For me, bipolar self-management is the only way I know how to deal with the illness. I’m fortunate to a certain extent that I can function quite highly with it; I know others who can’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are still weeks where self-management goes out the window, but when things turn around, I return to my plan.
I thought my plan might be useful to you, so I have written this article to show you what I do. In no way is it an exhaustive list of everything that you can do to help you with your bipolar symptoms. But there might be something within it that will help make your day and life easier.
It is not something to undertake when you are in the midst of a severe depressive state or hypomanic; you need to be at a fairly stable point, although saying that, trying just one of the steps in my bipolar self-management plan may help you on your way to becoming more stable.
My Experience of Bipolar
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2002, and for the last few years, everything I have learned from it I have been putting into action. I rapid cycle, unfortunately, and I could go down and up within the space of a couple of hours, or it may be over the course of several weeks.
Like I said earlier, I like to think I am high functioning, although I’m not well enough to work full-time, and I would be totally unreliable as an employee. Hence why I write, as I can fit it in around my illness.
The bipolar self-management plan is my knowledge and experience gained over the last couple of decades. Although I have no medical experience, I have many tried and tested methods I use when the going gets tough.
I hope there are some parts of the plan which will be useful to you.
The Bipolar Self-Management Plan
I always start with the basics, and they are medication, food and sleep. If they are not in order, then there can be little to aim for stability. On this website, if you type in the search bar at the top of the page “bipolar”, you will find all the articles I have written about the disorder, from excessive spending to avoiding alcohol or click the link.
Almost everything I have learned has been through trial and error. I have attended numerous courses and therapy sessions. The only ones I have found useful were the occupational therapy courses, which I recommend if you do get a chance to attend one.
|Medication||At the time of writing, I am on Aripiprazole and Sertraline. I’m not sure about you, but I get bad side effects from medication and have tried numerous ones. This combination is the only one that suits me, although it has taken me several months to get the dosages right with the help of a psychiatrist and without. Make sure your medication is in order before trying any of the suggestions below.|
|Food||My appetite is erratic depending on my mood, so I cannot rely upon my own thoughts about food. I rely on my body to tell me what to eat. I have written articles about this, and my gut health article will cover what you need to know and the food and serotonin article. Bipolar self-management begins with a balanced diet; I won’t say healthy, but living off of ready meals won’t help; you would be better off eating sandwiches, which is another thing I do. I’m not a cook when I’m unstable, and a nutritious sandwich has been a godsend.|
|Sleep||The bane of my life for many years was getting a good nights sleep. My sleep has improved dramatically since I discovered Melatonin, and now I get a decent amount of sleep every night. I highly recommend the use of it. It is a supplement, and you can buy it from health food shops online. |
I start planning my sleep from the moment I get up. Otherwise, things can go wrong quickly if I have not woken early enough. I also have to watch my intake of caffeine and sugar. You can read my article on planning a good nights sleep.
[AF] I get my Melatonin from Piping Rock; it is good value for money, they deliver worldwide, and I’ve even bought bulk in case it ever runs out; that’s self-preservation for ya!
|Exercise||I’m not a natural exerciser; I have to force myself to do it, and believe me when I say you don’t have to be gymoholic to get the benefits. Even a simple walk around your neighbourhood counts as exercise. I have difficulty with many exercise routines as I have arthritis in my feet. But I have an exercise bike, a set of weights and a mat for floor work. I don’t exercise every day, but I try to at least three times per week, even if it is only sitting on the bike while looking through my phone. |
As part of your bipolar self-management plan, try to fit in a daily walk or purchase a second-hand exercise bike to see if this form of getting the heart rate up suits you.
Exercise will help manage your mood; it can lift you enough to cope with the day or burn off excessive energy.
|Routine||I find a routine essential; I’m not talking army-style scheduling, mine is quite free-flowing, but it starts in bed and ends there. My typical day:|
8 am Get up, coffee, sort dog out etc. I don’t eat breakfast. Medication, vitamins and supplements.
9 am Look through emails and check stats on this website and formulate my writing plan for the day.
