Managing Bipolar Disorder: 10 Basic Self-Care Steps We Should Be Taking

Managing Bipolar Disorder: 10 Self-Care Steps We Should Be Taking | >> Click to Read!I read an article recently about how the most important thing to know during a bipolar mood swing is ‘how to manage.’ I agree. BUT, don’t you think that’s a fairly obvious observation? I mean, those of us living with this disorder are fully aware of its catastrophic nature. Aren’t we? At some point we’ve all lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. And hasn’t it been our goal since the day of diagnosis to manage it? Isn’t that always our goal?

What Does Managing Bipolar Disorder Really Mean?

To me, managing bipolar disorder essentially means practicing good self and mental health care; which in turn allows me to live a full and productive life. But that’s kind of a vague statement, isn’t it? What does practicing good self and mental health care entail?? Well, the details of our own individual treatment plans are unique to each us and are between us & our doctors, but there are basic self-care steps we should all be taking.


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Managing Bipolar Disorder

#1Find a Great Psychiatrist & Therapist, Visit Them Regularly.

By great, I mean great to you! However, there are definitely certain things you should look for in psych professionals, such as experience, trust and mutual respect. But it’s equally important to trust your gut instinct. You may enjoy reading 5 Things to Consider When Selecting a New Therapist. You need to feel comfortable being completely honest with them. If you’re not honest with your psych professionals, not only are you wasting their time, your time, and your money; but you’re putting your mental health in jeopardy. These relationships are vital. Appointments should be scheduled regularly and kept. The less we go, the less familiar they become with us and our lives. This means that the services we’re paying them to provide us with are less effective. Plus, it’s good to get an honest assessment of how we’re doing from a professional’s standpoint on a regular basis. We’re not always able to be honest with ourselves about these things. And regular visits are a requirement for medication management anyhow.

#2ALWAYS Take Your Medicine (if you take medication).

Some of us naively make the mistake of stopping our meds once we begin feeling better, without a doctor’s supervision no less! But it’s the medicine that’s making us feel better. If stopping your medication begins to sound like a good idea, call your doctor BEFORE making ANY changes and have the discussion. It’s important to feel that you can call your psychiatrist and really be heard. But also try to remember what you felt like without the medication. And side note, it’s best if medications are taken at the same time everyday. Always follow dosing instructions. >> You may also like: 3 Supplements That Fight Bipolar Depression

#3Get Enough Sleep.

Bipolar disorder is a circadian rhythm disorder, which means our circadian rhythms are already disrupted. Altering our sleep schedules further disrupts our circadian rhythms and can induce bipolar mood episodes. Sleep deprivation is one of mania’s biggest triggers. It’s best to develop a routine, going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning. >>You may also like: Bipolar Disorder & Sleep (plus free workbook!)

#4Don’t Drink Alcohol or Use Any Types of Drugs {other than those prescribed}.

Alcohol and drugs inhibit the efficacy of psych meds and may even have negative interactions with them. Additionally, alcohol and drugs can trigger mood episodes.

#5Get Some Exercise.

Exercise is a cost-effective tool for managing mental health. It releases all kinds of {free} feel-good hormones (endorphins). It’s also a great healthy coping tool. For example, it can release the excess energy that mania and anxiety produce, as well as serving as a distraction. And the benefits are lasting, as we receive a post-workout endorphin-rush.

#6Eat & Drink Regularly.

Those of us with bipolar disorder often become easily absorbed, making it easy for us to lose track of time. This can be bad for our health as we may forget to take basic self-care steps, which for us, can have extreme consequences. This disturbs our circadian rhythms. I always have snacks on me, usually a protein bar that includes a little bit of sugar.

#7Avoid Stimulants, Like Caffeine.

Stimulants further disrupt circadian rhythms and can induce insomnia. They can even trigger hypomania & mania episodes.

#8Get Educated.

