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By reading this site, the reader acknowledges their personal responsibility in choices for mental health for themselves and their children, and agrees that the AYCNP or anyone associated with this site, bears no responsibility for one's personal decisions in choices for mental health. Anyone coming off medication should do so gradually rather than abruptly, and under a doctor's supervision. Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide should seek support.
Articles on Bipolar Disorder
Dealing with Bipolar Disorder: Self Monitoring for Relapse Prevention
Bipolar Disorder and Music
Bipolar Disorder and Antidepressants
Bipolar Disorder and Children, Sharna Olfman
Bipolar Disorder Treatment, Children and Teens
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed
Help for Bipolar Disorder - Coaching
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Mental Health America - 9 Ideas for non-pharmaceutical mental health self help
Self Help for Mental Health - 16 Keys
Books worth reading
on bipolar disorder
Meeting the Challenge of Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods: 33 Practical Ideas for Recovery, Remission and Prevention, by the AYCNP, Gabrielle Woods PhD (Editor), Dr. Laura Pipoly (Foreword)
Overcoming Coming Bipolar Disorder Using Self Help Methods was written by the AYCNP, and includes the work of four mental health professionals. It was created to provide both inspiration and practical ways to deal with symptoms of bipolar disorder. It is based on the experiences of those who have succeeded in achieving recovery and remission from Bipolar Disorder I & II, with professional research and references for each of the 33 self-help topics developed.
Wellness Recovery Action Plan , by Mary Ellen Copeland
Wellness Recovery Action Plan is authored by Mary Ellen Copeland who provides a personal guide for individuals who are coping with bipolar disorder symptoms. Copeland herself learned from experience how to overcome bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder could be addressed by following a developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and this book teaches adults and teens who are undergoing bipolar treatment how to design their own WRAP program.
Adapted to different fields of bipolar treatment and translated into many languages, Mary Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Plan will help you learn skills on how to deal with emotional and physical challenges brought on by bipolar depression symptoms.
This book also presents the reader with a list of useful strategies in bipolar treatment, including monitoring of feelings, developing a record of events that trigger attacks, and peer counseling. The books is excellent for both adults and teens with bipolar disorder. The Plan is practical in its approach, and provides a structured framework with which to overcome bipolar disorder symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder Help and Self Help from Copeland's book:
develop a support system
engage in creative activities
keep a journal
listen to relaxing music
diet and exercise
relaxation with regularity
Winning Against Relapse: A Workbook of Action Plans for Recurring Health and Emotional Problems
Every recovery holds the potential for relapse. And for many who have fought their way back to health from a physical disorder or emotional trauma, the return of old symptoms can be even more devastating than the original crisis. In this book, Mary Ellen Copeland presents a structured system that those in recovery can use to monitor their own symptoms and respond to them in a way that reduces or eliminates the possibility of relapse.
Readers will learn to identify events or situations that can cause their symptoms to recur, prepare an action plan to take if things start to break down, and lay out specifics about support, medications, and treatment facilities that can help.
Bipolar Disorder: Insights for Recovery,
by Jane Mountain, M.D.
When faced with the challenges of bipolar disorder, Jane Mountain, M.D., chose to give up her practice, cut down on her daily activities and pursue recovery. In doing so, she became interested not only in her own recovery but in helping others who have bipolar disorder. Mountain writes from the unique perspectives of a physician, a person with bipolar disorder and a family member of someone with the disorder. This work presents the distilled insight of someone working hard at recovery. Mountain shares in everyday language the insights that have helped her and others find the path of recovery. Her perspectives on bipolar disorder are medically accurate and recovery-based.
Bipolar Disorder-Insights for Recovery, received a 1st Place in the EVVY Awards of the Colorado Independent Publisher's Association.
Overcoming Mood Swings, by Jan Scott, PhD
Extreme emotional states, highs and lows that are often associated with bipolar disorder, can be intense. Mania and depression can be difficult to overcome. This is a self-help book for those who experienced mood swings, whether or not those mood swings are labeled as bipolar disorder. The methods used here are tried and tested, practical, and help you to carefully self-regulate. It can help you to break the cycle of mood swings and achieve emotional stability. Self-monitoring sheets are also included.
New Hope for People with Bipolar Disorder: Your Friendly, Authoritative Guide to the Latest in Traditional and Complementary Solutions Jan Fawcett, Bernard Golden, Nancy Rosenfeld
Why some get worse rather than better taking antidepressants and precautions. Seeing both sides of atypical antipsychotics, and other medications that affect neurotransmitters; effective lifestyle changes, coping with stigma; guide to various forms of psychotherapy.
The Bipolar Workbook: Tools for Controlling Your Mood Swings by Monica Ramirez Basco PhD
Overcoming bipolar disorder can be hard work and take commitment and a positive attitude. However, there is much that an individual can do to help himself, and self help in bipolar disorder is often ignored. This book offers practical ideas in overcoming bipolar disorder.
Bipolar In Order: Looking at Depression, Mania, Hallucination, and Delusion From The Other Side by Tom Wootton, MD; Peter Forster (Contributor), PhD Maureen Duffy (Contributor)
A counter-view from one author with bipolar disorder. Wooton has gone on to develop an apparently excellent program based on this book that he refers to as Bipolar InOrder.
Bipolar In Order is based on a very simple premise: we can learn and grow to the point that we see our condition as an advantage in our lives. Wootton takes on the goals of treatment, basic misunderstandings, and assumptions that are in the way of achieving Bipolar In Order. Living with bipolar and depressive conditions is never underestimated in Tom Wootton's books.
By examining all states of depression, mixed states, and mania unflinchingly and deeply he arrives at conclusions that challenge the current paradigm. The author insists on a higher level of Insight, Freedom, Stability, Self-mastery, and Equanimity as end goals that are achievable. Asked time and again why someone would resist treatment, Wootton states that the most important thing to offer is a life worth living! Expecting someone to park their brain in the garage like an unused Ferrari is not an appealing treatment model.
Rather than receiving the training, therapy, mind skills and behavioral control that is the foundation of real stability, current models of "avoidance therapy" try to mask and remove symptoms that will never go away. Living in fear of the wide ranging states of consciousness and mood that those with mental conditions experience is not a life worth living. Confronting these conditions head on, identifying one's strengths and learning self mastery is a more viable solution proposed by Bipolar In Order.
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, by Kay Redfield Jamison
Dr. Jamison is one of several authorities on bipolar disorder, who has also experienced the disorder firsthand. For even while she was pursuing her career in academic medicine, Jamison found herself succumbing to the same exhilarating highs and catastrophic depressions that afflicted many of her patients, as her disorder launched her into ruinous spending sprees, episodes of violence, and an attempted suicide.Jamison looks at bipolar disorder as one who has suffered with the disorder, and as a doctor.
Manic: A Memoir , by Terri Cheney
An attractive, highly successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer, Terri Cheney had been battling debilitating bipolar disorder for the better part of her life—and concealing a pharmacy’s worth of prescription drugs meant to stabilize her moods and make her "normal."
In explosive bursts of prose that mirror the devastating mania and extreme despair of her illness, Cheney describes her roller coaster existence with shocking honesty, giving brilliant voice to the previously unarticulated madness she endured. Brave, electrifying, poignant, and disturbing, Manic does not simply explain bipolar disorder—it takes us into its grasp and does not let go.
Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, by Andy Behrman
Behrman writes a tell-all memoir on his bipolar disorder, including his hypersexuality, becoming something of a poster-boy for a particular brand of bipolar disorder.
Mood Mapping: Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness, by Liz Miller, PhD
Mood mapping simply involves plotting one's feelings against one's energy levels, to determine current mood. This book then offers the necessary tools to lift a low mood, so improving mental health and wellbeing. The author developed this technique as a result of her own diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or manic depression, and of overcoming it, which led her to seek ways to improve the mental health of others. This positive book illustrates the five keys to moods, through which readers can learn to identify the physical or emotional factors that affect moods and prevent low mood triggers; the Miller Mood Map.
Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's Own Anti-Depressants, by Joel C. Robertson
Helpful book on depression, has application for some who have symptoms of bipolar disorder. Worth reading and insightful.
Back from the Brink: True Stories and Practical Help for Overcoming Depression and Bipolar Disorder Paperback
by Graeme Cowan, Allen Doederlein, Glenn Close
On July 24th, 2004, author Graeme Cowan took pen to paper and said goodbye to his family. “I just can’t be a burden any longer,” he wrote. After four failed suicide attempts, and a five-year episode of depression that his psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated, Cowan set out on a difficult journey back from the brink. Since then, he has dedicated his life to helping others struggling with depression and bipolar disorder—and that is how this book came to be.
If you have severe depression or bipolar disorder, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Featuring interviews with people from of all walks of life, Back from the Brink is filled with real stories of hope and healing, information about treatment options and medication, and tools for putting what you've learned into practice. If you are ready to put one foot in front of the other and finally set out on the path to recovery, the powerful stories in this book will inform and inspire you to make lasting change.
