What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition that causes extreme mood shifts, ranging from mania (high) to depression (low).

In mania, the person may feel abnormally energetic, happy, or irritable and sometimes a reduced need for sleep. While in a depressive episode, the person may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest and pleasure in almost all activities. These episodes affect an individual’s behavior, judgment, sleep, energy, activity, and the ability to think.

Worldwide Bipolar Disorder Prevalence Estimated at 2.4%. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years, although the illness can start in early childhood. Men and women are equally prone to bipolar, and it is found in all ages, races, ethnic groups, and social classes.

Bipolar disorder may be caused by the combination of different factors such as Genetic Factors (having a family member with the same condition), Biological factors (imbalance of neurotransmitters or hormones), Environmental factors(life events such as significant loss, abuse).

Why is self-management important in Bipolar Disorder?

Having a routine and managing your daily work is essential for everyone, and it is even more critical for an individual with bipolar disorder. When dealing with bipolar, even a little bit of stress or change in sleep can trigger your mood and might cause a manic or depressive episode. Although bipolar is a life-lasting disorder, it can be managed with proper guidelines and work. That’s why it is essential to set and follow some strategies to keep track of your mood, the pattern of episodes, and how to manage it.

What are self-management strategies to manage bipolar disorder?

When it comes to managing bipolar disorder, it is essential to seek therapy through a medical professional such as a psychotherapist to assist in daily life events and medications if the bipolar disorder is dire. Here are some of the most common and straightforward techniques an individual can use to manage his/her mood in daily routine.

1. Sleep

Sleep disturbance is one of the core symptoms of bipolar disorder. During a manic episode, there may be a reduced sleep, while during depressive episodes, insomnia or hypersomnia can be experienced. A good sleep routine requires a regular time to get to sleep at night and to wake up in the morning at fixed times. Make your bedroom and the bed more comfortable. Choose a color theme that is more soothing rather than wild. Avoid using mobile, laptops, and other electronic devices before going to bed or on the bed. Consumer some hot liquid in case if you are finding difficulty to fall asleep. Always wear loose and soft attire to sleep.

Sleep Foundation recommends the usage of a sleep-inducing bedroom: –

  1. Use a quality mattress and pillow to get proper support for your neck and back
  2. Select quality bedding for comfort and temperature
  3. Embrace darkness for better sleep
  4. Maintain peace and quietness to avoid sleep disruption
  5. Maintain room temperature at round 65 degrees F
  6. Create pleasant aromas for sleep calmness

Optimize sleep schedule

  1. Maintain a fixed wake-time up to assist with sleeping time
  2. Allocate time to sleep to avoid overwork
  3. Avoid naps
  4. Adjust sleep schedule gradually and cultivate a good body clock

Create a good pre-bed routine

  1. Wind down 30 minutes before bedtime
  2. Dim the lights
  3. Get disconnected from electronic devices

Cultivate a good pro-sleep habit throughout the day

  1. Get the sunlight
  2. Schedule time for exercise
  3. Watch out on caffeine
  4. Minimize alcohol
  5. Minimize smoking
  6. Avoid non-sleeping activities on the bed

2. Exercise

Exercise to prevent mood swings. Exercise helps to boost your mood, gets your blood pumping, and minimize bipolar disorder. If you are feeling low or depressed, exercise helps to kick start your energy level. When you are feeling stressed, exercises can shift your attention toward something lighter. In a manic state, exercise can be a positive way to channel positive energy to your emotions. During exercise, your body releases endorphin that relieves pain and stress to create a positive feeling in the body.

Real Simple recommends 5 great exercise to prevent mood swings

  1. Yoga
  2. Pilates
  3. Cycling
  4. Weight exercise
  5. Tai Chi

3. Nutrition

There is an ancient saying: You are what you eat.

Our body uses the food we eat as the fuel for different functions. What we consume could affect our mood. That’s why eating better will help you feel better. Try to have a balanced diet enrich with all necessary nutrients and vitamins such as fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, and nuts. Avoid having food that can trigger hyperactivity that affects bipolar disorder. For more nutrition information, kindly consult your nutritionist.