The better we understand our illness, the better we will understand what mood states we’re experiencing. This helps us in a number of ways. One is that it gives us a greater sense of control in a time in which we feel we have little. It helps us to understand what’s going on within us. It also helps us to convey to our doctors what’s been going on with us in between visits.

#9Accept Your Illness.

And it is just that, an illness. We did nothing to cause it. It’s not our fault. We can’t change it. Our only option?? To accept it, own it, and to make the best of it. This means not being ashamed or apologizing for being ill, while still taking responsibility for our actions. Practicing good self-care will enable this. Accepting our illness means living the life we want to live despite our illness, without shame or apology. Who’s in??

#10Develop a Support Group & Ask for Help When You Need It

Reach out and develop a support group. Establish which friends and family members you can count on to be there for you when you need them. Also seek out local and online support groups. It’s important to connect with others who really understand what you’re going through. Bipolar can be isolating if we allow it to be. My experience has been that there are just some things that even the most supportive people don’t understand. Connecting with others who also battle this monster of an illness has been a gift. Here is a Closed Facebook Group, a SubReddit Bipolar 2 Community, and a Weekly Twitter Chat.


Track your moods!

Tracking your moods will help you determine patterns and identify possible triggers for your bipolar symptoms. Identifying your triggers provides you with the opportunities to eliminate triggers all together, minimize them, or find ways to cope with them. In turn, this may help you to avoid a mood episode or reduce its severity and duration.

Most mood tracking apps for iOS and Android provide reports in the form of charts and graphs that are ideal for taking to doctors appointments. Download your Free 2-Page PDF that includes 10 Mood Tracking Apps Ideal for Bipolar Disorder, in addition to what’s essentially this blog post in a downloadable PDF! And, Download your Free Printable Mood Tracker! (pictured below)

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 There’s obviously much more to managing bipolar disorder. But these are very important basics, and some of them lay the foundation for the state of our bipolar health. How are you managing bipolar disorder?




  1. Lisa

    You’ve hit the basics! Yes, these are all things we need to do every day intentionally. As a person with BPD who completed a doctoral degree and works full time as a college prof. I would add the following: 1) Go to therapy when you need to. Work out those issues and learn coping skills for stress and reduce the tendency to isolate. 2) Keep a daytime routine as well as a sleep routine. As much as you can organize yourself will help for those days/times when you are experiencing a depressive episode. And 3) Avoid isolating yourself. Even if you are an introvert like I am, it’s important to stay connected with people who care about you and offer you support and encouragement. It’s essential that we be ACTIVELY working on our mental well-being. Just like a diabetic who watches their sugar levels, we, too, must watch our activity level with others and ourselves. Great post!

    1. Yes, Lisa. Mental health recovery is a daily, diligent practice. Like you, I live it everyday. Psychotherapy has changed my life, I’ve gone regularly for the past 13 years. That’s the thing, I think it’s best to go regularly. Not just when we think we need it. By then we’re probably not doing so well. Especially when you consider the mentality that bipolar disorder is capable of creating.

      You make good points about staying connected and trying to keep organized… kind of staying ahead of the curve, if you will. Thank you for sharing that. I wrote a post about circadian rhythms that may interest you. I know all about the importance of routines because mine is so far off right now. It’s my first priority of the new year!

      All of these things, and more, have to be carefully considered when one lives with bipolar disorder. But this post is titled “10 Basic Self-Care Steps. . .” It’s not all-inclusive, nor was it meant to be.