Drawing Together to Manage Anger,
by Marge Eaton Heegaard
Very helpful ideas in anger management. The more we get away from violence of all types, we can control anger better. Art captures the eyes in a kind way, and can help some to develop self-control, especially when combined with other positive lifestyle changes and attention to spiritual and social needs.
Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Bipolar but Were Too Freaked Out to Ask , by Hilary T. Smith
Bipolar is currently the most commonly diagnosed emotional/psychiatric condition, and diagnosis tends to come when one is in one’s late teens or early 20s. And yet almost nothing has been written about it from eye level and a young person’s perspective. This book brilliantly fills that gap.
“When I was diagnosed at age 19, my parents went to a bookstore and bought me a pile of books about bipolar. I threw them away in disgust (actually, exchanged them for books of poetry)—not because I wasn’t curious about bipolar, but because all the books treated the subject with clinical rubber gloves. They were dry, annoying, and made me feel like a disease, not a person. I wrote this book because it’s the book I should have been given when I was diagnosed.”
With chapters of advice on everything from how to get off the floor after the blow of a bipolar diagnosis to how to think about psychiatry and manage your meds to how to deal with thoughts of suicide to “hippy shit” like meditation, herbs, and other non-medical bipolar helpers to navigating the healthcare system, this is the first self-help book by a bipolar young adult to other bipolar young adults.
Bipolar Children, by Sharna Olfman
From Bipolar Children Introduction (on-site link): ---On December 13, 2006, 4-year-old Rebecca Riley died of a prescription drug overdose. At two and one-half years of age, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by a respected psychiatrist in a clinic affiliated with Tufts University, who prescribed three medications: Depakote an anti-seizure drug, Clonidine, an anti-hypertensive, and Seroquel, an antipsychotic. These three drugs were in her system at the time of her death.
Perfect Chaos: A Daughter's Journey to Survive Bipolar, a Mother's Struggle to Save Her , by Linea Johnson, Cinda Johnson
The Johnsons were a close and loving family living in the Seattle area - two parents, two incomes, two bright and accomplished daughters. They led busy lives filled with music lessons, college preparation, career demands, and laughter around the dinner table. Then the younger daughter, Linea, started experiencing crippling bouts of suicidal depression. Multiple trips to the psych ward resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and it took many trial runs of drugs and ultimately electroshock therapy to bring Linea back. But her family never gave up on her. And Linea never stopped trying to find her way back to them.
Perfect Chaos is the story of a mother and daughter's journey through mental illness towards hope. From initial worrying symptoms to long sleepless nights to cross-country flights and the slow understanding and rebuilding of trust, Perfect Chaos tells Linea and Cinda's harrowing and inspiring story, of an illness that they conquer together every day. It is the story of a daughter's courage, a mother's faith, and the love that carried them through the darkest times.
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression, and Other Disorders, by F. Richard Olenchak, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, James T. Webb, Nadia E. Webb, Edward R. Amend
Relapse Prevention in Bipolar Disorder: A Treatment Manual and Workbook for Therapist and Client (Relapse Prevention Manuals series), by Dr. John Sorensen
The Sorensen Therapy for Instability in Mood (STIM) is an important new psycho-educational and cognitive therapy for treating bipolar disorder (BPD). This STIM manual and client workbook offer a psychological therapy which has proven to be highly effective. It can be delivered in four 60-minute sessions by practitioners with little specialist training and results in significant improvements in the client's perceived control over mood.
Overcoming ADHD Without Medication,
by the AYCNP
This can help any parent whose child has attentional difficulties, depression or ADHD to help their child overcome these symptoms without drugs or medication. Simple, natural methods for parents and educators. The book also addresses issues related to bipolar disorder in children and how medication used for treating ADHD can contribute towards the development of bipolar disorder in some children.
The Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers , by Wes Burgess
Up to 30-percent of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be addressed through lifestyle changes involving diet, nutrition, exercise, quitting smoking, abstinence from alcohol,according to Los Angeles psychiatrist Dr. Wes Burgess in The Bipolar Handbook.
Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know, by John Mcmanamy
Seven years ago, John McManamy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Through his successful Web site and newsletter, he has turned his struggles into a lifelong dedication to helping others battling depression and bipolar disorder reclaim their lives. In Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder, he brilliantly blends the knowledge of leading expert authorities with the experiences of his fellow patients, as well as his own, and offers extensive information on: Diagnosing the problem. Associated illnesses and symptoms. Treatments, lifestyle, and coping. The effects of depression and bipolar disorder on relationships and sex. McManamy describes his belief that depression is a wide spectrum that reaches from occasional bouts of depression to full-fledged bipolar disorder. The first book to help patients recognize this diversity of the disorder, Living Well with Depression and Bipolar Disorder will help sufferers begin to reclaim their lives.
Self Coaching, by Joseph J. Luciani
"Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts and our interpretations of events greatly influence our moods. Therapists teach clients to listen to their negative internal dialogs and to use less depressive "self-talk." Clients may also be given "homework" in the form of relaxation exercises for anxiety or gradual acclimatization to frightening situations. The emphasis is on changing thoughts and actions, not on understanding their origins. Getting Your Life Back and Self-Coaching are both based on this approach. The latter, by clinical psychologist Luciani, advises readers to identify themselves as specific personality types (e.g., "Worrywarts," "Hedgehogs," "Perfectionists") and then gives specific instructions on how to change these thought patterns. The title by Wright and Basco, a psychiatrist/educator and a clinical psychologist/researcher, respectively, examines various psychological areas (e.g., thinking, action, biology, relationships, and spirituality) and invites readers to work on these areas in any order with valuable, morale-boosting checklists and examples." -- Library Journal -- Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Conquering Anxiety and Depression Through Exercise, by Keith Johnsgard
Exercise has proven to be of benefit in self-help for depression and other mental health disorders. Regular exercise can help stabilize bipolar disorder, and relieve symptoms of ADHD and anxiety. This book endeavors to provide clinical proof that exercise is effective in treating depression and provides numerous case studies as well as clinical studies.
Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability by Julie A Fast, by John Preston
This provides some good ideas in bipolar disorder self help. It was written by someone who was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2, along with a neurologist.
Healing Depression & Bipolar Disorder Without Drugs: Inspiring Stories of Restoring Mental Health Through Natural Therapies, by Gracelyn Guyol
Former public relations executive Guyol was determined to be free of psychiatric medication that caused dangerous side effects; that was the catalyst for this guide to the most effective natural remedies for depression and bipolar disorder.
In moving real-life stories, readers will meet people whose illnesses left them incapable of basic functioning yet they continued their search for healing, discovering alternative and mainstream healthcare providers with whom they partnered.
While no single treatment cured them, a combination of helpful supports restored their mental, emotional and physical capacities. Guyol's respectful presentation of their tenacity in the face of great obstacles is, perhaps, the main strength of this effort. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Overcoming Bipolar Disorder: A Comprehensive Workbook for Managing Your Symptoms and Achieving Your Life Goals . by Mark Bauer, Evette Ludman, Devra E. Greenwald, Amy M. Kilbourne
In Overcoming Bipolar Disorder, a prestigious team of researchers and experts on bipolar disorder presents this research-based program for helping people with bipolar disorder manage symptoms, explore triggers and coping responses, and develop a comprehensive plan for living a full life based on core values and goals.
Bipolar Disorder: Insights for Recovery, by Jane Mountain, M.D.
When faced with the challenges of bipolar disorder, Jane Mountain, M.D., chose to give up her practice, cut down on her daily activities and pursue recovery. In doing so, she became interested not only in her own recovery but in helping others who have bipolar disorder. Jane Mountain writes from the unique perspectives of a physician, a person with bipolar disorder and a family member of someone with the disorder. She writes in a personal, friendly and jargon-free manner that her readers appreciate. This book is neither a memoir nor a clinical manual. Rather, it is the distilled insight of someone working hard at recovery. Mountain shares in everyday language the insights that have helped her and others find the path of recovery.
Mountain brings hope and insight not only to the millions who have bipolar disorder, but also their families and friends. Her breakthrough perspectives on bipolar disorder are medically accurate and recovery-based.
Bipolar Disorder-Insights for Recovery, received a 1st Place in the EVVY Awards of the Colorado Independent Publisher's Association.
