My daily routine
Along with the bipolar disorder treatment you receive from your doctor, there are many things you personally can do to reduce mood swings and improve your life. A healthy lifestyle — from getting enough physical exercise to eating the right foods — can help you live fully and productively while helping to keep your bipolar disorder symptoms under control.
Here are important lifestyle wellness strategies you can incorporate into your daily routine:
Control your weight
Individuals with bipolar disorder are at risk for obesity and overweight. That's because they may gain weight during the depressive stages of bipolar disorder. They also may gain weight when using certain medications.
Weight gain increases risk for diseases such as diabetes type II, heart disease and some cancers such as breast and colon cancer. Obesity can also lead to sleep apnea. When that happens, not getting enough regular sleep can trigger a mood change. And bipolar patients who are obese may have a shorter time before a new episode occurs, when compared with non-obese patients.
Your wellness plan: Talk to your doctor about strategies to control your weight. Along with eating a healthy diet and getting enough physical activity, personal weight loss counseling may help you learn how to lose weight and keep it off.
Be physically active
Physical activity can be beneficial to individuals with bipolar disorder in several ways. Exercise helps burn calories to manage weight gain. And the "feel good" endorphins created by physical activity can increase your feelings of well being. Regular exercise also may reduce the number of bipolar episodes you experience.
Your wellness plan: Try to plan for at least 20 minutes of activity three times a week. Aerobic exercise can be effective at treating depression. Walking works for all fitness levels. Other good choices are biking, swimming and dancing.
Make the food/mood connection
Foods can affect your moods, as any "chocoholic" knows. However, choosing foods with excessive amounts of refined sugar and other carbohydrates can increase blood glucose levels and contribute to a disturbed mood. Alcohol, chocolate and caffeine can also affect mood. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables and fish rich in omega-3 fatty oils (salmon, sardines) may help stabilize your mood and are good sources of healthy nutrients.
Your wellness plan:
- Keep a food and mood diary in the kitchen. Jot down what you eat at each meal — and your mood. Try to eat mindfully.
- Eat your meals at the same approximate times each day to help stabilize your social rhythms.
- Plan for stress eating. If you anticipate a demanding day at work or school, have some healthy snacks ready, such as cut-up fruits from the produce section or yogurt with granola.
Strike a balance
Doing too much or too little may be the hallmark symptoms of bipolar episodes, but during times of wellness attempt to strike a better equilibrium. Work/school, family and friends, physical activity — these all are important components of a healthy life. In order to avoid social rhythm disruption and stress triggers, however, they need to be carefully balanced.
Your wellness plan: Plan out your week in advance, leaving time for recreation, socializing and accomplishing important tasks. When it comes to completing school work or job projects, prioritize the most urgent ones first. Once you have settled yourself to accomplishing these tasks, others will more easily follow.
There are times when a call to your doctor is necessary, even when you believe you feel well. Contact your doctor immediately if you have:
- Suicidal or violent feelings
- Changes in mood, sleep or energy
- Changes in medication side effects
- A need for over-the-counter medication (cold or pain medicine)
- An acute illness or need for surgery, extensive dental care or changes in other medicines you take
- A change in your medical situation, such as pregnancy