Bipolar Disorder Tip Sheet

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder in which a person experiences episodes of clinical depression and mania. Effects differ from person to person, with some experiencing normal living periods with small periods of episodes, and some experiencing constant cycles of depression and mania. People with Bipolar Disorder may find that it affects their everyday life. The following are some self-help tips that sufferers of Bipolar Disorder should use in adjunct to seeking medical and psychological therapy.

1. Get involved with your treatment

To help reduce the negative impact of Bipolar Disorder, it is important to get as involved as possible with your treatment.

Patience –results will not happen immediately so it is important to be patient and ensure you stay on track

Communication – communicate with your treating practitioner. Tell them your feelings, goals and difficulties.

Be engaged – it is important to remain in therapy, as it will assist in teaching you the life skills you need in order to maintain your wellbeing and reduce the impact, severity and frequency of episodes.

2. Be aware of your symptoms and triggers

It is important to be aware of the early warning signs and triggers of a Bipolar Disorder episode, so you are able to pre-empt periods of difficulty and engage in strategies to reduce their overall negative impact.

Know your triggers – be aware of things that may set off an episode. These can include stress, financial hardships, arguments, problems at work or school, seasonal changes and changes in sleep patterns.

Have a wellness strategy – if you spot symptoms of an episode of depression or mania, it is important to work with your psychologist to develop a strategy to deal with the situation. Though strategies differ from person to person, common helpful tips include getting a full 8 hours of sleep, talking to a helpful person, doing something fun, cutting back on sugar and alcohol intake, calling a doctor or therapist, and taking time to relax.

Have an emergency plan – in times when you may slip into episodes of full-blown mania or depression, loved ones or doctors may have to assist you in managing your symptoms. Having helpful tools such as a list of contact numbers, information about other health problems you have and treatment preferences, can be helpful to others who are trying to assist you.

3. Seek support from others

Having people to rely on in times of crisis or throughout treatment can be very helpful.

Professionals – ideally, people who have Bipolar Disorder should aim to seek assistance from their GP, who can then refer them to a psychiatrist for medication management and a psychologist for therapy and implementation of healthy lifestyle habits.

Friends and family – these are people who you care for and who care for during difficult periods. It is important to have regular contact with them during positive and negative periods, and keep them updated regarding your progress.

Support groups – many people who have Bipolar Disorder benefit greatly from regularly meeting with others who have the disorder, who may understand their experiences and difficulties. This may be particularly important for those who have a smaller social support network.

4. Have a daily routine

Your everyday lifestyle habits, such as eating, sleeping and physical activity, have an impact on your mood. It is therefore helpful to develop a daily routine addressing these.

Structure – a key component in developing a consistent level of mood is having a structured and consistent lifestyle. Try to regulate (even through episodes) a consistent daily schedule.

Exercise – exercising can have a positive effect on your mood. Try to set aside 30 minutes a day for exercise, preferably at the same time each day.

Sleep – try and develop a sleep schedule. By regulating what times you go to sleep and wake up you can help to reduce potential episodes.

Eating– it is important to eat healthy food regularly and at routine times.

5. Stress less

Stress is a big trigger for many people with Bipolar Disorder, whether for mania or depression. Therefore reducing stress levels can help to reduce episodes.

Meditation – practice meditation techniques and teach yourself how to relax.

Leisure time – take time to do things for yourself that you find relaxing – watch a movie, go for a walk, read.

Senses – do things that appeal to your senses. Touch, smell, listen, look and taste things that are positive and enjoyable.

6. Watch what you eat

What you consume can play a part in how you feel and react in everyday life.

Eat healthy – consume food that has a positive influence on your mind and body.

Alcohol and drugs – avoid substances such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine that could have an effect on your emotions, arousal and ability to sleep. Stimulating drugs (e.g. amphetamines) can also trigger manic episodes, so it is important to avoid these.

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