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Working With Bipolar

Clearly, many, many people who live with Bipolar also hold steady jobs. Though the tips below are likely to be helpful to most people, these will be especially helpful for people with bipolar and who also work. Understanding that stressor can trigger both manic and depressive episodes are only part of the big picture. The next piece is structuring your day to minimize the effect that such stress might have.

1. Keep track of your mood cycles at work for a couple of weeks. Notices when your high energy times and days are. Keep track of what is likely to because you stress. Once you have a detailed log that links your energy level, mood, and activities; see how you can arrange your work tasks accordingly.

2. Use this information to set specific times to take “preparation breaks” and “reset break” . This break can be short, even only two minutes. The idea is to stop, pause, breath, and read an affirmation or say a short prayer, or take a short walk or stretch etc…. to prepare yourself for the next stressful task or event… and to reset afterward. For example, lets say you have a regular meeting that you attend to and these meetings are among the most stressful task/events of your daily work routine. Just prior to the meeting, read your affirmation, or stretch and say a short 30 second prayer etc… (look into your tool bag for your reset and prepare tools). Then immediately after the meeting, do the same (relax your neck and shoulders, breath, etc).

3. Structure your work day so that you have a consistent routine. Spread out daily tasks with enough room for something unexpected to happen, with enough time to reset, and refocus on your next routine daily work task. Part of your daily routine is to write tomorrow’s To Do list before leaving your work area and the end of your work day. Prioritize the To Do List; and then re prioritize it throughout the day. This will keep you on task and from getting overwhelmed.

4. Keep your healthy lifestyle: Make room for your regular counseling; regular exercising (even if it is simple stretching); eat nutritious food; and get enough sleep. Always protect your sleep and regeneration time and make protecting that a priority.

5. Work closely with your psychiatrist and monitor your medications for both side effects and for effectiveness. Make a commitment to take your medications and to stay in constant communication so that the doses can be changed as needed.

6. If you feel a manic episode or depressive episode coming on; take one or two days off, and see your doctor. You might be able to prevent the episode. If you cannot prevent the episode, you might want to ask for additional time off. You likely have more than one options besides taking vacation or sick leave. Some employer offer short-or long term disability insurance that allows you to receive a percentage of your salary. You would want to contact your human resources department for more information. There is also a program called The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The program allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a year. For more information, call 1-800-487-9243. You can also visit the U.S. Department of labor website.

Photo by Sean MacEntee