4 ways to add positive tasks to your day
Do you find it hard to do all the things?
You know what I mean. There’s so much that has to be done.
First, there are the things you have to do, such as going to work, caring for your family, and keeping your home clean. Then there are the tasks that help you maintain your mental health: following a treatment plan, exercising, healthy eating, and getting enough rest.
When your life is already full of so much, adding in anything else feels impossible. When someone comes along and says, “Hey, you should also journal or practice mindful meditation,” you can’t help but think:
“When do I have the time?”
Living with bipolar disorder is an ever-evolving journey that can be full of hills and valleys. Some days, you feel on top of the world and can conquer anything; other days, just getting out of bed can seem like a monstrous task.
It may feel impossible to stick to good habits when your underlying mood swings make you feel powerless. Even though it’s challenging, it’s possible to add healthy habits to your life. The positive steps can help you feel better in the long run.
Here is how I have been able to fit good habits into my daily life while fighting bipolar disorder.
Developing routines takes effort, and it’s especially challenging when you’re battling bipolar disorder.
When I was first diagnosed, I struggled to commit to sleeping and eating on a schedule. I ate when I was hungry, and when I was manic, that was pretty rare. I treated sleep the same way.
Then I realized that establishing routines was necessary for me to stabilize my moods. As I took part in therapy, I set small goals, such as:
- Eat breakfast
- Lights out by 11
- No caffeine after lunch
When the tiny changes produced good results, it made it simpler to follow a routine.
One of the essential parts of starting a routine is to schedule time for yourself first, and then plan around it. If you know you have to be in bed by 10 to get enough sleep, then nothing should get in the way.
Committing to yourself and scheduling self-care activities is the first step towards establishing a healthy routine.
Even if you find a habit that will turn your world into a mental paradise, you’ll never stick with it if you don’t enjoy it.
Lots of my bipolar friends manage their symptoms by running. Hitting the street every morning helps them stay fit and sleep better at night. I tried running dozens of times and hated it every single time.
Finding an activity or exercise that you genuinely enjoy is often the deciding factor between doing something and skipping it. As a nature lover, I found hiking to be a great way to add exercise into my routine. When you enjoy and look forward to an activity, then sticking to it is much easier.
I spend a few minutes of my lunch hour walking, which helps me reset my mind for an afternoon of computer work. Movement improves your mood, benefiting both the physical and emotional aspects of dealing with bipolar disorder. A brisk walk, yoga class, or morning run can also help circulation and lift your spirits.
Habit stacking is a way to form new habits by associating them with old ones. As you start adding more healthy activities to your routine, you can use habit stacking to make it easier to incorporate them.
For example, I wanted to listen to more podcasts but never found the time. Part of my morning routine includes ironing my clothes for the day. By pulling up a podcast before I start, I can listen to an uplifting program while doing a necessary task. Here are a few other habits you can stack:
- Take a 10-minute walk after your morning coffee
- Weigh yourself after you bathe
- Spend 5 minutes in mindful meditation while getting ready for bed
James Clear in Atomic Habits introduced me to habit stacking, and it’s been a life changer. Start small and see what you can do.
Breaks Are Okay
Part of coping with bipolar disorder means accepting that there will be days when things go helter skelter. Your motivation may take a nosedive or depression may keep you confined to bed for the day.
When life gets hard, it’s okay to take a rest day. Good habits are beneficial, but not if they’re causing you stress.
Remember: bad days don’t undo all the wonderful work that you’ve done so far. Rather than quitting altogether, focus on getting back into the routine gradually. Self-care is a lifelong journey that involves both small wins and major setbacks.
Living with bipolar disorder comes with its unique challenges. Learning to fit healthy habits into your life may take some time. Be patient with yourself.
You should never try to do everything all at once. Start with routines, make sure it’s something you enjoy, and then stack good habits. Remind yourself that it’s all right to take a day off, and then get started again when you feel up to it.
Practice patience, be kind to yourself, and move through this journey gently. You will discover the perfect habits for you as you go along.
Until next time, keep fighting.