Once you’ve been diagnosed as having bipolar i or ii, the chances are that you’ll have regular meetings with a doctor or psychiatrist. They will listen to you describe whatever symptoms you’re having, and make a decision about whether to increase or change your medications or keep things as they are.
In general they do not focus on lifestyle changes.
Most people with a bipolar diagnosis recieve little support or information about how they can help their condition, other than taking medication. Yet lifestyle has been found in several studies to have as big an effect on long-term positive outcomes than sticking to a medication regime.
Here are things that you really should be doing to help yourself.
1. get to bed and sleep at the same time every night.
One of the defining characteristics of bipolar is disrupted sleep patterns. If you can manage your sleep, you’re well on the way to managing the disease.
2. Get up at the same time every morning.
This is really the second part of getting normal sleep patterns. When you get depressed, you want to sleep in, but this becomes a vicious cycle. The more you sleep, the more depressed you get. THe more depressed you get, the more you sleep. If you are really having trouble getting up, three simple tricks will help.
Trick 1. set an alarm. set a nasty alarm if you have to.
trick 2. get up for long enough to drink something with caffeine in it
trick 3. natural morning light… get it on your skin.
3. Exercise every day.
The reason for this is that it will help you sleep that night (ie it helps with 1). But there is a lot of evidence that exercise in general improves mental health.
4. don’t drink.
Sorry… but if you want to have a healthy mind, your days of drinking are behind you. SOunds like a big sacrifice, but if you are really bipolar, then in all likelihood, alcohol makes you very depressed and/or manic, and you do things that you regret. In general, it is a destructive force in your life.
If you can’t give it up completely, cut back so that you’re just a “light” drinker.
5. don’t do drugs.
Boring, huh. Yet drugs will contribute to your disease. Some drugs are worse than others. cocaine is the worst for triggering mania, but amphetamines are bad as well.
6. build your social network.
If you’ve been through extended mental illness, you may have burned a lot of social bridges. It’s time to mend them, or build new ones. family are often a good starting place. sports are another good source of social networks. You know your own environment and surroundings, so only you know the best place to start. The evidence is clear that social networks reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms for bipolar.