Living Without Depression and Manic Depression: A Workbook for Maintaining Mood Stability, by Mary Ellen Copeland
Living Without Depression and Manic Depression outlines a program that helps people achieve real breakthroughs in coping and healing. This workbook covers the following issues:
building a network of support
developing a wellness lifestyle
achieving calmness with energy
symptom prevention strategies
developing a personalized plan for mood stability
building a career that works
dealing with sleep problems
diet and vitamins
dealing with stigma
managing medication side effects
psychotherapy and counseling alternatives
learning to have fun, laughter, and pleasure
Some of Copeland's other books of note for persons with bipolar disorder or symptoms of bipolar disorder are,
The Depression Workbook: A Guide for Living with Depression and Manic Depression, Second Edition
Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women's Workbook
Wellness Recovery Action Plan & Peer Support: Personal, Group and Program Development
Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) for Addictions , by Mary Ellen Copeland
Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) For Addictions is an adaptation of the popular personal guide to developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Adults and older teens who are working on recovery from addiction issues benefit from having their own copy. Agencies can purchase these books for distribution to people in WRAP groups, people who are working with a care provider on developing their WRAP, or people who are working on their own to develop a WRAP.
This special edition of the original Wellness Recovery Action PlanTM book presents a system developed and used successfully by people with various mental health difficulties, including addictive disorders. It has helped them use self help skills more easily to monitor how they are feeling, decrease the severity and frequency of difficult feelings and behaviors, prevent relapse, and improve the quality of their lives.
Learning self help skills for dealing with physical and emotional feelings and behaviors, as well as addictions, is a simple process... but it's a much greater challenge using these self help methods during the most difficult times, when they can help the most, and incorporating them into daily life.
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Page updated: March 27, 2015
Bipolar Disorder Self-Help
50 Natural Ways to Manage and Overcome
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
This page has been edited and reviewed by psychologist R. Y. Langham, M.M.F.T., Ph.D.
If you believe that you can diminish the symptoms of bipolar disorder and recover, then you are much more likely to work hard to make changes which will result in a less intense symptoms profile, with a lifestyle conducive to good mental health. Take heart!
Many who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder have been "cured" and haven't had to resign themselves to a life of strong pharmaceutical drugs. Bipolar disorder is currently the most misdiagnosed disorder with more than an estimated 50% of BD diagnoses reportedly inaccurate.
As a result, it is important to always seek a second opinion. In addition, one medical source indicated that it is possible to experience a 30% decrease in symptoms simply by paying attention to the foods you consume and the amount of exercise you receive. Moreover, refraining from alcohol and nicotine (smoking) consumption can also improve symptoms commonly associated with bipolar disorder (Burgess). By committing to positive lifestyle changes, and acquiring an arsenal of coping skills, you may find that you are indeed "cured," that is, out of the range of a diagnosable mental health disorder. In other words, you may be able to bring your symptoms profile down approximately 30-50%,
According to a long-term study (covering two years) conducted on the success ratio of treating bipolar disorder through drug treatment and psychotherapy, 50% of bipolar disorder participants that were treated with drug and psychological therapy (best treatment) achieved remission, while the other 50% relapsed (DePaulo, 2006). It should be noted that not all participants received the best treatment, but rather treatment "as usual.” Therefore, the actual success rate is much lower than the rate recorded.
Regardless of whether you choose to use drug treatment for bipolar disorder or not, educating yourself on self-help methods can be of great value to you, as you manage and treat your condition. Full recovery and remission is possible.
Physical and Health-Related Self-Help for Bipolar Disorder
1. Exercise: Walk, Bike, Hike, Swim for Better Mental and Physical Health
Regular exercise, such as brisk walking is not only a great stress-reliever, it is also one of the best strategies for overcoming depression
. Exercising contributes to a healthy chemical balance in your brain - naturally releasing endorphins, a natural opiate, and providing you with a sense of well-being, balance, and accomplishment.
|Regular exercise, such as brisk walking, biking, working out at the gym, or any other exercise that you find pleasurable, for at least 30 minutes to an hour a day, at least four times a week, can be part of a very effective bipolar disorder self-help lifestyle plan.
Exercises such as: walking, biking, running, and/or swimming are low impact, easy on your body, and good for your mind. It can also alleviate or reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. In order to reap the benefits of exercising, you should exercise at least four times, per week.
Exercising not only pumps blood through your veins, it is also good for weight maintenance and self-esteem.
Even if you feel like you are accomplishing little in life, daily brisk walking can make you feel like you are accomplishing something. In other words, it can make you feel as if you are moving forward every day. Exercising gets an A+ in “The Psychologist’s Bag of Tricks,” and it is free (most of the time). You may have to purchase an occasional pair of sneakers and socks, but that is a small price to pay for an increase in mental health well being.
In addition, according to Duke University, walking has proven more effective at treating mild-to-moderate depression than medicine. It also has helped in the treatment of major depression
and bipolar disorder
. With bipolar disorder, walking and other forms of exercise can help regulate moods.
If it takes you 45 minute to walk to work, why not walk to and from work each day?
This will “burn off” stress, clear your mind, and ease your anxiety. It will also do wonders for your overall mood. So, Please take a walk!
Exercise for Depression, ADHD, and Bipolar Disorder
Swimming, walking, running, hiking, and/or biking can help you balance chemicals in your brain. Exercising can also lead to a positive attitude. Moreover, it can help you “burn off” tension, and balance your moods (highs and lows) that can lead to manic and depressive episodes. In some cases, exercising is effective than medications when treating depression.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Balanced Nutrition for Bipolar Disorder Recovery
Good nutrition and a healthy diet
are also important self-help measures for treating bipolar disorder symptoms
Abstinence from coffee and alcohol, along with a diet low in refined carbohydrates and sugar can contribute to better mental and physical health, along with a reduction of symptoms of bipolar disorder. Stock up on healthy fruits for desert, rather than overindulge on high-sugar foods.
Eating whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal for breakfast, with a routine that includes eating breakfast daily, not skipping meals, cutting back on unhealthy snacks and sugar, eliminating alcohol and coffee, can help to regulate the body-mind relationship. Dr. Nate Lebowitz, a cardiologist from Fort Lee NJ, states:
"It does take some work and willpower. Being very aggressive when it comes to prevention, takes an effort on every front..., stopping smoking, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and body weight, and some form of mind-body exercise (a hobby, keeping a journal, psychotherapy, massage, art, [prayer and Bible reading].) The earlier we start in life, the easier it is, but it is never too late. We need to be just as powerful [as the disease]. It takes partnership and communication between doctor and patient-rare commodities these days."
In the matter of weight loss (weight gain is sometimes strongly associated with medications for bipolar disorder), exercise, nutrition, as well as counting calories can contribute to weight loss or weight maintenance. Keeping a daily food journal that counts calories such as at www.myfitnesspal.com, or numerous other similar sites, provides a useful stop-check for weight control, as well as an online community weight loss support group. It also provides a reference point for analyzing and measuring nutrition.
3. Abstain from Alcohol
For many people with bipolar disorder, abstinence from alcohol is a necessity. Alcohol use
and mood disorders go hand in hand. Mood swings can be accentuated through alcohol use. There is a high-correlation between alcohol and substance abuse
and bipolar disorder, with a rate exceeding 60%. At times it can be difficult to untangle the strands of symptoms that may be due to substance abuse and those perceivable due to bipolar disorder.
Find acceptable substitutes for alcohol towards a partial solution leading to recovery from bipolar disorder. While a mentally healthy individual may actually benefit physically from moderate use of alcohol, for those with an addictive personality, or who have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, abstinence from alcohol is a better choice.
4. Quit Smoking
Dr. Nate Lebowitz states:
"It’s imperative to talk about smoking first. It is an incredible killer, far worse than I was even taught in my medical training. If heart disease kills on in every two men and women, then smoking accounts for approximately half of those deaths. That’s staggering!!!
Research strongly suggests that it is not a question of if, but when and how smoking will cause death or disability. After the staggering risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers linked to or caused by smoking now number in the double digits. Finally, emphysema is a terrible disease- a progressive inability to breathe as the lungs are slowly destroyed from within. Of all the quitting methods-hypnosis, drugs, acupuncture-there is one method shown to be one hundred times more effective.
A frank conversation between the patient and a trusted personal physician is by far the most successful of the smoking cessation methods. It is important that the doctor not treat you as a second-class citizen for being a smoker."
Smoking can constrict the blood vessels in the brain; this can be a contributing factor in mental health issues for some individuals.
Therapeutic Self-Help for Bipolar Disorder
5. Create and Contemplate Art
|The peace and solitude of creating artwork can help you develop self-control. It can also help stop racing thoughts, commonly associated with manic episodes.
One person suffering with mental health problems described it as like someone wringing out your brain (i.e. like wringing out a washcloth). When you have bipolar disorder, your moods fluctuate between ecstatic highs and plunging lows, either over longer periods of time or more rapidly. Your moods need to stabilize, and your mind needs to quiet down.
The constant stimulation that the mind may receive from the media (i.e. media violence, including violence on the news) needs to be turned off. Art is a natural mood stabilizer. It has an added advantage of being, generally, side-effect free. It is good therapy for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and OCD. Moreover, those with anorexia and bulimia
can benefit from creating art. It fills the void for visual stimulation, and it produces peaceful, soothing images in your mind.