10 am Meditate, normally for 10 or twenty minutes, get cleaned and dressed; I can’t write unless I’m dressed in daytime clothing for some reason. I might go on the exercise bike or do some weights.
11 am to 5 pm I’m writing either for myself or others. If I get hungry, I will usually order a sandwich.
5 pm to 7 pm I usually see my family for some social interaction. My mum usually pops round for a cuppa. I also take some CBD oil as it calms me.
7 pm to 8 pm is aromatherapy time, and I really look forward to this; I have a lavender milk bath and then use aromatherapy oil afterwards to keep me calm, usually lavender or chamomile based.
From 8 pm to 11.30 pm, I may eat another sandwich and have a bit of chocolate; I’ll do some deep breathing exercises. I’ll watch some TV, or if my brain can handle it, I will read; I’ll do one last check on emails and this website.
11.30 pm I take my Melatonin supplement, and half an hour later, I am in bed, soundo.
As you can see, my life is not a fancy affair, but it suits me. Occasionally on weekends, I may venture out of my comfort zone, but that has a habit of knocking me off track for the coming week. And for me keeping stable is the most important thing.
|Vitamins and Supplements||I take some form of a supplement daily as part of my bipolar self-management plan. The supplements I take are as follows:|
Krill Oil for the brain
Probiotics for the stomach ( the second brain)
Vitamin D not enough of this affects mental health
Iron Supplement the same applies as Vitamin D
CBD Oil has been a life-changer for me
[AF] I buy all my supplements from Piping Rock, the same place I get the Melatonin from, except for the CBD oil I get from Reakiro. It is the only one I have ever tried, and so I’m sticking with it.
|Meditation||Since discovering meditation, I have never been more in control of my bipolar disorder. I say control in the loosest of sense, but it is still controlled nonetheless. I practice it several times per week, sometimes for a few minutes and other times I can do around about half an hour. I have written some articles on meditation should it be something you would consider. I know it is not for everyone, and the actual word puts some people off; you could view it as your “quiet time” as everyone needs that once in a while.|
I tend to use guided meditations; they help me the best; if I’m left to my own devices, things tend to go a little haywire.
|Aromatherapy||I use aromatherapy with caution as if I were to use it when hypomanic; it sends me even higher; there is a fine balance. Good when stable or depressed, bad when hypomanic, well for me anyway. I know aromatherapy can change my mood based on how I react when hypomanic; if it didn’t work, I would not react. I learnt this in a most embarrassing episode after a spa day, where I was enlivened, shall we say and with aromatherapy oil embellishing my hair and scalp, I went to the pub high as a kite. I must have looked at the right state, but they still served me probably because I smelt gorgeous. 🙂|
If you decide to experiment with aromatherapy as part of your bipolar self-management plan, choose the most expensive oils and products you can afford, as they make a difference. You definitely want to try organic. The quality makes a big difference. The smell of the cheap stuff is urgh and of no benefit to you.
|When I Don’t Feel Well||My routine can go out the window, and it would be pointless for me to follow all of it, so I try and do the bare minimum. When I am unwell, I cannot write, and my self-care is atrocious. So I go back to the basics, which is medications, food and sleep. I only focus on those three things; everything else, for me, is non-essential, basically because I am incapable of doing anything more. This state of affairs usually occurs when I am depressed; if I am hypomanic, I won’t even think about my routine and will probably be writing for 36 hours straight. This is when I am at my most productive, but it is not a state of mind I wish to be in long-term as I know I could trip over into a manic episode. So I try and calm myself using the CBD oil twice per day and making sure my medication is being taken at the correct times.|
I also use gummies; yes, I said gummies; they are for keeping you calm. I don’t recommend them if you feel depressed, but they are great for when you are stressed, anxious, and hypomanic.
[AF] I buy my calming gummies from Piping Rock; as I said, I buy a lot of stuff from them because they are really great value and deliver quickly.
As you can see, it is not an exciting plan, but it is what I do. I hope that even trying one of the suggestions will help your bipolar self-management plan. There are plenty of articles on the website regarding things I have tried and more details on nutrition and supplements.
If you want to ask me a question or leave your own advice and guidance, please use the comment form below; you may change someone else’s life for the better.
Peace & Blessings