I have bipolar and here are some tips I have learnt.

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for quite a few years now (memories too bad to tell you exactly how long, ha!) and although I wouldn't say I have it under total control I have learnt a number of things that help me to manage it better. Of course I am still learning, but I wanted to share my most helpful tips today and hopefully you will find them useful too.

1. Get to know your triggers 
This is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to learning to manage your symptoms better. Make a note of things that 'set' off an episode, and look for patterns of certain things that come up often. You will gradually have a list of triggers. Some of mine include being physically ill (even something simple like a cold), lack of sleep, the new year, getting a disappointing uni grade, and getting up really early. Some of your triggers you can avoid, other unavoidable ones (like a certain season etc...) you can pre-empt and be more prepared for. It's also useful to let your family and friends now what your triggers are too so that they can support you better. 

2. find helpful coping strategies
Following on from finding what your triggers are it is equally as important to find what works for you when it comes to coping strategies. That way you can pre-empt a trigger with your tried and tested coping methods and avoid or at least reduce your episode so it is easier to deal with. Again, different things work for different people but some of mine include taking a few days out to destress, using my self care tips (see my posts here), be around family, spend time with my pets, take a walk somewhere nice, watching my favourite films, get plenty of sleep, if necessary double up my meds (check with your doctor first). 

3. Recognise negative coping strategies and avoid them
 It's also useful to recognise your negative coping mechanisms and avoid them. For instance when I have a depressive episode I will isolate myself, which in the long term does not help and makes my symptoms worse. Likewise I am also prone to having spending sprees online to try and cheer myself up, smoking and unhealthy binge eating which again can end up adding to the episode. It could be useful to make a list of things to avoid and alternative things you could do instead, as when you are in that mindset it is a lot more difficult. Even simple things like avoiding watching sad films, or not reading the news makes a difference!

4. Talk to someone
This piece of advice is thrown around often, and is a lot easier said than done. When you are in an episode you either feel like you can't say or you don't recognise it. I often tell myself it will pass and I can get through it on my own, of course then it gets worse and I realise I can't. I find it really difficult to communicate about my moods and have found a good way to get around this is to use a mood scale. There are two examples below. Save it to your phone and send it to a friend or family member. You can check in with them by simply giving them the number or colour of how you are feeling without having to say anything else. This makes asking for help or alerting someone that you are struggling a lot easier. 

5. Don't forget to take your meds!
This is important, if you are medicated don't miss a dose and don't just stop taking them- even if you feel like it's a good idea, talk to a doctor first. If I miss one dose I can't sleep and don't feel good. If it helps get a daily pill sorter or mark in a diary or calendar when you have taken them. Bad memory bipolar badasses unite!

Managing your bipolar involves a lot of lists! I hope these tips are helpful and if you have any of your own please let me know.

Useful link:
The Advantages of Therapy*

*sponsored link

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