      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to leave your insightful comment. Congrats on your doctoral degree and position as a college professor. Have a great year! -Krista

  2. Read your post and these comments. Love all of the tips, and with proper medication and the right medically emotional frame of mind (and by that I mean that no rapid cycling from manic to depressed or vice versa is occurring) it certainly makes life easier. As someone who is somewhat stable-ish right now, I feel for those who are struggling, and no matter what they try, until the right medications and possible therapy is received, I think that positive thought is great for the loved ones to hang on to in order to help the one battling the disease. Every little bit of advice is helps!
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    1. Sandra, I totally agree. I should probably write a disclaimer that when I write blog posts like these I’m in a, like you said – “somewhat stable-ish” state. Sometimes, no matter what you do, nothing helps. Sometimes we simply don’t have the strength to take these self-care steps. And I myself was there, ultra rapid-cycling over this past summer. You’ve inspired me. I’m thinking I should write a blog post about this. I try to maintain a message of positivity & hope, but considering the nature of our disorder, I’m not sure that’s realistic.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. You’re an inspiration to all of us & you’re making me better. I truly appreciate you.

  3. Hi Krista, I don’t have BPD so forgive my ignorance. On one hand controlling our emotions by establishing healthy non-toxic thought patterns seems to have medical validity. On the other hand the way BPD is talked about it sounds like that approach is not taken by those diagnpsed with BPD.

    I’m curious if you have read Carolyn Leaf’s books which describe how thoughts, emotions, memory and health all work together and how we can take control of them? What is different about BPD (neurogically) than a person without it? In otherwords, why can’t a person with BPD establish a healed mind in the same way a person without BPD could? A basic premise of having a healthy mind (and heart) is to not accept that we can’t take control of our thoughts. But it sounds like BPD somehow neurologically prevents that from being true. Are genetics, different or a certain region of the brain not producing a certain hormone or chemical?

    1. Hi John! I appreciate you taking an interest in bipolar disorder. Absolutey, changing our thought patterns helps greatly & doing so has changed my life. This is one reason I love psychotherapy so much! I would hope that everyone who has bipolar disorder is seeing a psychotherapist in addition to their psychiatrist. Perhaps I’ve been naive in thinking that all of this went without saying.

      The brain of a bipolar disorder patient IS different than the brain of a patient without. It’s not simple but to put it simply: there’s too much activity in the emotional centers of the brain, and too little in the frontal lobes which are supposed to be able to inhibit action. Moreover, these differences are present even when no symptoms are present.{via} Also, those of us with bipolar disorder have circadian rhythms of which are naturally out of sync.

      Obviously I need to write a blog post or two on the topic & go more in-depth. As usual, thank you so much for the inspiration! And thank you for the book suggestion, I’ll check it out. Have a great weekend!


      1. Thanks Krista, the subject is rich with benificial knowledge. The most promising piece of knowledge I think, is that our brains have the ability to change and adapt, and that we can greatly contribute to that process and direction. Though each of us will always have genetic strengths’ and weaknesses, we’ve all got gifts and dreams, which I believe God has equipped us to pursue and achieve. The fact that our brains are different today than they were yesterday, is a hopeful and promising fact that we can maximize.

        I also know that growth is a normal part of life, so messing up is how we learn. Babies fall many times before learning to work and run. Some even are destined to win the Olympics. So change is common and falls are necessary to become who we are destined to become.
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      2. YES! YES! YES! I say that all the time… I strive to better than I was yesterday! Self-growth has to be part of mental health care. Like you said, yes, I do have a lifelong mental illness. That fact is out of my control but how I choose to live with it & manage it is not out of my control. There are steps I can take everyday to make my quality of life better. Of course, with bipolar disorder there will be days that are going to suck no matter what. But I know there are things I can do to keep those days to a minimum.

        Something I’ve noticed lately is that one has to be mindful when going online to get support. Understandably, some people are hopeless & thus only share negative viewpoints. We need to hear that too. We need to hear the true nature of the disorder, because it’s definitely not positive all the time. As one can see, I’ve shared both viewpoints here on the blog. But it just worries me for the person who is in dire need of hope in that particular moment. Obviously there’s no way to ensure that every person gets exactly what they need when they hop on the internet. But that person is always in the front of my mind.

        Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble. Thanks for another insightful comment packed with inspiration! I think I’m going to take all of this & write a blog post. You’ve been so helpful… you’ve enabled me to put words to my ideas. Thank you so much! Have a great weekend!

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