Very Well Mind recommends 7 types of food to help with nutrition: –

  • Omega-3 Fatty acids food such as sardines, anchovies
  • Probiotic food such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk
  • Whole grain food such as brown rice, millet, burgur
  • Regular nutritious breakfast
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, edamame, avocado
  • Moderate caffeine
  • Food with high vitamin-D such as cheese, egg yolks

4. Meditation

Meditation helps to stabilize your mood. Stress can worsen bipolar disorder, and that’s why it is necessary to relax. Meditation is a great way to relax your mind and body and to rearrange your thoughts. It helps you to focus and minimize the stimuli that caused the stress. Meditation is well-known to have essential health benefits from ancient times. Meditation is proven to help people to control chronic pain, low back pain, post-surgery pain, and the discomfort of arthritis.

Health.com recommends 11 types of meditation: –

  • Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating an attitude of love and kindness toward yourself and others
  • Mindfulness meditation creates moment-to-moment awareness of the present moment
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy blends meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy to heal damaging thoughts and behavior patterns
  • Breath aware meditation focuses on your breath to help with mind training
  • Yoga combines physical postures with breathing techniques and meditation to create a calmness mind
  • Transcendental meditation uses sound or a personal mantra to calm your mind
  • Visualization or imagery meditation focuses on pleasant images to create positivity
  • Body scan meditation focuses on a different part of the body for better observation of thoughts, feelings, and sensations
  • Repetitive activity meditation focuses on routine chores to induce a specific mental state
  • Chanting meditation or periodic chimes uses a gong to focus the mind
  • Walking meditation through a walk with meditation to deliver physical and mental health

5. Hobbies

A great hobby helps combat stress and makes you feel calmer and gain a new perspective on what’s bothering you. Spending time on an activity that you enjoy can improve your mood, mental health, and well being. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from bipolar disorder, stress, low mood, and depression. Activities that get you out and about can make you feel happier and more relaxed.

These are some excellent examples of hobbies: –

  1. Gardening
  2. Hiking
  3. Writing
  4. Dancing
  5. Cooking
  6. Sewing

6. Take prescribed Medicine

Try to take medicines as prescribed by your health professional for bipolar disorder. Never try to change the number of doses or to skip. Also, avoid taking medication on your own without consulting your health professional. Self-medication can be very dangerous, and in some cases, it can be life-threatening.

7. Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol consumption is known to worsen the severity of Bipolar disorder. It can excite your manic episode or worsen your mood worse. Similarly, drugs can also trigger the hyperactivity of neurotransmitters in your brain. Drugs could spoil the effects of medications. If you have alcohol or drug abuse, contact your psychotherapist immediately.

8. Build a Support Network

Your family, friends, and social network can be generous support to you in your emotional hardship. They can assist and support you to better manage these stressful situations in bipolar disorder. Help from family and friends could brighten your day against depressive thoughts and emotions.

9. Support Group

Consider joining support groups as a helpful and soothing way to discuss your problems with people facing similar issues. A group of people with bipolar disorder could share their experiences and provide real-life advice to better handle those challenging situations. A support group is a proven way to establish emotional bonds among people with bipolar disorder and build self-confidence

10. Online Tools

Look for some online sites or apps to assist you in managing bipolar disorder. Many mobile apps are available to track your daily routine and schedule, monitor your mood, check your stress, sleep patterns, etc.

Other online platforms include virtual support groups, medical guidance on bipolar disorder, hobbies, etc. There is no end to the number of resources available on the internet. Be creative and adventurous to explore beyond your imagination. Look for a reliable site or app that suits your interest and hobbies as a remedy to keep your mood in check.

11. Monitor your Mood

Track your mood daily, including events that directly or indirectly influence your mood and emotions, such as your sleep, food, medications, etc. Keep a journal or use mobile apps to assist you. Mood tracking is an essential journey required by most psychotherapists to provide appropriate talk therapy or medication for your mood control against bipolar disorder.

12. Develop a Routine

Cultivate a healthy daily routine of activities and stick to it. Regular routines will better help you to manage your work and minimize stress over essential chores. Routines help to nurture a good habit against tasks and prevent mood swings. Reward yourself for sticking on the routine and every job completed. It’s a good prevent against bipolar disorder.

Co-Authored By: Shereen Sakhawat (M.sc Applied Psychology)