Like most illnesses, Bipolar disorder will only get worse if not properly treated. Let’s be honest, though, treating manic depression correctly involves a lot of trial and error, but you can improve your bipolar life.
The drug cocktail that works for you might send someone else into hypomania. You can read my wild experience with Prozac in the post: Surviving Bipolar: Taking the First Steps Towards Recovery (Patient Tale) – Part 6.
There is some good news, though. You can improve your bipolar life.
While not every medication will work for every patient, there are some universal things that can help. This post will share 11 ways with advice on how to apply them practically in your life.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. The information shared on this blog comes from my personal experiences of living with bipolar disorder. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, please seek appropriate professional help immediately. Bipolar is highly treatable but dangerous if left untreated.
1. Get Up at the Same Time
Sleep is a problem for most bipolar patients. Either you sleep too much or not at all. Sleep aids tend to be hit or miss and sometimes make things worse.
That said, to improve your bipolar it is important to get out of bed at the same time every day. This is especially hard during the times that you are dealing with insomnia, which is a common sign of bipolar disorder. The last thing you want to do after a night of staring at the ceiling is to get out of bed and face the day.
It’s a simple matter of association, though. Weight loss experts will tell you not to eat in front of the TV because your mind will start to associate watching TV with eating and being hungry. (And this is probably why I can’t lose weight.)
Similarly, staying in bed and not sleeping can also cause problems. Your brain might start to associate being awake with being in bed, only making the sleep problem worse.
We all have internal clocks, though it sometimes goes a little haywire with bipolar. Getting up at the same time every day, whether you have slept or not, helps to force that clock back on schedule.
It may not work for a few days, but in time it almost always works for me.
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2. Wake Up Gently
Nothing sends me into a bipolar rage faster than waking up to an annoying radio commercial or obnoxious song. If you start the day in anger, it’s only going to go downhill from there.
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock. If you’ve never heard of one, it’s amazing. Rather than just rouse you with loud music or talking DJs, the light alarm clock wakes you up with light.
This clock may not work for everyone but has been a God-send for me. The clock starts about 30 minutes before your alarm time.
It begins at a really low light level and slowly increases simulating a sunrise. By your wake-up time, the light will be at its full set intensity. You can control how bright it gets.
The light can work silently or with the built-in FM radio or pleasant birdsong option. I use the latter when I want a sound to be part of my wake-up call.
I was skeptical when I first bought the clock and fully expected to have to return it after a few days. The very next morning, it woke me up gradually and peacefully, and I have been a big fan ever since.
The latest model Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock also has a setting to simulate the sunset, making it easier to unwind after a long day.
Shake Awake (Not for Me)
On a side note, if you are a very sound sleeper that frequently needs to be shaken awake, there is an alarm clock for you. Equipped with a loud alarm, flashing lights, and a mechanism that will literally shake your bed when it’s time to wake up.
Unless you are comatose, it would be near impossible to sleep through the alarm that the Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock provides. The audio alarm, flashing lights, and bed shaker can each be used separately or all together for the most intense effect.
For me, this would be a terrible way to wake up, but we are all different. If this works for you, I would love to hear about your experience.
3. Take Meds On Time
Probably the simplest thing you can do to improve your bipolar life is to make sure you take your medications at the same time each day.
Many psychiatric drugs used for bipolar treatment rely on a steady release of the medication for it to work properly. However, if you take your pills haphazardly or at different times of the day, that level will be skewed.
If you have trouble remembering, there are many free apps that will remind you when it is time. For instance, the Dosecast Medication Reminders app lets you set flexible reminders for daily, weekly, and monthly medications. There is also a post-pone function and a max dose setting to help you monitor if you’ve taken a medication and how much of it.
Personally, I am all about routine, so taking my meds on time has never been an issue. However, if you find that you are forgetting to take your medications or forgetting if you have taken them, an app like Dosecast Medication Reminders app might be exactly what you are looking for.
4. Talk It Out
Talk therapy is an important tool. Not all of us have the opportunity to see a therapist though. Still, it’s an avenue that you don’t have to do completely without.
If you have a trusted friend or family member, why not make an arrangement that for one hour a week you can talk about all the things in your head without judgment.
Yes, I know that some of those things are dark and depressing, so it will have to be someone with a strong constitution that knows you and won’t be offended easily.
Journaling is another way to get the benefits of talk therapy without having another person present. Read the post 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Journaling for additional reasons why journaling is a good practice.
5. Learn Your Triggers
We all know the dangers of bipolar triggers, but recognizing those triggers isn’t always readily apparent. If you find yourself in bipolar depression and aren’t sure how you got there, then it’s time to start keeping a mood journal.
A mood journal gives you the chance to take a few minutes to think about how you are really doing and what you are feeling. Looking back at these notes will help you to see trends of, “I did this, and then that happened.” It’s a great way to improve you bipolar by learning from past triggers.
If you are looking for a great journal to try, look at Meera Lee Patel’s Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration. In addition to engaging artwork and exercises, it also features quotes from artists, writers, and other visionaries to help keep you inspired and moving forward.
I cannot say enough how much journaling has helped me with my treatment. I started my journal in November 1983, so it has quite a bit of valuable insight at this point. If you have never tried journaling, why not take five minutes and start today.
Read Part 2 for the final six ways by clicking here.