You’ve just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; now what?
A bipolar disorder diagnosis can come with a whirlwind of emotions. You might be relieved to finally have a diagnosis. You could be uneasy about what the future will hold.
However you might be feeling, know that bipolar disorder is fairly common, and highly treatable. By taking charge of your life with bipolar disorder, you can maximize your well-being and live the life you want to lead. Here are five tips to set you on the path to wellness while living with bipolar disorder.
Take an active role in your treatment.
When it comes to your treatment plan, put yourself in the driver’s seat.
Start by becoming an expert about bipolar disorder and your treatment options. Study the symptoms so you can recognize them in yourself. Learn all you can about your treatment options so you’re able to make well-informed decisions about your own care.
Use your knowledge to collaborate with your doctor or therapist to create a treatment plan. It might be helpful to draw up an outline of your wellness goals and how you want to accomplish them.
You know your body, moods, and symptoms best. You’re the only person who can definitively say if a treatment is working for you and aligns with your wellness goals. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working for you.
Be realistic and patient as you work with your doctor to form a treatment plan. Don’t expect an immediate and complete cure. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, and it can take time to find a treatment that works for you.
Monitor your moods and symptoms.
Keep track of your moods and symptoms so you can spot oncoming mood swings before depression or mania surface.
When tracking your moods, pay close attention to patterns. Try and identify triggers that affect your moods. Triggers can include stress, problems at school or work, arguments with loved ones, a lack of sleep, or even changing seasons. Once you identify your triggers, you can work to avoid them or minimize their impact on your life.
Keeping a mood chart is one way to monitor your moods. Learn more about and download the Wellness Tracker here.
Develop your personal wellness toolbox.
If you spot signs of mania or depression, it’s important to act quickly. It’s helpful to have a wellness toolbox to draw from. A wellness toolbox is a collection of coping strategies you can rely on to maintain stability when you’re not feeling your best.
Each person’s wellness toolbox will look different, and it takes time to figure out what works best for you.
Some coping strategies that might be helpful include:
- Talking to a friend or loved one
- Getting a good night’s rest
- Calling your doctor or therapist
- Cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine
Set goals and put your strengths in perspective by downloading the Wellness Wheel.
Have a crisis plan, just in case.
Sometimes, despite their best efforts to prevent it, people living with bipolar disorder still experience debilitating periods of mania or depression. In crisis situations where your safety is at stake, a loved one or doctor might have to take charge of your care. Having a plan in place can allow you to better direct your care, even when you’re feeling out of control.
A crisis plan includes:
- A list of emergency contacts like your doctor, therapist, and close family members.
- A list of all medications you are taking, including dosage information.
- Symptoms that indicate you need others to take responsibility for your care, and information about any other health conditions you have.
- Treatment preferences, like who you want to care for you, what treatments and medications do and do not work, and who is authorized to make decisions on your behalf.
Learn more about planning for a crisis and start your own crisis plan here.
Having a robust support system is the key to maintaining wellness.
Don’t isolate yourself when you feel a period of instability come on. It’s important to let your friends and family know what is going on so they can best support you.
Build new relationships by putting yourself out there. It can feel daunting at times, but you can start small: sign up for a class, join a local club, or volunteer to make connections with others.
Lastly, consider joining a support group. By sharing your experiences and hearing from others, you can help end the stigma around bipolar disorder and cultivate an encouraging community. Learn more about in-person and online support groups for depression and bipolar disorder here.