What lifestyle changes help with bipolar disorder?

Muffy Walker
Mental Health Nursing
There are several modalities that you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle to help with your bipolar symptoms. Diet, exercise, biofeedback, good sleep hygiene, social support, abstinence from alcohol and "street" drugs, faith practices, participation in hobbies and even interaction with animals can all help. 
Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health
I've had bipolar disorder mood swings since the age of 17. For many, many years I didn't know what was wrong. When I was finally diagnosed, I thought the medications would just take care of my problems! It wasn't that simple. I didn't respond well to medications, so I knew I had to come up with my own plan if I wanted to survive. I write about this plan in all of my books. 
This plan is mostly based on lifestyle changes. The secret is knowing your exact triggers and making the lifestyle changes needed to avoid the triggers. Here are some of lifestyle changes that I continue today. Oh yes, it is very hard to let a lot of stuff go, but I want to stay well.
1. Relationships: I don't have contentious, troublesome, worrisome and or negative relationships. This may not seem possible, but it is. It took many years for  me to realize that the issues of others could actually make me ill.  This means that I have loving, but limited contact with some of my famly members. That took years.
2. Mania and Men: I learned the signs of my mania and realized that wanting to drink and party at four in the afternoon is not a good sign. Nor is wanting to hang out with a lot of men.  I've stopped. I chose celibacy for a long time in order to teach myself how to live a live that isn't controlled by mania. It still gets me once in a while- I will find myself in a booth drinking a beer- that I don't even like! But overall this has worked. It can be lonely, but it's not forever.
3. Work: I deal with the fact that working more than around 25 hours a day is hard for me. I can't work in a traditional job, so I've created one I can handle. This is a hard loss. I want to work full time.
I don't want to modify my life because of an illness, but it's the ONLY way I can survive. I now have a medication that helps for about 50% of my symptoms- the rest of my stability comes from lifestyle changes!
If you have lifestyle changes you want to make, figure out what situations make you the most ill and then go from there. I always say that working on relationships is the first step.
It takes time, but lifestyle changes can help you have a very fun, stable and productive life.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Lifestyle changes are a great way to help with bipolar disorder. Here are a few adjustments you can make to reduce stress and help stabilize swings.

  • Stay active. Physical activity and exercise release chemicals in the brain that make you feel better. Your goal should be to get at least 10,000 steps a day. No excuses. If you don’t like walking, that’s okay, just as long as you’re staying active another way.
  • Eat right. Some bipolar medications cause weight gain, so eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet will help keep the pounds off. Try to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. And don’t forget to avoid those evil five food felons.
  • Sleep tight. Lack of sleep is a symptom of bipolar disorder, but you need more sleep to offset mood swings and keep stress in check. The more rest your brain and body get, the more equipped you are to control mood swings. Shoot for six to eight hours a night.
  • Don’t drink. You can’t control your mood if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They not only change your mood but alter your behavior. You may end up with more frequent and severe mood swings than you can handle.
  • Reduce stress. Try stress-reducing activities like yoga, massages, deep breathing, even acupuncture.
  • Get support. Surround yourself with people who love and support you in a positive way.

Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about other lifestyle changes you can make to control your bipolar symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.