In addition, sketching and drawing can strengthen your concentration, and improve your brain function. Oil painting is especially soothing, as is painting with water colors, but painting in acrylics can also accomplish the same thing.
Taking a little time every week or even daily, to create art, and develop your latent abilities can regulate your moods. Also, learning how to create portraits is especially beneficial because painting human subjects, pets, wild animals, etc. helps you develop compassion and a personal interest in others. Art also has the added advantage of contributing to self-esteem. As you develop a skill or talent, your self-esteem and self-confidence increases.
Professional art therapy
is also a viable option.
6. Read to Strengthen Your Mind
Reading strengthens your mind. It can also improve focus in a way that TV cannot. It stimulates the imagination. In fact, reading positive material can improve bipolar disorder symptoms and mood.
Reading is gentler on the mind than watching television and has therapeutic value.
Reading for the news can provide more insight into current events than simply watching the news nightly. Reading also bridges the gap between passive viewing and truly comprehending what the material is about. Furthermore, reading takes more mental effort than passively watching television; therefore, it has benefit in general mental health and for those with bipolar disorder.
Read the newspaper and news magazines for the news
The news can be depressing for many, as well as violent. It can accentuate feelings of trepidation and isolation. Reading to keep up with world events is not only gentler on the mind; it can strengthen brain activity, comprehension, reading skills, and memory. Be selective and mix reading about distressing events (never a shortage) news media with positive reading material. TV is not a necessity, but it is a 20th and 21st century luxury that you can learn to do without. For some, it can make a big difference towards good mental health.
7. Keep a Daily Diary, Journal or Blog
Keep a diary, journal, or blog. This can help you to organize your thoughts and clear you mind. Some find if helpful to write in their journal before going to bed as an aid to better sleep. Keeping a daily journal helps circumvent and control racing thoughts, a symptom identified with bipolar disorder. It can also help you find an emotional outlet, to decode events of the day, and interpret personal interactions and relationships.
Additionally, some people with bipolar disorder have used a diary to identify patterns in thoughts and behaviors, as well as identifying triggers to depression and/or mania. Identifying triggers is a first step towards gaining control and relapse prevention.
8. Write for Self Expression as a Stabilizing Therapy
Clinical studies indicate that when those with depression engage in expressive writing it forces them to identify and focus on the source of their emotional troubles, which results in a shorter recovery period; the same can be said for bipolar disorder.
Writing can be positive for those with bipolar disorder because it helps you to gain insight into your thoughts, behaviors, triggers, and emotions. It can result in stress relief and help you organize your thoughts. Writing in a journal provides opportunity for self-analysis, to capsulize your own small victories as well as your mistakes, and make positive, deliberate choices in the future.
Writing has proven to be an effective therapeutic self-help technique, and an catharsis on numerous levels for many. Dr. Liz Miller who documents her success in full recovery from bipolar disorder (medicine free for 15 years), attributes her recovery, in part, especially in the beginning stages of her self-help mission, to extensive self-directed writing therapy, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
For some, poetry
can be a healthy form of creative expression, that has cathartic, healing mental results. Reading and writing haiku poems can be especially helpful for those with bipolar disorder, as the poems are very compact in a nature, and force the mind to visualize, as well as to exercise restraint. Reading and writing haiku poems is an excellent mental self-control exercise, and helpful for bipolar disorder.
See author Sherry Reiter
, PhD's page on this site. Her book Writing Away the Demons: Coping with Depression, is one among several excellent books on the subject of writing therapy
. The book is based on Reiter's personal experience in experiencing relief through writing. Reiter is a Registered Poetry Therapist
Commit to periods of daily relaxation. Experiment until you find the relaxation technique that is right for you. You should schedule at least 20 minutes a day to wind down, and actively reflect on your life (i.e. journaling and/or prayer).
Relaxation may include:
leisurely walking (as opposed to vigorous exercise, which can also be beneficial), communing with nature, relaxing reading (in contrast to deeply purposeful reading such as studying for a school test), creating art, gardening, visiting places of interest such as art museums, botanical gardens, or zoos.
Find out what works for you and program regular wind-down periods of relaxation in your daily/weekly routine. Getting off the treadmill can be a stop-check for the mania associated with bipolar disorder.
What to Cut Back on or Avoid
10. Unplug- Movies, Video Games, Television
Unplugging the TV, as well as reducing the number of movies you watch and time spent playing video games can help symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. If we want to talk about unhealthy ways to stimulate the mind, we can start with these three things (overstimulation from movies, video games and TV). It is also important not to forget about the effects of the Internet, depending on how we use it.
TV programs with commercials are generally very fast-paced. They stimulate the mind with rapidly-paced programs w/sound byte commercial clips. News programs tend to capture the audience’s attention with reports of violence, and TV programs, in general, cater to self-indulgence and a sense of instant gratification.
ADHD is at least in part accentuated, if not caused (in some cases) by an overexposure to TV. Movies and music can affect emotions, stimulating emotional highs and lows.
Action movies can have a roller coaster effect on the mind/body connection – affecting the chemical balance of the brain by contributing to the release of adrenaline, and an increased rate of dopamine in the brain at a rate that nature did not intend. Video games can have a similar effect. Eliminating or reducing the amount of time spent watching TV programs, movies, and/or playing video games can not only help your mind recover and regain its proper balance, but also put one’s life back on track into a more-productive zone.
Furthermore, movies are can be powerful tools of emotional stimulus, but the film-aficianado is a passive participant, and, like a drug, when the movie is over, the virtual stimulus is over, potentially leaving an emotional void. Films can take the mind through emotional highs and lows.
Similarly, the Internet can become both a preoccupation and addiction, and contributes to an addictive type of personality in some. Those with compulsive or addictive personalities may do better without continuous access to the Internet.
For those who are addicted to the Internet in a damaging way, or those who become addicted to Internet pornography, it may be best to use the Internet at the local library. Using the Internet away from home may prevent the Internet addict from becoming consumed with the Internet.
There is a plethora of research on teens and the Internet, but proper parental controls
, supervision, and placing computers in a public place in the home are necessary to keep an eye on teens’ Internet usage. Children and teens need to have limits at home and at school, and also need to be educate in using the Internet in healthy ways, while avoiding the potential danger zones.
11. Media Violence Can Destabilize
Watching or virtually participating in violence for entertainment of any kind on a regular basis, in movies, video games, television, the Internet, on the news to an excess, and/or during violent sports, can affect the chemical balance in your mind, specifically your dopamine level, the neurotransmitter affected by cocaine use.
If you overindulge in violent entertainment, for those who experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, it may be contributing to the mood roller coaster ride. Media overload excites the mind, pushing it beyond limits, and mind may have a hard time turning off. This can especially be true of young children, teens and young adults.
In addition, spending time indulging in violent entertainment as a way of life, can be displaced positively by spending time with nature, creating artwork, and/or helping others. These positive ways to spend time can contribute to a better mental health profile, one that is not in constant response-mood to artificial stimuli.
12. Avoid Pornography and its Effects
Avoid pornography and break free from pornography addiction
. Pornography can contribute to depression and mania, the two hallmarks of bipolar disorder. While some psychologists have condoned pornography as a healthy outlet for sexual desires, it has been noted that addiction to pornography can be as strong as that or illegal drugs, which can ultimately lead to depression.
Additionally, for some, pornography addiction and other forms of over-indulgence in sex, or hypersexuality, may be a contributing factor for symptoms of bipolar disorder, or part of a vicious cycle that leads to mood swings, erratic behavior or even self-loathing. Pornography can destabilize and isolate those who become addicted. Pornography has become infinitely more accessible to adolescents through the Internet.
See: Pornography - Is It harmful?
Love is one of the greatest single factor in maintaining good mental health; pornography has been described as being "anti-love." Pornography teaches you to satisfy sexual desires at the expense of others. It also depicts and teaches an unbalanced view of sex – with others as mere sex-objects. This way of thinking can harm real-life relationships. Learning to avoid pornography and finding positive outlets to occupy free time can be of value in overcoming the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Music and Bipolar Disorder
13. Healthy Choices in Music Lead to Greater Stability
Music is a powerful force on our emotions and mood. It can lift our mood, excite our mind, and propel us to action. It can also inspire us or depress us. Listening to music directly affects the dopamine levels in our brains. Cocaine provides a “high” by means of dramatically increasing the dopamine level in the brain. Listening to music can’t give you the same kind of “high” that a drug like cocaine can, however it can affect the emotional and physical components in our brain chemistries.
Music is used for therapy for those with bipolar disorder on a professional level. It can also be used as a self-help therapy.
Two things need to be considered when listening to music as a way to promote peace and tranquility.
1. The amount of time we spend listening to music, and
2. The type and intensity of the music we listen to
Because bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, and music affects moods, if we are struggling with a mood imbalance, too high or too low, to the point that psychiatric intervention is needed, we need to carefully consider the amount of time we spend listening to music. For some teens, one hour to 12 hours a day listening to music is not uncommon.
