Bipolar disorder affects nearly six million Americans, yet many people don’t understand exactly what it is or how it can take a toll on the body and mind. The disorder works differently depending on the person, of course; for some, manic, highly active times are accompanied by feelings of elation and accomplishment but can lead to a quick burnout when the feeling fades. Others are more prone to periods of depression in which activity is the least appealing thing they can think of. For all sufferers of the disorder, the quick jumps from these two moods can lead to low self-esteem, isolation from friends and family, and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.
One of the best ways to cope with bipolar disorder is to have a schedule for each day. Having a set schedule and a goal for every day of the week will help when sudden mood changes make you feel out of control. An easy way to accomplish this is to create an exercise regimen for yourself for at least thirty minutes a day. Start with something easy and continuous, such as walking, swimming (which has been shown to benefit many mood and mental health disorders), bike riding, or running; these workouts will help you stay focused and will give you a sense of purpose and follow-through, and because you’ve already set a pattern or schedule, you’ll be more likely to keep it up even on days when depression sets in.
During manic phases, you may feel boundless energy that gives you the sense that nothing can go wrong. This can be a good thing, but can sometimes lead to dangerous or risky behavior, such as driving under the influence, gambling with large sums of money, or engaging in illegal activity. When these periods begin to surface, it’s a good idea to put that energy to good use with something positive, like tackling a chore or project you’ve been meaning to do.
“You may want to choose things like skydiving or rock climbing, but you must have the skill level to enjoy yourself safely,” says psychologist Andrea Corn. As far as taking on a new task, she says, “The extra boost of energy will allow you to do it because you’re feeling so positive. Say, “I can do this today. I can tackle that. I know I will feel great afterward because I can see what I’ve accomplished.”
Exercise doesn’t have to involve leaving the house; some days, when depression has taken over or when the weather is bad, it’s hard to find motivation to get up and get outside. This is the perfect opportunity to work around the house–cleaning, working on a personal project, or even getting in a workout with the help of an exercise DVD. Just make sure you do it during the time you’ve allotted for exercise in order to keep your days consistent.
Watching television or other sedentary activities can be detrimental to bipolar disorder, so it’s important to make an effort to get up and focus energy on something that will keep you moving, something that will allow your mind to stay focused. Exercise is one way to do this, but you can also volunteer at a local pet shelter on the weekend, or start a book club with friends that meets on a specific day.
While some may pull away from the idea of having the same schedule every day–because it can get boring or monotonous–it’s important to keep it up in order to make it work. Knowing what comes next is an integral part of living with bipolar disorder.
Jennifer Scott knows how difficult it can be to live with anxiety and depression. She has experienced both since she was in her teens. Today, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.
Photo via Pixabay by Skeeze