Being kind to yourself and ensuring that you are setting yourself up for success each day becomes even more important when you are living with extra challenges such as bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. Life is hard enough to navigate when you are fighting your mind, so it’s important that you are proactive in doing all that you can to support yourself.
From my own experience, these are some of the things that I have learnt can really help to get prepared for the day ahead, even when you are going through a tough time:
While having a good diet is not going to solve all of your problems by any means, ensuring that you are getting the right nutrition for your mind and body to function at their best, is a great way that you can really help to set yourself up for success. This isn’t always easy especially if you’re not in a stable state of mind, but trying your best to do this, even if only in small ways like making sure you eat one piece of fruit each day is a small victory. Asking for help to ensure that you are eating well is something that can be really beneficial if you don’t feel up to planning, shopping or cooking yourself. Something that myself and my husband do is food prep when I am feeling good, which I find really helpful because it means that I have healthy meals there ready to just heat up.
Monitoring your mood actively throughout the day allows you to see where you might need to ask for help, or when you may need to take action to keep yourself safe; being self-aware lets you take some of that power back over your disorder.
This may not always be possible when your mood is really low, but if you can, trying to exercise even if just for a few minutes each day, is really going to help to lift your mood a little bit, along with being really good for your body. It also helps you to feel more proactive, to know that you are actively doing something that is good for your health.
Having a good sleep routine
With bipolar disorder sleep is vital; lack of sleep can perpetuate symptoms, can trigger your mood to slip too low or often too high. If I don’t get enough sleep for a few nights in a row then I know I’m at risk of becoming hypomanic. I try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night, to schedule my medications and wind down for the night, to optimise the chances that I am going to sleep well.
Maintaining a routine
A routine, in general, is something that I find really valuable and is known to help keep someone with bipolar more stable. It gives that motivation because I know what I have to do that day along with a sense of security and stability because I know my routine. Even when I’m having a really hard time I’m more likely to maintain my level of functioning because I have that regular routine.
Setting a list of goals for the next day, whether in your mind or writing them down, helps to give you purpose and to know what the plan is for the coming day. It gives you something to get up for and certainly for me working from home, keeps me motivated and organised. Depending on how your mood is or how you are coping, these goals could be as small or large as you like; even things like taking a shower or getting out of bed can feel impossible when you are depressed, so setting small bite-sized goals can allow you to feel that sense of achievement as you tick them off. Remember that even if they seem like a small goal, really those are the biggest things when you’re in that state of mind: everything is an accomplishment and you should praise yourself for that.
Having a crisis plan
Having a crisis plan ready to go and even written down if you feel it’s needed, is a great way to ensure that you are setting yourself up for success; you are using all the tools possible to fight your mental illness. Being prepared for any event is a significant way to help yourself and can be very empowering.
Making sure that you do at least one self-care activity or something just for the sake of fun each day, even if only for ten minutes and you don’t really feel like it, is really beneficial. Self-care is so important and you are worthy of that comfort and of having fun.
Bipolar can be isolating for so many reasons: by actively setting a goal to speak to at least one person every day, whether that is over the phone or in person, can help to reduce that isolation. It doesn’t have to be a conversation about how you are feeling, it can just be small talk; maintaining connections is even more vital when you live with mental illness.