Listening to too much popular music is linked to a higher rate of clinical depression in teenagers. This may be the case for some adults, as well. In addition, taking anti-depressants can lead to manic-like symptoms for some, and can even be a contributing factor towards an eventual bipolar diagnosis, especially if core issues are not addressed during the interim.
For those with bipolar disorder, or with symptoms of bipolar disorder, music should be enjoyed moderately, in measured doses. Avoid overindulging in music. Even classical music can have a profound affect on your moods.
It was more difficult to overindulge in music during prior centuries. In fact, David Byrne (of the Talking Heads) notes that music has never been as accessible as it now. In the past you had to play an instrument, listen to a family member play, or attend an event to listen to music. Today, music is available literally 24-hours a day in various formats. The mind simply was not meant to assimilate so much mood-affecting information, with, what is often, highly emotional music playing in our brains on such a continuous basis. Moderation and self-regulation are necessary.
The type of music we regularly listen to also is an important element to consider. Music can be joyful or angry, happy or hateful. It does affect both our emotions and our ways of thinking. Choose music that is positive; be careful not to over-stimulate your brain with too much high-intensity music. Perhaps tone down the type of music you listen to one of a less-intense level. Listen to different genres of music, some with a more-relaxed pace. Give your mind long intervals to rest—days of silence, rather than constant stimulation.
Healthy choices in music is one of the keys to greater stability, and a greater balance in moods can be achieved for many with bipolar disorder by giving attention to this modifiable aspect of life. While this is especially true for children and teenagers, it is also true for many adults.
In another slant on music, learning to play a musical instrument strengthens your mind, and helps you to build self-esteem. It fills vacant or passive hours with a positive activity. Playing a musical instrument may be linked to positive emotional-social well-being.
Mental Health America
Social Strategies for Bipolar Disorder Self-Help
14. Don’t Isolate Yourself - Maintain Positive Personal Relationships
, a mental health activist group, encourages 10 basic principles for managing life’s pressures and for preventive medicine, listed here:
- Connect with others
- Relax your mind
- Get enough rest
- Help others
- Know your limits
- Keep a journal
- Watch your negative self-talk
- Get involved in spiritual activities
- Write down three good things that happen to you each day for a week
On the topic of connecting with others, a Mental Health America information flyer states:
"You don’t have to cope with stress or other issues on your own. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, support group or counselor can make you feel better. Spending time with positive, loving people you care about and trust can ease stress and improve your mood.”
One famous rocker once poetically noted, "Don’t stand alone, you might turn to stone." We need others. We need association, encouragement, rub shoulders with, and bounce ideas off of. We need companionship. Developing positive friendships is beneficial for our mental health and well-being. Don’t be an isolationist.
Improve your mental health by cultivating and maintaining positive relationships with others, spending time with family, developing friendships, and doing things for other people. |
15. Strive for a Peaceful Family Life
Maintaining a peaceful and stable family life is also important for good mental health.
Giving and forgiving are two key elements in maintaining healthy family relationships. Family therapy is helpful adjunctive therapy for those who have one member suffering with a mental health disorder. For bipolar disorder, studies indicate that family therapy contributes to a more-rapid recovery rate than any other form of psychotherapy.
16. Consider Your Choice in Work
Your choice in work can make a difference in your mental health. If your job is purposeless, repetitive, and/or isolating, it can contribute to negative thought patterns that may spawn or contribute to mental health issues.
For some, work that involves using your hands (i.e. designing, illustrating, creating art or building houses can be of value. The mental and visual challenge of creating something is fulfilling, and may function as an outlet for creativity that is conducive to positive, stable, and balanced thought patterns.
If diagnosed with a mental health disorder, do everything in your power to continue working, to remain in the workforce. Keeping productive, and remaining self-sufficient helps fill life with a sense of purpose and self-esteem. Part-time or volunteer work may be a good option.
17. Anger Management
In John McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web, he elaborates on the point of anger and how it can be a part of the bipolar disorder symptom profile, and along with that thought, the need to take steps to manage and control anger
"People prone to anger tend to experience events as more stressful than others…adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the system, priming the body for flight or fight, appropriate for caveman daily living… but not for most situations we find ourselves in. Anger is an adaptive response to threat, arousing powerful aggressive feelings and behaviors…the excess adrenaline and cortisol set off a cascade of destructive cellular reactions that result in the brain being unable to cope."
Anger management is an element of bipolar disorder recovery. While anger is not part of the core symptoms of bipolar disorder in the DSM-IV or DSM-V, the closely related symptom of "irritability" is; what is more, most psychiatrists and psychologists link anger to a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Anger can range from mild irritability to rage.
To help control anger, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance recommends learning to recognize triggers to anger; plan for these situations so that you can better control your reaction; if necessary and to the extent reasonably possible, avoid situations that lead to anger. Additionally, it encourages, "identifying specific [positive and balancing] things you say to yourself, [as well as] physical relaxation [i.e. deep breathing or prayer], or actions you can take to interrupt the anger [like going outside and walking, giving yourself a ‘time-out’].”
For more on anger management
, see the page:
Anger Management Online - Tips, Strategies, Therapy and Techniques
(on-site) as well as the eBook, Meeting the Challenge of Bipolar Disorder: Self Help Strategies that Work!
by the AYCNP.
18. Develop Balanced Self-Esteem
A first person account considering bipolar disorder describes the potential link between low self-esteem and bipolar disorder, and the value of maintaining a balanced view of oneself.
Michael, who works full-time in law enforcement, deals with bipolar disorder, which he describes in terms primarily of depression, as well as insecurity, and a lack of self confidence. He states, "I have learned not to be too hard on myself. I have learned to be aware of my mood changes, warning signs and respond appropriately before I cause further damage."
He indicates that he benefited from a self-esteem course that he describes as life-changing. "Bipolar doesn't have to be the end of life as you know it. The self-esteem course was one of the biggest changes in my life." (2010).
In the context of bipolar disorder, it is easy to see that going to extremes in self-esteem can be part of the symptom profile of a bipolar diagnosis. The key is to be tolerant of our own (and others) weaknesses and imperfections, and at the same time maintain a balanced view of ourselves, without hyperinflating our egos. Balance is the key. Being tolerant of our weaknesses and imperfections doesn't mean we need to be complacent, we can continually strive for bettering ourselves, but it means we don't whip ourselves for our perceived failures in the meantime.
By leading an active rather than passive lifestyle, engaging in productive activities whether it be taking a college course and attaining a degree, developing a new skill such as art or music, learning a new language, becoming a public speaker, losing weight, or creating a successful blog, bettering ourselves, becoming successful in some sphere of life, and developing our skills contributes to healthy self-esteem.
Balanced self-esteem is stabilizing and helps us to avoid self-flagellating ourselves; it is balancing and takes the some of the edge off the emotional highs and lows of what is interpreted as bipolar disorder.
19. Be Honest
Honesty contributes to better mental health. Lying solves one problem only to create two or three others. Learn to be honest rather than lie as a way of life. Being honest contributes to self-esteem.
A pattern of lying to one’s parent, mate, boss, workmates, friends, leaves a trail of deceit that often comes to the surface, hurting personal relationships. Lying can make you feel like you are living life on the run, that no one understands you, and can isolate you in your own little world. Lies are like spilling oil on the kitchen floor, they may be hard to see, but easy to slip on—it creates a mental battle to remember our lies or deceit, necessitating other lies to maintain the original lie.
Lying is ultimately destabilizing. Honesty, by contrast, leads to better relationships, and in addition to greater self-respect, honesty leads to others respecting you as well.
Practical Strategies for Overcoming Bipolar Disorder
20. Develop Balance, an Essential Element of Recovery from Bipolar Disorder
Try to find balance between work, spirituality, family life, and recreation. It is important to understand that as much as you would like to do everything - you can’t! We all have limits, and we have to learn to live within those parameters. Being reasonable with ourselves can help us avoid the extremes of mania.
21. Prioritize and Do Not Take On Too Much
It is common to take on too many responsibilities, leaving you scrambling for time and frantically endeavoring to keep up with unrealistic commitments. Sometimes this can be a way of attempting to overcompensate for previous or current perceived failings.
Keep a balanced, slow, but steady pace rather than trying to do everything idea, albeit good, that comes into your mind. An African proverb states: “Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
Prioritize your tasks and obligations, dropping those that contribute to too much stress or that are less essential.
22. Financial Stability and Debts
Owing money that you cannot or will not pay back can be destabilizing and also demoralizing. For some mounting or seemingly insurmountable debt contributes to depression and even suicide. Debt can also lead to unrealistic or impractical ways to dig oneself out of debt, perhaps in a frantic or manic pursuit. In getting a handle on debt, balance and responsibility, slow and deliberate, rather than frantic pursuit, is more practical and productive.
