to stress: it can be increased within reasonable limits if you take a feasible load and give yourself time to rest and recover as soon as you feel a deterioration.

The key principle here is self-care. It is especially important during depressive periods, when the energy is at zero and any little thing can bring to tears. The best thing to do at a time like this is to take a break and rest, keeping things to a minimum. This is much better than heroically pulling them to a nervous breakdown.

In hypomania, it is important to make sure that you do not collect a mountain of projects that will simply crush you with their weight as soon as the wave of euphoria subsides.

5. A full meal on schedule

How does diabetes affect mood and relationships? mood swings.

So it is important to eat a normal lunch on time, and not snack on sweets and fatty junk food on the go.

In addition, it is common for people with bipolar disorder and depression to eat piles of goodies into their bad moods or eat at night when they are awake. Over the years, this habit leads to very unpleasant consequences, from excess weight to diabetes.

When taking medications, you need to be especially careful about the diet, because many of them increase the appetite.

In addition to the quantity of food, its quality is also important. The most useful for nourishing the brain is the How to Live a Healthy and Fabulous Life with Bipolar Mediterranean diet - more greens, fish and fruits, and less starchy, sweet and fatty foods. And if you do not live on the seashore, the lack of fish can be replaced by nutritional supplements - omega-3-acids.

6. Exercise for the mind

In bipolar disorder, mental performance is much less affected than in other mental illnesses. But people prone to long-term depression almost always complain of deterioration in attention, memory, logical thinking.

During mood swings, the brain works "squeaky". I would like to "dull" and flip through social networks all day long. But in order not to become stupid irrevocably, it is necessary to regularly give yourself mental tasks, even small ones.

Remember the expression "cognitive rehabilitation" - these are specially designed training of cognitive functions. And to put it in very simple words, exercises that help restore and maintain mental abilities at a good level.

For example, one of the popular programs.

7. No doping

Bipolar disorder is perhaps the only medical condition that can be enjoyed, albeit at a health risk. After all, the bipolar brain often captures a feeling of euphoria for no external reason. But this means that additional doping (strong alcohol, many cigarettes in a row, all kinds of illegal substances) is doubly dangerous. It can literally "blow your mind" from him: in people with a tendency to manic episodes, stimulating substances can cause real psychosis. It can manifest itself in the form of hallucinations, panic attacks, memory lapses, suicidal thoughts, aggression, and a host of other unpleasant things. In addition, people with mood disorders are at times more likely to have Comorbid Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse: A Challenge to Diagnose and Treat addictions than healthy people.

It is important to remember that psychotropic substances are incompatible with medication treatment, their combination can be very dangerous.