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Self-Management Techniques for Bipolar Disorder

Self-management techniques are things you can do on your own at home to help manage bipolar symptoms, in addition to therapy and/or medication.  The following tools and activities were beneficial to our volunteers.

Exercise

Exercise can help boost your mood, it gets you out of the house and gets your blood pumping. If you are depressed, it can help kick start your energy level (an object at rest stays at rest, an object in motion stays in motion). If you are feeling anxious, it can give you something else to focus on. If you are in a manic state, it can be a positive way to channel the extra energy.

Some people exercise every day as part of their routine, while others exercise on an as needed basis as a way of coping with a particular mood. “It helps with my depression by getting me out of the house and doing something I enjoy.  It helps my hypomania by helping to burn off some of my energy.  And, in both cases, it gives my mind a break.” – Mary Alice Do

Exercising regularly doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym every day. There are types of exercise for all body types and interest levels. The most common type of exercise recommended by our volunteers was walking, usually around the neighborhood.

Some types of exercise have the added benefit of social interaction. Consider trying a new class like yoga, kickboxing, or water aerobics. “I find water aerobic exercise classes very beneficial—lifts my mood, gets me out of the house, reinforces my self-esteem because I find it very difficult to just talk myself into getting ready and actually getting there! I have been open about being bipolar (especially when I’m depressed). Several ladies’ support and encouragement have led to developing friendships with mutual sharing. I would say this is the most successful support.”   – Lee Patterson

Hobbies

Hobbies help keep your mind busy by giving you something else to focus on. They can connect you to other people with similar interests.  And they can improve your self-esteem as you get better at a new skill.

Looking for a new hobby? Here are some suggestions:

  • Activities in Nature
    • Gardening
    • Hiking
    • Biking
    • Swimming
  • Creative Hobbies
    • I need some sort of creative outlet. “- Nanieve G. Living with Bipolar 1 Disorder and PTSD
    • Painting, Drawing, Photography
    • Dancing, Singing
    • Writing, Blogging, Poetry
    • Cooking, Baking
    • Music
  • Other activities
    • Volunteering
    • Sharing your story with others, public speaking
    • Pets – “My dog also helps because I think that it's beautiful that his love for me is so innocent and pure.” - Sarah DeArmond

Sleep

Many people with bipolar benefit from a consistent sleep schedule. Consistent sleep has proven to be vital as far as maintaining stability. Too little or too much can both be a cause or an indicator of a swing in either direction.”- Marta Edmisten, living with Bipolar I

Not enough sleep is a disaster waiting to happen.” – E. Stone, mother of a son with bipolar disorder

If you have trouble staying asleep because of light or sounds, you might want to try blackout curtains, sleep masks, ear plugs, or using a fan or other white noise. 

 “When I do get the sleep that I am supposed to get, I feel like superwoman.” – Susanna Page, College Student living with Bipolar I

Nutrition

What you eat can affect your mood. Your body uses the food you eat as fuel for different functions, including the production of neurotransmitters. In general, eating better will help you feel better. But there may also be certain foods that can help specifically with mood. For more information on how nutrition affects mental health, visit these links:

Some people use nutrient therapy as part of their treatment plan for bipolar disorder. To learn more about this, watch our webinar on Advanced Nutrient Therapies. Talk to your doctor before you begin a nutrient therapy plan.

Online Tools

There are many free online tools you can use to manage different bipolar symptoms. There are apps that will help you track your mood and identify your triggers, similar to journaling. There are also online support groups or other websites where you can learn more about bipolar and hear other people’s experiences.

The following websites were recommended by our volunteers:

To learn more about online self-help tools, check out our webinar on Practical Self-Help Internet Tools.

Religion

If you are religious, you might want to get involved with a church or other religious group.  “The support I get from my friends at church is very helpful, and I find comfort in the fact that God is always with me.” – Mary Alice Do, a retired minister

To learn more about the role of religion in mental health, try these webinars:

You can also read more about these topics and other aspects of living with bipolar disorder by requesting a free PDF copy of our book, Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder.

This article was written by our Advice and Support Community, a group of about 50 volunteers who contribute their advice based on their experience living with or caring for someone with bipolar disorder.

International Bipolar Foundation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or received from the International Bipolar Foundation.