Nearly 3% of Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, with symptoms that can take a toll on virtually every aspect of their lives. Once referred to as manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is characterized by significant changes in mood ranging from extreme “highs” to deep “lows.”
Medication and talk therapy can be very effective in managing bipolar disorder and its symptoms, but there are lifestyle changes that can help, too. As a leading psychiatrist in West Palm Beach, Florida, Martine Senatus, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC, offers these tips to help patients at VIP Integrative Healthcare manage their symptoms more effectively.
Although many people mistakenly believe mania to be a period of high productivity, the opposite tends to be true. Bipolar disorder can make it difficult to stay focused and organize your thoughts. Having a daily schedule — especially one where you can cross off items once completed — is a great way to manage your time and reduce stress, too. Include regular times for getting up and going to bed, and prioritize other tasks you need to accomplish during the day.
Organizing time is important, and so is organizing your home. Keep clutter to a minimum and set a regular cleaning routine, including daily and weekly tasks recorded on your daily schedule. This way, you can almost “automate” cleaning and organization to help you feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed.
Keeping a “mood” journal is a great way to keep track of your mood changes so that we can identify potential triggers. It’s also a good place to write down concerns or questions you want to review with your therapist during your next visit.
Exercise isn’t just for physical health — it promotes better mental health. In fact, regular exercise can go a long way toward reducing stress, a common trigger for people with bipolar disorder. By releasing “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, regular exercise also helps keep depression at bay while stabilizing your mood overall. Ideally, aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise each day.
We all know how cranky or unhappy we can feel when we don’t get a good night’s sleep, and it’s certainly no different for someone with bipolar disorder. Setting — and sticking with — a regular sleep schedule plays an important role in regulating mood and preventing the extreme “mood swings” that can wreak havoc on your life. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine website offers many helpful tips to help you get the best sleep possible.
Your body and brain require good nutrition to stay healthy. If you have bipolar disorder, a good diet is especially important. Avoid processed foods and sugars, and fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Skip or limit alcohol and caffeine, as well.
Having a network of people you can count on can be an invaluable resource to many people with bipolar disorder. This includes family, friends, and healthcare providers. Consider joining a support group to connect with people going through similar experiences to stay encouraged and on track with your treatment.
As noted, most people with bipolar disorder respond well to medication and talk therapy. The key here is consistency: It’s important to take your medicines as prescribed and attend all your therapy sessions. In addition to touching base with your provider, your therapy sessions help you learn important skills while enabling your provider to adjust your medication, so it remains as effective as possible.
If you have bipolar disorder, we can help you take control of your life and set the stage for a healthy future. To learn more, call 561-264-4924 or book an appointment online at VIP Integrative Healthcare today.