7 tools to help you live your best life with mental illness.
The good news is you will have fewer of those awful days when you learn to manage your mental illness. The last post discussed identifying your symptoms. Once you know what you’re fighting, here are some tools to help you do your best.
Medication is a necessity for most people with bipolar disorder. Medications can help with the symptoms, but they don’t cure your condition. You’ll still need to see a doctor or mental health professional regularly so they know how well your medication is working and if any changes need to be made.
Remember that not all medications will work for everyone. Talk with your doctor about which ones might work best for you.
More and more, I’m hearing of people successfully treating bipolar disorder without medication. These are people I know and trust, so I believe it’s an option. However, every one of them has one thing in common: they are all working with a mental health professional.
If you want to try the medication-free path, please don’t try to do it on your own. Medication or not, bipolar is still an illness and needs the care of a medical professional.
It’s essential to have people in your life who you can count on. They should be dependable and the kind of friends who will support you no matter what. These people will be a great resource when things get tough, and they’ll help keep you accountable to your treatment plan.
Family is great if they understand and are willing to work with you. Some of you won’t have that option, so a chosen family is the next best thing. Those friends who will stick by you, come what may, make them part of your support team.
The older I get, the more I realize you don’t need dozens of friends. Even one or two people who accept all parts of you are enough to help you conquer the trials of life.
A therapist can help you work through any life issues that may be contributing to your mood swings. They’ll also teach you coping skills. Later, when things get tough again, those skills will help you cope with the problem. I spent six years in therapy and it was one of the best things I ever did. I use the lessons I learned in therapy every day.
In these post-pandemic days, finding a therapist seems harder than ever. Whether it’s a lack of funds or insurance or the struggle to find a therapist of any value, talk therapy isn’t an option for everyone.
Recently, I tried to go the online route, and it was a disaster. When I was finally matched with a therapist, she sent me an email saying she only held sessions by text message, despite what she advertised. The cynical part of me imagines she does that so she can “treat” multiple patients at the same time.
If talk therapy isn’t an option for you, try to find a support group. With both in–person and online options, you’re bound to find a group you fit in. Most groups are free to attend making it an option open to most people.
Exercising can help manage stress levels and improve your mood. It will also give you something to focus on besides whatever is making you feel down or anxious.
Exercise regularly, at least three times per week if possible, at a mild-to-moderate intensity level. Start with activities like walking, swimming, or biking.
Keep in mind that exercise can trigger mania for some people. Start with a low-impact program and increase your intensity as you see how exercise affects you. It’s also a good idea to discuss exercise with your primary care doctor, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been active.
Be sure to give yourself permission to take breaks. When bipolar depression is severe, going for that morning walk is impossible. It’s okay to take a couple of days off. Just try to get back into your exercise routine as soon as you can.
This is a big one. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself emotionally and physically. Take time to do things you enjoy, get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and avoid drugs and alcohol. Putting aside some time for yourself every day can make a huge difference.
Many imagine self-care to be bubble baths or spa days. While you do both, your self-care should be something you enjoy. Maybe it’s creating art, working on cars, or weeding a flower bed. The key is to find an activity you enjoy that helps you unwind and reset. See this post for 50 self-care ideas.
Throughout the last few decades, I’ve filled dozens of journals with my words. A journal is a place to explore your thoughts, examine your emotions, and track your progress. It’s a safe playground with no rules. You can write what you want, draw pictures, paste scraps clipped from magazines, or color the pages with random hues. You can even journal by creating scenes full of stick figures. I have a friend who does that.
Everyone needs a place to work through what’s going on inside, and journaling is a great way to do it. Journaling is also an excellent tool for working through your thoughts before and after therapy sessions. The notes you write between appointments can help you and your therapist choose the best path forward.
Many start with a mood journal to get in the habit of writing every day. Whatever option you choose, take some time to journal about what’s happening in your life.
I know some of you groaned inside as soon as you saw this word: gratitude. Who can feel grateful when you feel worthless and unlovable? Yeah, some days are really tough.
As the creator of the 30 Days of Positivity Email Course, I’m a huge champion of positivity, but I’m also a realist. You cannot be positive all the time, no matter how hard you try.
Even so, you can learn to change your focus. Instead of agonizing over whether the glass is half full or empty, be thankful you have a glass. When you focus on the good things in your life, you’ll push some of the more painful things away.
This list is just a few of the things you can do to improve your life with mental illness. Check out 21 Smart Ways To Reduce the Effects of Bipolar Disorder on Everyday Life for even more suggestions.
Living with bipolar disorder is a marathon, not a sprint. Put the right tools to work in your life and you’ll find your race much easier to run. You will stumble and have tough times, but using these tips will help you get back up quickly.
Until next time, keep fighting.