National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Ask the Doctor: Dr. Ellen Frank on The Role of Circadian and Sleep-wake Factors in Bipolar Disorder
Sept. 23, 2011

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Ask the Doctor: Dr. Ellen Liebenluft on Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents
April 15, 2011

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becoming an advocate

Coping Strategies

Leading a balanced lifestyle can help make living with bipolar disorder more manageable. The strategies below are suggestions from real people who have had success in managing the illness.

Become an expert

There are many excellent sources of information on bipolar disorder. Learn all you can about medications, keep up with current research and treatment options, attend local conferences and network with other people at meetings and support groups. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.

Recognize early symptoms

Learning your pattern of symptom development is key. Identifying certain stressors, times of year or other factors that trigger symptoms may help identify an emerging episode. This can prompt more aggressive intervention to prevent the worsening of symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help—they can help monitor behavior.

Engage in your treatment

The relationship with your health care provider is fundamental to the successful management of bipolar disorder. To be partners, you both must develop a trust and a strong line of communication. Provide the information your health care provider needs to help you recover, including complete and honest reports about reactions to medications, improving or worsening symptoms and anything that could trigger stress.

Develop a plan

To reduce uncertainty and stress, know what to do in a crisis. Although it might be challenging to discuss your illness, get your loved ones, friends and health care providers to help. Most communities have a crisis hotline or emergency walk-in centers, so know where they are and keep them handy.

Find support

Emotional support from others living with this disorder is an important part of recovery. It is helpful to share thoughts, fears and questions with others who have the same illness. For more on NAMI support and education programs, see the resources section. Online message boards and groups found through social sites are good resources for connecting with others, too.

Avoid alcohol and substances

Drugs and alcohol disturb an already delicate emotional balance, and can also interact dangerously with medications. Both depression and mania make these drugs appear to be attractive options to “slow down” or “perk up,” but the potential damage will block your road to recovery.

Get healthy, get rest

Maintain a well-balanced diet and engage in regular exercise. Be sure to work to keep a regular schedule with adequate sleep. These strategies help to produce positive mental and physical health benefits. Try to incorporate low-key activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi into your life to help alleviate stress and achieve balance.

Get involved

If paid employment is not an option now, volunteer work can enrich your life, teach you useful skills and help create a sense of purpose and structure. Learning a new skill or immersing yourself in a hobby, particularly a creative one, can offer constructive alone time to help balance out a busy life. Engaging in your community—from coaching youth sports to helping your parks and neighborhoods stay clean and green— are all ways you can get involved with the world around you.