When you live with bipolar disorder, change can be really stressful and anxiety-inducing. Big life changes, in particular, can be triggers for mood changes, so it’s important to be mindful of how you cope.
Routine is one of the things which helps me to stay as stable as possible, so when something disrupts that (even if it’s something exciting), it can be difficult for my mind to cope with. There are a few ways I cope with changes in my life to try to minimize the impact on my mood.
When there is a change happening, I make sure to be extra alert and self-aware of any changes in my mood. I take note of how I’m feeling, how I’m sleeping (that’s usually a good indicator of my mood), how well I’m taking care of myself, and my energy levels. That way if I notice changes that could indicate an impending mental health crisis, I can be prepared and reach out for help in advance. I also ask my husband (who knows me and my illness well by now) to keep an eye out for any changes in my mood and to let me know. Having two people on alert really helps me to notice symptoms early and to deal with them more effectively.
During times of change, I do my best to make sure that I’m practising self-care as much as possible. This includes remembering to eat well and regularly, keeping a regular sleep schedule, keeping up with personal hygiene, and exercising. These things are really important in keeping my mood stable, but can so often be overlooked when there are other things going on in my life.
Talking things through
I ensure that I talk about how I’m feeling and about any worries I’m having around the change. This way I can get things off my chest rather than bottling things up, and it tends to stop my mind from spiralling.
Doing things as gradually as possible
It’s not always possible to do things gradually, especially when the change is something unplanned. However, where it’s possible, we try to plan things in steps so I can take my time and adjust to the change as I go. When I’m prepared, I feel much better able to cope.
Taking time to relax
If I find my anxiety rising or my mind starting to spiral, I stop what I’m doing and take myself off to relax. This might involve lying down, going for a hike, listening to some music, or watching a calming video. This allows me to reset and decompress, rather than letting things escalate.
Remembering the end goal
If the change is something planned, I remind myself of the end goal and how good I’ll feel once the change is complete. This keeps me motivated and feeling positive.