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Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by episodes of mania and depression, but the symptoms can vary from person to person. If you’re living with bipolar disorder, it can affect your relationships, work, and self-image. But with the right support and lifestyle for your situation, you can live your best life.

Here are five tips for living thriving with bipolar disorder.

5 tips for living with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder affects about 7 million adults in the United States. If you or someone you know is living with this disorder, these five tips can help:

  1. Find the right treatment plan.
  2. Keep track of your symptoms.
  3. Connect and communicate.
  4. Develop a routine.
  5. Minimize stress.
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Bipolar disorder — formerly known as manic depression — can affect each person differently. Symptoms will vary, depending on the type of disorder you have. BTW, there are three types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder involves at least 7 days of mania symptoms, or symptoms that are very severe and need immediate medical care. Episodes of depression are common and usually last at least 2 weeks. You might also experience mixed episodes of mania and depression.
  • Bipolar II disorder involves hypomania, which is less intense than mania. It’s also characterized by episodes of depression.
  • Cyclothymic disorder (aka cyclothymia) also involves episodes of depression and hypomania, but they tend to be less acute than in Bipolar II. Symptoms usually last for at least 2 years in adults and 1 year in kids or teenagers.

Manic phase

Most symptoms of mania and hypomania are similar (although hypomania is less severe). An episode of mania is usually marked by multiple symptoms, including:

  • being very talkative
  • experiencing racing thoughts
  • having an increased sex drive
  • having little to no appetite
  • having decreased inhibitions
  • feeling jumpy or wired
  • being easily distracted
  • having a decreased need for sleep
  • feeling easily annoyed or agitated
  • having a rush of new ideas or plans
  • feeling euphoric and especially self-confident

FYI: Psychosis in bipolar disorder can occur during a depressive episode, but it’s more common during a manic episode. Some symptoms of psychosis are:

Depressive phase

During a bipolar-related depressive episode, you might feel sad, lethargic, and fatigued. Other common symptoms are:

  • morbid thoughts
  • chronic low energy
  • fluctuations in appetite or weight
  • feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or emptiness
  • trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • stretches of too much or not enough sleep
  • little to no interest in activities you used to enjoy

Here are five ways you can take control of your mental health and improve your bipolar disorder symptoms.

Bipolar disorder isn’t one-size-fits-all, and neither is symptom management. This can make finding the right treatment seem very overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start.

A great way to get the ball rolling is to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder and talk to a knowledgeable professional. They can give you a correct diagnosis and help you find the right regimen for your unique needs.

Here are some actionable ways to get into a good groove:

  • Be patient. Finding the right treatment(s) for your symptoms might require some trial and error. While this is totally normal, it can be frustrating AF. But try to be patient with the process and don’t give up.
  • Keep your doctor in the loop. Bipolar disorder treatment plans can evolve over time, so it’s uber-important to have an open line of communication with your doctor. Let them know if you have any questions or concerns as soon as they pop up.
  • Take your meds as instructed. Finding the right medication and dosage can take time. Let your doctor know ASAP if you have any weird or unpleasant side effects. And don’t change or skip doses unless your doc says it’s OK.
  • Pursue therapy. The right therapist can teach you ways to manage your mood, maintain relationships, and develop meaningful daily routines. Look for a professional with expertise in bipolar disorder. They can recommend psychoeducation, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, or family focused therapy, depending on what’s right for you.

Take note of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on the reg. This may help you pick up on a future manic or depressive episode before it happens. It’s also a great way to look back on previous episodes and pinpoint potential triggers.

Try to keep a daily log of your:

Lots of folks enjoy journaling, but you can also download a mood-tracker app. Here are five fan faves:

  1. MoodLog for Android
  2. eMoods for iOS or Android
  3. Daylio Journal for iOS or Android
  4. CBT Thought Diary for iOS or Android
  5. Moodtrack Social Diary for iOS or Android

A strong support system is an important resource so that you know you can reach out for help or express your feelings to the people you care about. You deserve kindness, love, and understanding. Even if someone doesn’t “get” what you’re going through, knowing that they’re there can make a huge difference.

If you don’t have a network of folks you can count on, try to develop some new connections. Easier said than done, obvi, but it’s definitely possible.

Here are some ways you can meet your next BFFs:

  • Take a class. You can learn a new skill as you socialize.
  • Join a club. You’ll meet fun folks who share a common interest.
  • Reach out to an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while. (But don’t rekindle any toxic relationships.)
  • Volunteer! Animal shelters, food banks, thrift stores, and nursing homes are all potential places to meet some awesome new peeps and reduce feelings of loneliness. Plus, it can feel great to give back to your community.

Your habits can have a major impact on your mind. If your sleep schedule or eating routine is all over the place, it might mess with your mood. That’s why it’s 10/10 important you have some structure in your day-to-day.

Here are some tips for getting into the right routine for your mental health:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Eat at the same times each day, and fill your plate with an array of nutritious and delicious foods whenever possible.
  • Work out a few times a week. Studies show that it’s a great way to increase feelings of self-worth and can curb anxiety.
  • Reach out to someone you care about at least once a day, or ask someone you trust to check in on you.
  • Try to maintain your normal routine even if you’re going through a manic or depressive episode.

P.S. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s OK to have an off day sometimes.

Stress is a common symptom trigger in folks who have bipolar disorder. A 2014 study found that stressful or negative life events were often followed by episodes of mania or depression.

While it’s not always possible to avoid stress, there are some top-notch ways you can manage your feelings:

  • Know your limits. Don’t take on more than you can realistically handle. Remember, you’re not a robot 🤖.
  • Set boundaries. Whether it’s for work, school, family, or friends, you don’t have to be “on” 24/7. You can decline an invite or leave people on read sometimes.
  • Try a relaxation technique. A daily yoga or meditation practice can help you manage your stress. You might also dig deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, or art therapy.
  • Prioritize fun. Work burnout can be super stressful. Try to schedule enough R&R in your week to keep you feeling fresh and energized. Watch trash TV. Take yourself on a date. Sign up for a HIIT class. Book a massage (if that’s an option for you). You do you, boo.
  • Talk it out. Reach out to someone you trust and have a deep vent sesh. You might feel a lot lighter afterward.

Here are some fabulous free resources for folks who have bipolar disorder (or anyone else who wants to learn more about the illness):

Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to control your life. The most important thing is that you find the right support and treatment plan to help you manage your unique needs. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your symptoms to help avoid triggers, communicate your needs to those around you, and find positive ways to manage your moods.

Reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional if you think you might have bipolar disorder or if your mental health is affecting your life. And remember, you are not a burden and you are not alone ❤️ .