Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder that affects all areas of life, including your mood, energy level, attention, and behaviors. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, many people with the diagnosis end up living full and healthy lives. Managing symptoms of the disorder typically requires a combination of doctor support, medication, and therapy. But there are many changes you can make to your day-to-day life to prevent mood episodes and to decrease their intensity and frequency.

Living with bipolar disorder successfully requires a combination of skills. Advocating for yourself, getting educated, and finding the right support network are important beginning key elements to recovery.1 Here are some action steps to help you start building and using these skills in your daily life.

Stay Connected – The more you isolate yourself, the more you increase the risk of mood changes going unnoticed and jeopardizing your health. Lack of connection to others can also put you at risk for a depressive episode. So don’t hesitate to assemble of team of professionals to provide guidance and insight. Doctors, counselors, and others can be a part of your support system, and many people find that attending a support group for people with bipolar disorder can be invaluable. Staying engaged with friends, family, and members of your community can also play an important role in keeping you energized and providing support.

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Educate Yourself – Education starts with learning the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes and getting up-to-date on research-driven treatment options for bipolar disorder. Share your questions and concerns with your doctor or psychiatrist, and ask them what resources they recommend for you to read or gather. Understanding the illness can help it feel more manageable and assist you in identifying symptoms before they get worse.

Track Symptoms – Many people with bipolar disorder find it useful to keep a daily log of their mood, thinking, and behaviors. If you are able to catch small changes in these arenas, then you may be able to stop or decrease the intensity of a mood episode before it worsens. You should can also track stressors or behaviors which may trigger a mood episode, such as lack of sleep, relationship conflict, school or work stress, substance use, or seasonal changes. The more accurately you can report these changes to yourself and your doctor, the greater chance of stabilizing your mood.

Engage Coping Skills – In addition to alerting your counselor or doctor, you can utilize coping skills to control symptoms or reduce your risk for a mood episode. Different coping techniques work for different people, but they typically involve activities that help you feel calm, stay connected to others, practice healthy habits, and engage interests. Having a list of coping skills available to you can be useful, as it might prove difficult to generate your own ideas when you feel a lack of control.

Establish a Routine – Perhaps the greatest coping skill for preventing mania or depression is the establishment of a healthy, daily routine. You should be taking medication consistently and accurately. Getting consistent and sufficient sleep every night can reduce the risk of mania.2 Getting healthy and exercising can help improve and stabilize your mood as well. Schedule regular times to dedicate to family and friends, attend all doctor’s appointments, and carve out time to relax and unwind from life’s stressors.

Develop a Crisis Plan – There are times when even the best routine and set of coping skills may fail to prevent a mood episode from escalating. It’s important, even while you’re feeling good, to go ahead and develop a crisis plan you can activate when you feel out of control. Create a written plan with a list of people that you or others can contact in emergency as well as information about your medications and warning signs and symptoms. Also, include a list hotline numbers that you can call if you experience suicidal thoughts or psychotic symptoms. Finally, leave a reminder to yourself that you can always call 911, walk into an emergency room, or ask a loved one to get you help if other measures fail.

If you’re not sure where to start, mental health professionals are trained to help you develop a treatment plan that can engage all of these actions steps. Having a concrete plan can help you feel more in control of your bipolar disorder, and over time you can tailor or alter this plan as needed. Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to be a lonely experience, so think about who you can recruit today to help you build up resilience and thrive in all arenas of life.

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Last Updated: Jul 10, 2017