Try to get a handle on your finances in a balanced and rational manner. Seek out practical assistance if possible. Getting out of debt is easier said than done, but steps in that direction promotes stability. Getting rid of credit cards can help be one positive step towards controlling unregulated overspending binges, which can be typical for some people with bipolar disorder.
Endeavor to keep a steady work schedule, and daily/weekly routine. Being employed in itself is stabilizing, and structure is an important stabilizing element for anyone struggling with bipolar disorder.
Be deliberate in your choices and decisions for employment. Write down your ideas, and go over them with someone that you respect before taking action, if you are in need of employment, or feel it is necessary to seek different employment.
In addition, hiring a life-coach may be a good investment for those who can afford it. A life coach provides practical assistance in many aspects of life and can help keep you on track as you work towards goals. Additionally, a coach that specializes in bipolar disorder (not as easy to find as ADHD coaches), can provide needed stabilizing and practical support.
24. Focus on the Practical and Avoid Fads & Miracle Cures
Avoid fads, extremes, and miracle cures when pursuing help in overcoming bipolar disorder. Although placing your faith in an unproven “cure” may temporarily inspire hope, the let-down when fringe medical theories do not offer the long-term results you expected can actually perpetuate the cycle of mania and depression. Try to stay away from unproven fringe medical solutions and focus on practical, realistic steps towards recovery. Numerous small steps may prove to be more productive than one gigantic leap, or pursuing unrealistic cures.
Realize that recovery seldom comes overnight, and that it can take months or even years to partially or fully recover from bipolar disorder, even with medical and other support. Learn from any setbacks, and keep your arrow pointed in a positive, forwards moving direction; be willing to make adjustments, and take note of every step towards recovery
Work towards structure and organize your life. Keep a schedule and appointment book, (whether it be physical or electronic), and maintain a regular daily schedule. Eat and sleep at regular times. Maintain a structured sleep routine—a simple, but essential aspect of recovery from bipolar disorder.
Keep a clean, orderly home, room, and car. Better organization will help you achieve greater stability and a feeling of being in control. Again, a life coach
or bipolar disorder coach can help you to develop better organization skills, and coaches tend to be less costly than a psychologist or therapist. A life coach may prove to be a valuable part of your support team.
If you have trouble locating a suitable bipolar disorder coach, a certified ADHD can help with matters of organization and is professionally trained to offer assistance in this area.
26. Maintain Cleanliness & Personal Hygiene
Keep your person, belongings and home or apartment clean. Practice good personal hygiene. Cleanliness and good order are essential elements for a balanced and orderly mind. The adage, Cleanliness is next to godliness has an element of truth in it.
Admittedly, keeping all of our personal belongings in order can be a constant challenge, however cleanliness and order is stabilizing, it contributes to self-respect and self-esteem. Cleanliness, orderliness, and personal hygiene also will help you get a better night's sleep, which further contributes to greater stability.
Schedule a regular time period each week to clean your home and car, if you own one. Enlist the help of your family.
If you need further help—ask for it! If you still need help, search out support from a coach—a bipolar disorder coach, a life coach, or an ADHD coach (ADHD coaches are usually professionally trained in helping clients organize). Keep your home, car, and personal belongings clean and orderly, and strive to always be organized. An uncluttered environment contributes to an uncluttered mind.
Spiritual Strategies for Those with Bipolar Disorder
27. Be Involved with Positive Spiritual Activities
According to Greg Murray, author of “Self-Management Strategies Used by 'High Functioning' Individuals with Bipolar Disorder: From Research to Clinical Practice” and Life and Social Sciences professor at the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia et al., "reflective and meditative practices, [which includes] journaling, inspirational reading, exploring spirituality, and praying are one of the keys to bipolar disorder recovery."
Find times to regularly pray; talk to God; develop your spirituality and inner person. Associating with a community or congregation in spiritual pursuits can reduce feelings of isolation.
Mental Health America, a non-profit organization focused on education and activism in the arena of mental health states:
Studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, such as greater coping skills, less anxiety, and a lower risk of depression. Spirituality may also provide a sense of hope, meaning and purpose in life, a way to understand suffering and illness, and a connection with others.
For those with bipolar disorder, a balanced practice and viewpoint towards spirituality is essential. There can be a tendency to go to extremes in spiritual pursuits for some with bipolar disorder, which can be destabilizing. Some may give undue significance to ordinary daily life-events to the point of mind-disabling superstition, and this also can be a cognitive obstacle to overcome.
Spirituality is one cog in a multi-faceted wheel. While giving consideration to spiritual needs, be careful not to neglect other important aspects of your life. Strive to maintain balance.
28. Read the Psalms for Periods of Emotional and Spiritual Refreshment
Read the Bible Psalms for inner peace; reading the Psalms can be both calming and anchoring. The Psalms were originally songs, most of which were written by King David. The emotions that David evokes in the Psalms he wrote are wide-ranging and easy to identify with. One reader comments that she experiences soothing relief when she has been in periods of turmoil in her life by reading the Psalms. If reading is difficult, listening to audio versions of the Psalms, or reading while listening to a recorded transcript can be of even more benefit.
A routine of reading spiritually and emotionally enriching, positive material, such as Psalms (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sacred scriptures-the Zabur) or the Gospels (Christian, Islam refers to as the Injil) , can contribute to emotional stability and be meditative, relaxing, and offer periods of emotional and spiritual refreshment. Moreover, it can provide strength and perspective needed to overcome some of life’s trials, taking our viewpoint to a higher level, and contributing towards satisfying our spiritual needs.
For those in the giving professions, teachers, nurses, mental health professionals, ministers, social workers, etc., it is essential to fill up the cup as it empties. Constantly giving emotionally, spiritually, or in some other way, without refilling the tank, can lead to burnout and/or instability. Taking time to fill our emotional/spiritual cup helps us maintain balance and have something to give to others.
29. Spiritual Choices - Be Rational Rather than Overly Emotional
Consider your spiritual choices, and don’t venture into or gravitate towards spiritual extremes. It is important to note that participating in faith-based services that emphasize “emotionalism” over “rationalism” can be destabilizing for some.
Additionally, no matter what spiritual path you are on or choose, try to tone down the emotionalism and keep yourself balanced. Spirituality is one aspect of life that contributes to happiness and fulfillment, but it needs to be balanced out with practical areas of life as well.
From another angle, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals need to be careful not to interpret legitimate spiritual experiences as "psychotic." While psychiatry has historically taken an atheistic view of mental health, or at the very least, one that is completely separated from any religious belief system, one man's psychosis is another's legitimate spiritual experience.
Shaman and visionaries from all cultures, including Judeo-Christian, are revered in diversified religious communities, but their experiences might be considered psychotic or schizophrenic when considered from the angle of modern psychiatry. However, not all religious or paranormal experiences can be written off to mind-games. The views of individuals who interpret metaphysical experiences from within the context of an established belief system cannot simply be written off by mental health professionals as "psychotic."
At the same time, both family and mental health professionals need to encourage a balance in the spirituality of those who may be demonstrating symptoms related to bipolar disorder. These professionals may also need to encourage the individuals in question to avoid extremes, and to untangle reality from religious experiences that may not have a basis in reality. It is an area of life that can be adjusted, sometimes gradually, so that it becomes a non-issue. Adjusting towards greater balance in approaching spiritual matters is something that can be achieved through cognitive behavioral therapy as self-help, or while working with a professional.
30. Avoid Extremes in the Supernatural, Spiritualism & the Occult
For some people with bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety, avoiding the supernatural, spiritualism and the occult can be destabilizing. This can especially be the case when it comes to children
, pre-teens, teens and young adults.
Reality and fantasy combine in the world of the supernatural, and some may find it difficult to disentangle to two, which can be the case for those who are not well-grounded spiritually, including most teenagers.
31. Mental Health and Spirituality: You Have Value
Life is not all or nothing. There are varying degrees of good and bad. Most people have at least some good festering inside of them. This “goodness” can grow and influence others positively. One of the lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy is learning to overcome all of nothing thinking.
From a spiritual or religious perspective, focusing on the merciful qualities of God, rather than the judgmental aspects, helps us to be balanced. Never give up trying. Realize that God views us mercifully; this can help us develop a balanced view of our successes and failures. Considering God in terms of the apostolic verse, “God is love” contributes to a positive attitude and positive view of ourselves.
Positively working on our weaknesses is more productive than any tendency towards self-destruction or self-loathing. If we suffer with emotions of self-loathing, try to identify the source of those feelings, and do what we can to address them.
Knowing that there is a higher purpose in life helps us keep going even when we feel like giving up. Your life matters! From a spiritual or religious perspective, God can help anyone overcome suicidal thoughts,
and to keep moving forward if we look to God in terms of love and mercy.
