World Bipolar Day is here on March 30 every year, on the birthday of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, one of the most influential artists whose creativity was paralleled with his mental illness, bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder is an illness that dramatically affects your mood and results in episodes of depression and elation, which can have several effects on your health, well-being, and relationships. Although the diagnosis has been more popular in recent years, bipolar has been around for quite some time, and the illness is more common than we think.
Mood swings can go unrecognised and can be put down to having a bad day or teenage hormones, but bipolar can lead to a very disruptive life with daily functions becoming too heavy to handle, which proves itself as a mental health illness.
Self-care for bipolar disorder
With the help available via many organisations, recovery is possible for people who suffer from bipolar. The illness can be diagnosed, treated, and well managed. The support you need to recover is out there.
Here’s what else you can do alongside your treatment plan:
>Manage your own stress
Make sure you take a little self-care time and do something you find relaxing, maybe a walk, or read a book, a pamper session, or some cooking. Do this every day. If you feel you have a problem, take it one step at a time and talk about it with someone, or write it down and scribble some ideas of how you can get past it.
When the mania side of bipolar takes over, it will be hard to slow down but focussing on your breathing, doing two minutes of meditation, and just pausing will help. Maybe take a bath, pamper yourself, treat your skin, body, and hair, and relax. Going for a walk in nature will also help your mind unwind. Make sure you hydrate.
>Look for the warning signs
If you have suffered from bipolar for some time, check for the warning signs of your mood changing. Pay attention to any changes in your body and in your thinking pattern. Keep a mood diary to help you keep track of your mood patterns and if you can track them and think something is about to happen, de-stress yourself and talk. Try to keep a note of the things that triggered the last attack and look out for that happening again. Also, make a plan of how you got through it last time, so you know for next time.
>Look after yourself
A healthy lifestyle is a must for any person. Try to make sure you eat well and do regular exercise, which will keep you strong and your mind clean. If you’re a smoker, make it your next challenge to stop. This can interfere with the bipolar medication you may be on. It won’t happen first time, but maybe join a group, get some tips online and keep trying. Drink alcohol sensibly; heavy drinking can make it harder to control your ups and downs. Also, leave drugs alone, they’re doing you no favours. Make sure you have a good routine of skincare that will keep you fresh and looking good, and a stable sleep pattern with a regular bedtime and wake-up time will keep your mind focused.
>Involve your family and friends
Your partner, family and friends will all be an important part of your team, alongside your health professionals. They can help you stay well and help you make the best choices when you have symptoms, plus help keep your mind busy on other tasks when you’re feeling it creeping up. So be sure to let them in.
Living with bipolar disorder is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either. Keep a diary of your struggles when you’re depressed and manic, and tailor your self-care practices to those episodes. Showers, sleep, pamper sessions, fresh air… and indulging in things that make you happy are crucial to your well-being.
World Bipolar Day educates and promotes the spread of information on bipolar disorder through international collaborative efforts, and here at MESOA, we’re doing our bit too to raise awareness of the illness with holistic ways of how you can help yourself.