Self-care is how we take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. Without self-care, it’s easy and likely to fall into bad habits that negatively affect our health. With severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, self-care is an essential aspect of all treatment plans in addition to medication. We have to pay meticulous attention to how we are taking care of ourselves in order to stave off possible relapse into manic or depressive episodes. But how does self-care work? Here are five actions you can take to practice self-care.
1 Follow a daily routine.
Keep a regular schedule of getting up, getting dressed, taking medication, exercising, eating, doing chores and going to sleep. Having a routine helps stabilize your environment, leaving you less susceptible to stress caused by change. This can help prevent future episodes.
2 Take your medication.
Taking your medication the same time every day is the best way to treat your bipolar disorder. When medication is not taken regularly, it can cause withdrawal symptoms and relapse. If your medication seems ineffective or the side effects are too much, talk to your doctor about changing it to see if you can find a better fit. If you have trouble taking your meds at the same time every day, set an alarm.
3 Practice good sleep hygiene.
Sleep deprivation can trigger episodes. In order to avoid this particular trigger, use your bed only for sleeping and sex and keep the room cool and dark at night. Avoid caffeine and screen time before bed. Having a bedtime routine also signals the brain that it’s time to call it a night. Adults should strive for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
4 Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about observation and lack of judgement. When practicing mindfulness, you observe the moment as it is, contemplating your surroundings and yourself (feelings and mood included). When you do so, you simply acknowledge what is happening without characterizing it as good or bad. This can help reduce stress.
5 Eat healthy.
Consuming foods that are high in calories or fats and/or foods that cause inflammation can worsen symptoms. These foods can also lead to metabolic syndrome, which is common in people with bipolar disorder. Eating small meals throughout the day and eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help to keep symptoms at bay.
These are only a few ways you can practice self-care on a daily basis. Stay tuned for Part II to learn about five more ways you can practice self-care.
Image credit: Gisela Giardino