Develop a Healthy, Positive Attitude & Lifestyle
32. Give of Yourself to Others
Giving of yourself, your time and energy, to others helps you find purpose in and happiness. Finding ways to those in need or less fortunate helps us to keep our own problems in perspective. The joy of giving contributes to more stable mental health.
For those in the giving professions, or for those who are inclined to be givers by nature, balance is needed. Constantly giving to our family, our students, or patients, requires that we schedule some downtime, to sharpen the sword and recharge the batteries. Burnout is high in the giving professions, which can lead to depression or bipolar disorder. In giving to others, then, be balanced.
33. Keep an Active Mind
Read, develop your interests, learn a new language, participate in mentally challenging activities. Just as exercise strengthens the body, exercising the mind strengthens the mind. Strengthening the mind can be a buttress mental health difficulties.
By contrast, a lifestyle of passive activities—watching TV and movies as a lifestyles, tend to weaken the mind and leave us prey to media manipulation, that is our emotions can be affected by what the media chooses to focus on.
Reading takes more mental effort than watching television, it strengthens the mind rather than weakening it. Selecting choose reading material that is positive and that leaves you refreshed rather than depressed or confused.
34. Maintain High Morals
Promiscuity can be destabilizing. Developing good morals contributes to a more balanced and stable life. Hypersexuality is correlational with bipolar disorder. Getting control of ourselves sexually and learning to be sexually responsible is one positive in bipolar disorder recovery.
Morality involves other aspects of life in addition to sexuality. A clean conscience is stabilizing. Maintain high morals in all aspects of life for greater stability.
35. Less Car, More Feet – “Car-less”
Walk to work (instead of driving). Recent studies indicate that those, who walk, rather than drive places (i.e. shopping, work, a friend’s home, etc.), tend to be healthier. In addition walkers (and bicyclers) have a reduced risk of obesity, which can have all around health benefits. Going “car-less” can also reduce financial strain (no car payments, car insurance, gas, or unexpected/unplanned tickets). It simplifies life.
Riding public transportation when necessary reduces isolation, it forces contact, rubbing shoulders, with others on a constant basis. You laugh with the mother in the opposite side of the train with her playful child, you give up your seat for a senior citizen, you listen in on teenager’s talking about school, etc. It spices up life and puts you in contact with those with whom you might not ever have contact.
Can you move to an area where you don’t need to use a car? Admittedly, for those who live in rural areas, a car is something of a necessity, however, for a large percentage of us, doing without a car, or commuting by foot, bike, or combining foot or bike with public transportation is a viable option. Might this lifestyle contribute to a simpler lifestyle?
Walking (and biking) burns off stress, while driving a car in traffic often contributes to stress, frustration (and sometimes road rage). One of the lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy is learning to overcome all of nothing thinking. One of the lessons of cognitive behavioral therapy is learning to overcome all of nothing thinking.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as Self-Help
------------------– Positively Adjust Thinking and Attitude
36. Adjust Negative Self-talk to Positive
Negative self-talk can be damaging, even destructive.
We can literally talk ourselves into giving up, to a depressed mood, or to perpetual non-action. Change “I’m no good” to, “I’m not perfect, but I know there is still some good in me”. Change “I’m a failure” to “I have some successes and some failures, but am working towards more success”. Talk yourself out of a bad mood, give yourself a pep talk, turn negative self-talk to positive.
If you listen to music, listen to positive music, rather than music with a negative message, or music artists who indulge in speaking negatively of others or even themselves.
The television news, as well as the Internet pseudo-news chatter, tends to focus on the sensational, negative, often taking a negative slant on events. A heavy rainfall provides a needed refreshment to aquifers—positive slant; a heavy rainfall floods a two block section of an inner city—negative slant (true situation from Newark, NJ and a popular news story).
If you like to keep up with the news, be selective, don’t lead the news negatively affect your mood. There are a lot of positive stories out there, and focusing on more positive news stories can help us maintain a positive viewpoint.
Choose friends and associates who speak positively. Like maggots, negativity breeds more negativity, but positivity is also catchy. Opt-in for positive self-talk.
37. Look Forward Not Backwards
In terms of physics, time is a scalar rather than a vector, it only moves forward rather than backward or sideways. Who would not want to change something in the past? Unfortunately, it isn’t possible, be we can learn from the past and work towards a better future.
If we have serious problems from the past that are behind mental health issues, it might be important to talk about these serious problems, including any type of abuse we may have experienced, with a counselor, teacher, mate, pastor or minister, who can help you work through your problems. Often times, talking about these things with a sympathetic, non-judgmental listener can be painful, at the same time, when the pain subsides it
contributes to emotional healing.
Despite any negative experiences we have had in the past, you can rise above, you can be successful. The past does not determine your future. Once we come to terms this fact, we no longer have to focus on the rear-view mirror.
Go forward, realize that nearly everyone has something from the past that they may regret. You can be successful, by unraveling the past and looking to the future! The value of looking into your personal history is only good to the extent that it helps you adjust for the future.
Look forward, rather than backwards.
Pursue realistic goals, and realize that life is not all or nothing. Be honest, build hope, and most of all, be patient with yourself. Success comes with setbacks, but is built in hundreds of small steps rather than one giant leap.
38. Pursue Realistic Goals
You may not become the next president, astronaut, NBA or NFL star—for most of us, unrealistic goals, but you can attain to realistic goals that provide a sense of purpose in life. Realistic goals help us to focus our energies purposefully which can pull us out of a depressed mood. Because one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder is increased, manic, goal directed behavior, when setting goals, these goals need to be rational, and well-planned, rather than spontaneous. Write out your goals, develop a plan, discuss these with your family, your mate. Deliberately consider financial, time, and people factors.
For those who have bipolar disorder, structure is of importance. Owning your own business, for many with bipolar disorder, might not be the best option. There is so much opportunity for reckless spending and increased debt with your own business.
Goals need not be grand, they can be as simple as graduating high school; getting an B+ in Biology, completing a college course or certificate program, losing five pounds, becoming a semi-proficient artist-hobbyist, self-publishing a book of your own poetry, saving enough money to visit a foreign country of interest, learning the basics of a new language, becoming largely fluent in a language we already have a good foundation in.
Realistic goals will contribute to a forward moving attitude and can help pull us out of depression. Recognize that by going two steps forward and one and one-half steps back, you still succeeded in going one-half step forward. Don’t dwell on setbacks, but adjust to accommodate unexpected obstacles, to modify your goals, or to go forward with more success.
39. Be Hopeful
Don't give up, persevere, think long-term rather than short term. Be happy with every small step in the right direction. Even if progress seems slow, realize that things can and will get better in time. Associate with positive, supportive people.
HelpGuide.org in its Bipolar Disorder Self-Help page encourages those with bipolar disorder to maintain hope, stating, "With good symptom management, it is possible to experience long periods of wellness. Believing that you can cope with your mood disorder is both accurate and essential to recovery."
Additionally HelpGuide.org realistically states, "Although you may go through some painful times and it may be difficult to believe things will get better, it is important not to give up hope."
40. Be Patient
Rome wasn't built in a day, and bipolar disorder will not be conquered in a day. Those looking for a "quick fix," are often at their wits end, and want it fixed now. These individuals tend to seek medications,
which, at one time, promised something of a “miracle cure,” but in all truthfulness, there are no “quick fixes” for bipolar disorder.
It takes hard work, effort, determination, and patience to make significant gains, but it can be done. If you work hard, and build up a good support system, over time you can significantly reduce your bipolar disorder symptom profile
to the point of remission. But, it takes patience.
Don't be discouraged by setbacks, and keep going forward. Long-term goals can be reached with small, incremental steps.
Support and Professional Therapies for Bipolar Disorder
41. Build a Support Base
Build a support base of helpful friends, family, and professionals. A support base with positive and supportive friends, people you can go to when you need to talk, can be a brother, sister, cousin, father, or mother, other relatives or close friends, psychologists, social worker, or coach, a minister or pastor, etc.
Some find support through support groups through mental health organizations that meet regularly; others find support through online support groups, providing a greater level of anonymity and freedom of expressing what one might not be able to in a live group.
Support on numerous levels will help you stay on track. Let your friends and family provide you with feedback as to your mental state, if you are headed towards relapse, and that encourage you to put on the brakes if you are going too fast in life.
42. Avail Yourself of Bipolar Disorder and Life Coaching
Coaching is an excellent option for people with mental health issues. It is less expensive than therapy, and it can work in conjunction with therapy. Hire a life coach, a bipolar disorder coach, or even an ADHD coach, for certain aspects of life.
A coach that is specifically trained in the area of bipolar disorder can help on many levels. A carefully selected after-school tutor may be of value to children and teens who may be suffering with a mood disorder, as part of a support team. A coach should be a part of the first line of defense for teens, if possible.
43. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is Effective for Bipolar Disorder
has proven as effective as psychotropic medications in the short-term and long-term mental health treatment. It helps clients to change their way of thinking to one that is more positive and productive, and to develop strategies to incrementally challenge your false beliefs about yourself. It can provide clients with nonjudgmental support.
