Building healthy routines is a cornerstone to maintaining stability in bipolar disorder. The right routines can help to reduce episodes of mania and depression. Routines help build structure to your day, reduce stress, and help you to remember things like taking medications on time. Creating new routines is a way to integrate new healthy habits and utilize coping skills in your day to day life. There is even a type of therapy geared toward identifying and building the right routines for you, it’s called Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy.
Sleep is one of the big ones. Sleep disturbance is even in the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder. Episodes of mania are marked with need for little to no sleep, whereas in depression many patients sleep excessively. Sleep deprivation can trigger a manic episode. Lack of sleep affects emotional regulation. Oversleeping can make depression worse. Having an evening routine that is conducive to sleeping well will help create and maintain good sleep hygiene.
Not taking medication as prescribed can lead to a relapse of symptoms, hospitalization, withdrawal symptoms, and general chaos. There are many reasons that bipolar patients don’t adhere to taking their medication, either not at all, or skipping pills. Having a set time to take meds can help in remembering to take them, and to take them on schedule. A pill box is especially helpful. If you can’t afford your medication there are programs to help, you can find these online or your doctor may have information for you. If you are hesitating to take your medication due to side effects discuss this with your doctor. Never discontinue or alter dosage of medication without the approval and supervision of your mental health provider.
Not eating regularly can affect your mental and physical health. Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, difficulty concentrating and eventual overeating. Many of us are already fighting weight gain as a side effect of medication and skipping meals doesn’t help because it messes with your metabolism. Eating on schedule helps to keep the hangry at bay.
Not drinking enough water can lead to headaches, low energy, lowered metabolism, overeating, dizziness and disorientation. Getting in the habit of drinking enough water on a regular basis is good for both mind and body.
Exercise helps reduce depression, has numerous physical benefits, and can help ease chronic pain. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress and promote restful sleep. Working exercise into to your daily routine can make it an automatic part of your day. Be careful not to overdo it, especially when manic.
Social support and interaction is vital to mental health. Making socializing part of your routine makes it a habit that your more likely to stick to even when you don’t feel like it. Fighting that urge to isolate is a lot easier if that phone call or that lunch date is part of your regular routine.
It’s hard work to manage bipolar disorder. Remember to take time to do things you love, something you look forward to. Hobbies can give you a sense of accomplishment. During times of apathetic depression, it will be easier to try to push yourself to try to do things you normally enjoy if that activity has been built in to your daily routine.
It’s hard to stick to healthy habits during an episode. The more ingrained and automated those habits are, the easier it will be to keep them up when things get hard. When you slip up, don’t beat yourself up.
These are tips for helping to control symptoms and do not serve as treatment. It is important to speak to a mental health provider to establish the proper treatment plan for you.