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
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.
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.
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.