Behavioral therapy can help those with mental health difficulties to make changes in their behavior, towards a more-positive and productive lifestyle and way of thinking. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
, therefore is an effective way of dealing with a variety of mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.
Cognitive behavioral therapy as a form of self-help is of value, and numerous books by clinical psychologists and other mental health authorities provide a useful format for implementing self-help skills particular to cognitive behavioral therapy in your life.
44. Neurofeedback and BioFeedback are Effective Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Neurofeedback has been used effectively in the treatment of ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and other mental health disorders. Utilize neurofeedback with a licensed practicioner. It helps you develop powers of self-control and concentration. It strengthens your mind, contributing to recovery. Neurofeedback gives you needed support from professionals, and for some it can part of a recovery program for bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders. The major downside neuro- and biofeedback is that it is costly. Refer to your insurance carrier to see if it is covered.
Neurofeedback is recognized as an effective professional therapy in the mental health community. If neurofeedback is used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy, and/or lifestyle changes, it can be an effective technique for first line defense in bipolar disorder treatment and self-help.
The use of neurofeedback in mental health treatment demonstrates that mental health disorder treatments do not need to be reliant on pharmaceutical/psychotropic drugs, although pharmaceutical/psychotropic treatments have become the status-quo, which may be largely attributed to their convenience and profitability.
45. Communication Honestly and Openly with Therapists and Others
Be open and honest about your concerns and issues (present and/or past). Talk to a trusted confidant (i.e. a minister, friend, or professional). Not everyone needs to discuss the past, and not everyone needs years of psychotherapy, but some have found mental stability after talking about past abuse or other issues from childhood. Others have found stability discussing present fears and concerns openly with a non-judgmental counselor.
Talk therapy or Interpersonal Therapy can be both therapeutic and stabilizing because it may be the only time that someone who tends to hide themselves from others, is honest and open.
46. "Wean Off" Medications With the Support of a Cooperative Treatment Team
For most people with a mental health disorder like bipolar disorder, gradually "weaning off" psychotropic medications, rather than stopping abruptly is safer and more effective. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with, and who will work with you, if your medication is an issue, which it often is.
Some have found that after implementing a self-help program in conjunction with professional therapy, they have been able to drastically reduce the amount of psychiatric medication they take. Others have been successful in coming off psychiatric drugs, but never abruptly.
Research has shown that adding an anti-depressant to mood stabilizers is not effective, nor does it improve your bipolar disorder symptoms. The common practice of prescribing multiple prescriptions to depression and bipolar disorder patients (two to six different medications
at a time), has not been proven to be effective in clinical studies. It is a practice that is both controversial in the medical community, and can lead to potential long-term complications.
The use of multiple prescriptions also raises both the intensity and number of side-effects, in addition to the dangers that are always present in the use of psychotropic medications, which increase exponentially with the addition of each new medication.
It is important to note that some doctors prescribe significantly more i prescription drugs
than other doctors. Therefore, if you have a choice in which doctor you will choose for yourself or your children, you can carefully screen a potential "p-doctor" to make sure he or she is not a "pill-pusher," and has a balanced view of prescription medications.
The marketing and sales efforts of pharmaceutical companies influences doctors’ choices when recommending treatment, so you need to be cognizant that your doctor may be biased towards certain medications because of effective marketing rather than pure medical science.
47. Art Therapy is an Effective, Natural, Mainstream Therapy for Bipolar Disorder
Utilize Art Therapy
, a professional therapy
that provides support from a qualified licensed therapist. It offers a creative outlet to express your feelings in a professional, safe setting. Art therapy can help you develop your interest in art as well.
It is a positive, viable professional treatment option, a part of mainstream board certified psychology therapy, rather than alternative, and can be used as an adjunctive, or primary, therapy for many with bipolar disorder. Art therapy can be healing to the emotions, resulting in greater stability and less dependence on psychiatric drugs.
Other Strategies for Success in Bipolar Disorder Recovery and Remission
48. Watch for Relapses
Self-Monitor Yourself. Use writing therapy and mood mapping to determine what triggers relapses. Catch yourself before you experience a full-blown manic episode, or before moods spiral towards clinical depression.
Be in tune to any signs of "burnout," especially if that has been an issue in the past, and make needed adjustments if you feel burnout returning. Keep a daily diary, and you will be able to determine what preceded the relapse and make the needed adjustments in the future.
49. Don’t be Quick to Embrace the Label
Psychiatric labeling is not universally embraced by the professional medical and psychological community, and it is acknowledged with varying degrees of commitment by professionals. Realize that psychiatry is not an exact science. Of all medical genres, psychiatry relies on subjective analysis rather than objective science.
Bipolar disorder is misdiagnosed in more than 50% of those diagnosed with the disorder, according to one professional study, which means that more than 50% of patients diagnosed by doctors with bipolar disorder did not actually meet the criteria of the disorder as described in the psychiatric “bible”, the DSM-IV, now DSM-V.
Additionally, embracing the label associated with any type of mental illness, may make it difficult to find the strength to fight your way out of that quicksand. Resignation takes away your self-will and determination. No one "is" cancer. No one "is" bipolar, as if your condition defines who you are. You need to work hard at your mental health (regaining your mental balance).
It takes time, but you can recover from bipolar disorder symptoms and realize that your symptoms do not define who you are. You can recover, bring bipolar disorder into remission, and can do so by develop coping strategies, and creating a new lifestyles, so that your bipolar symptoms no longer manifest themselves as intensely as they may have in the past. Your mind can heal itself, and you can take practical steps along that road.
Marc Zimmerman, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Rhode Island University, reaffirms the assertion of misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder in his study, "Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed
50. Persevere - Don’t Give Up!
There are not “fast cures” or “miracle drugs” for bipolar disorder. No drug is a panacea for bipolar disorder. It takes time, perseverance, commitment, patience, and hard work, and often times the help of others to overcome bipolar disorder
or any mental health disorder.
If you are suicidal
, talking to someone you trust
can be helpful, and professional counsel is often a necessity. Moreover, prayer, exercise, and communication can help you regain your strength and motivation. Talking to a minister, a friend, teacher, and/or professional can help you keep going during a crisis. Most of all, don’t isolate yourself, keep reasonably busy in positive and productive activity.
References for Self Help for Bipolar Disorder
1. Bipolar Support and Self-Help. Living and Coping with Bipolar Disorder. (2015, February). HelpGuide.org
2. Burgess, W. (2006). The Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers
. London: Penguin.
3. DePaulo, Raymond, J. (February 01, 2006). Bipolar Disorder Treatment
: An Evidence-Based Reality Check. American Journal of Psychiatry 2006;163
4. Michael. (2010). A course in self-esteem changed my life. About.com.
5. Miller, L. (2009, November 11). How mood mapping helped me beat bipolar disorder
. CNN Health
6. Miller, L. (2011). Mood Mapping: Plot Your Way to Emotional Health and Happiness
. London: Pan Macmillan.
7. Murray,G., Suto, M., Hole, R., Hale, S., Amari, E., Michalak, E. E.(2010). Self-Management Strategies Used by ‘High Functioning’ Individuals with Bipolar Disorder
: From Research to Clinical Practice. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. Wiley Interscience
8. Neeleman J, Oldehinkel A.J., Ormel J. (2003, September). Positive life change and remission of non-psychotic mental illness
. A competing outcomes approach. Department of Social Psychiatry, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands. Journal of Abnormal Psychology
. Vol 109, Iss 2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12943935
9. Self Help in Mental Health
: 10 Healthy Ideas to Manage Life's Pressures. Mental Health America
10. Taking Back Control. Gaining autonomy with my medication
(GAM): My Self management Guide. (2002) Regroupement des ressources alternatives en santé mentale du Québec
. Retrieved January 12, 2013. http://www.rrasmq.com/gam_guide.php#eng
11. Whootton, T. (2014, September 30). The Worst Myth of Mental Illness - The myth that we can't change is the worst of all. Psychology Today Blogs. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bipolar-advantage/201409/the-worst-myth-mental-illness
How to Overcome Bipolar Disorder
Through Self-Help Methods.
MoodSwings: An Online Self Help Program for Bipolar Disorder
MoodSwings is currently conducting a clinical study on the effectiveness of their online program.
STRESS: COPING WITH EVERYDAY PROBLEMS
. (2012). Mental Health America.
Young Mania Rating Scale
. MEASURE. http://drjeremybarowsky.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/JB_Assessment-Tools_Bipolar-Disorder_07_17_13.pdf
Young Mania Rating Scale
. Psychology Tools. http://psychology-tools.com/young-mania-rating-scale. From: R Young, et al. A Rating Scale for Mania: Reliability, Validity and Sensitivity. 133: Br J Psychiatry 429-435. 1978.
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