Bipolar Disorder: Benefits And Difficulties Of Routines

Besides medication, there are several ways an individual can help ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder. One of those is by establishing and maintaining a regular routine. There are a lot of benefits to routines and schedules.  However, it can be difficult for some of us to stick with it. Why is this the case and is there anything that can help?

What Is a Routine? How Is It Different Than a Schedule? 

Even though many people think routines and schedules are synonymous, they are actually a little different. A routine is doing the same things each day in a specific order. For example, we open our eyes, get out of bed and stand up. Routines are usually daily rituals or procedures and include small details like brushing your teeth, getting in the shower and taking your medication.

A schedule is like a routine, but has more to do with timing and generally focuses more on the “big things” like school, work, appointments, etc. Schedules can be daily, weekly or monthly.

In this article, we will be focusing on daily routines.

Routines Can Reduce Bipolar Mood Cycling

The benefits of routines are so great that it can result in reduced cycle changes, according to a study led by clinical psychologist Ellen Frank, PhD. Reported by the American Psychological Association, the study included 175 adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The participants used behavioral therapy to help improve stability in daily routines. The study showed that regular routines helped prevent new depression and manic cycles longer than those who just took medication.

Routines Can Help Stabilize the World

In my world, bipolar disorder causes a roller coaster of emotions, bouncing thoughts, an overload of ideas and strained relationships. During a depressive cycle, I see things in shades of gray with the bleakness of a stormy sky. When I swoop up into mania, I swim freely in vibrant colors, dance to joyful melodies that only I can hear and my brain literally feels like a ball of crackling electricity.

Bipolar disorder can be chaotic, not just for me, but those who have chosen to stay in my life. I know that a routine can help make something seem stable when I’m bouncing from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Difficulties Maintaining Routines

Coming up with a routine is no problem for me. Being a natural planner and goal-setter, I have calendars, lists and special apps on my phone. My issues are creating a realistic and flexible one as well as sticking to it my daily life. Even though I do struggle with maintaining a routine, it has gotten easier over the years with the following tips.

Avoid Making Routines and Schedules in a Manic Cycle

Part of the issue is the timing of when I create these routines. I usually have these grand plans when I am manic. That is when I start thinking of all the things I want to get done during the day. Besides hygiene, sleep and work, I add working out, starting college, doing this and trying that. I also want to do it all in a 24-hour time span. There is nothing wrong with adding things to a daily routine, but individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder can go overboard when they are in a manic cycle.

Ask for Help

I lean on my husband for nearly everything. This includes him helping me keep a daily routine. We have different work schedules, so it can be hard, but he does the best he can. He will call or text me when it is time to wake up, he put a timer on my phone to remind me when to take my medication, and he brings home meals for me in between work shifts. He also gently suggests when I need to go to bed. As those with bipolar disorder know, that can be a struggle during a manic phase.

Don’t Try to Keep Up with Everyone Else

Another issue is that I seem to do so much less than those who don’t have bipolar disorder. Everyone else seems to keep their house clean, make meals every night, work, go to school and volunteer at every school activity. Plus, they do it with a smile and seem to have no stress or anxiety. I always compare myself to those people and wonder why it’s so hard for me to get even one-third of that stuff done. Sometimes I can’t even get myself in the shower.

I have learned over the years that the most important things in a daily routine for those with bipolar disorder are sleep, regular meals and taking medication as prescribed.

Do you have any tips to share about routines for those with bipolar disorder?

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Read more of Taylor’s posts here.

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