How can I help myself cope?
Bipolar disorder can make you feel like you have little control. However, there are lots of things you can do to manage your symptoms and increase your wellbeing.
Get to know your moods
- Monitor your mood. It can be helpful to keep track of your moods over a period of time. You could try using a free mood diary online, (see ‘Useful contacts’).
- Understand your triggers. For example, if you often feel high after a late night or low when facing a deadline, it can help to recognise these patterns. Then you can take action to avoid the trigger, or minimise its impact.
- Learn your warning signs. You may start to notice that there is a pattern to how you feel before an episode. This could be changes in your sleeping pattern, eating patterns or appetite, or in your behaviour.
- Being aware that you are about to have a change in mood can help you make sure you have support systems in place and that you can focus on looking after yourself. It can also help to discuss any warning signs with family and friends, so they can help you notice changes.
“[I have to] be careful how much social contact [I] have – too much can send [me] high. [I have to] start saying ‘no’ to demands.”
Take practical steps
- Stick to a routine. Having a routine can help you feel calmer if your mood is high,motivated if your mood is low, and more stable in general. Your routine could include:
- day-to-day activities, like when you eat meals and go to sleep
- time for relaxation or mindfulness
- time for hobbies and social plans
- taking any medication at the same time each day – this can also help you manage side effects and make sure that you have a consistent level of medication in your system.
- Manage stress. Stress can trigger both manic and depressive episodes.(See Mind’s booklet How to manage stress for guidance on what you can do to make sure you don’t get stressed, and how to look after yourself when you do.)
- Manage your finances. You can contact National Debtline for free, impartial financial advice (see ʽUseful contactsʽ on p.27).
- Plan ahead for a crisis (see ‘What can I do in a crisis?’).
Look after your physical health
- Get good sleep. For lots of people who experience bipolar disorder,
disturbed sleep can be both a trigger and a symptom of episodes. Getting enough sleep can help you keep your mood stable or shorten an episode.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help you feel well, think clearly and calm your mood.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can help by using up energy when you’re feeling high and releasing endorphins (‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain) when you’re feeling low. Gentle exercise, like yoga or swimming, can also help you relax and manage stress.
‘The trick [for me] is not to be seduced by the ‘high’ and to look after [myself] – get enough sleep, good nutrition.’
Friends and family
The people closest to you can be really important in helping you manage your mood. (See ‘How can friends and family help?’ on p.24 for ideas about the kind of support they can offer you.)
When I tip the balance by going too high or low, I approach people for support.
Making connections with people with similar or shared experiences can be really helpful. You could try talking to other people who have bipolar disorder to share your feelings, experiences and ideas for looking after yourself.
If you’re seeking peer support on the internet, it’s important to look after your online wellbeing. (See our online booklet How to stay safe online for more information.)
“No two people’s experience is the same but there’s a peace and joy in not having to explain. Of shared understanding. Of coming home”
Coping with stigma
Many people have heard of bipolar disorder, but this doesn’t mean they understand the diagnosis fully. You might find that people have misconceptions about you or have a negative image of bipolar disorder.
This can be very upsetting, especially if someone who feels this way is a friend, colleague, family member or a healthcare professional.
But it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone, and you don’t have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:
- Show people this information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means.
- Get more involved in your treatment. (See Mind’s booklet The Mind guide to seeking help for a mental health problem for guidance on having your say in your treatment, making your voice heard, and steps you can take if you’re not happy with your care.)
- Know your rights. (Search ‘legal rights’ on our website for details.)
- Take action with Mind. (Search ‘campaigns’ on our website for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.)