Self-Help Tools for Bipolar Disorder or "How to Live with My Thoughts"

Overcoming Bad Times

Thoughts of suicide are usually temporary, but trying to deal with them on your own is dangerous. Your relapse recovery plan should include information about who to turn to if you need help, even when your normal doctors are not available. 


Steps To Surviving Depression And Thoughts Of Suicide 

  1. Let someone know - your doctor, case manager, relative, or friend. 
  2. Seek help - your doctor or therapist can help you control your emotions. In an emergency, you can call your local public mental health assessment team (sometimes called the CAT team). 
  3. Don't be alone - try to stay around people and stay active. 


Public mental health crisis assessment teams (sometimes called CAT teams) are trained mental health professionals who are linked to your local health service. In a crisis, you can call them to discuss your situation, treatment, and symptoms. If necessary, they can visit you or arrange follow-up care with your own treatment team. Ask your therapist for the phone number and have it with you at all times. 


Join Head Habitat's course on 'mood disorders' to get the tools necessary to cope


Learn how to cope with your own stress 

  • Relax yourself (e.g., go for a walk, cook, watch TV, go for a swim). 
  • Have an "active" relaxation technique and use it every day (e.g., meditation, yoga, or mindfulness-based practices). 
  • Learn some problem-solving techniques (e.g. looking at one problem at a time, brainstorming with someone you trust to find ways to solve the problem). 


Understand your warning signs 

  • Watch for changes in your body and your thinking. 
  • Use a mood journal to keep track of your mood patterns. 
  • Let your psychiatrist or psychiatrist know as soon as possible if you think something is going wrong. 
  • Avoid situations that you know will trigger mania. 
  • Make a plan on how to deal with early signs of relapse. 
  • Get your close friends and family involved. 

Take care of your body 

  • A healthy lifestyle is part of your treatment. 
  • Try to maintain healthy eating habits and exercise regularly. Your health team can advise you on this. 
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can interfere with your medications and prevent them from working properly. There are several programs available to help people quit. So ask your doctor or case manager what's available in your area. It usually takes people a lot of tries before they finally stop, so keep trying. 
  • If you consume alcohol, drink sensibly. Heavy drinking makes you more susceptible to ups and downs. It can be difficult to remember to take your medication and to take care of your physical health. 
  • Avoid illegal drugs. Using illegal drugs carries the risk of developing mania or depression and being hospitalized. Stimulants such as amphetamines (speed, ice) or ecstasy can trigger severe mania and psychosis. 
  • Don't consume too much caffeine. 
  • Have a stable sleep pattern with regular bedtime and wake-up times. 


Get the most out of your treatment 

  • If possible, try to see the same healthcare professionals. 
  • You are an expert on your own symptoms and experiences. Your doctors are trained in the science and treatment of mood disorders. Both types of knowledge are important in managing your bipolar disorder, so you need to speak openly with each other. 
  • Keep taking your meds - don't skip a dose or give up early. 
  • Attend all of your appointments. You must have health and preventive checkups to take care of your physical health. 

Get your family involved 

  • Your partner or family can be an important part of your team. They can help you stay healthy and make the best decisions when you have symptoms. 
  • Your psychiatrist should involve your partner or family in providing information and making decisions if you would like them to be involved. 

Create a relapse recovery plan 

Ask your doctor to help you make a recovery plan for a relapse. Your plan should include: 

  • early signs of mania or depression 
  • Stressful situations that could be triggering your bipolar symptoms 
  • what you can do (e.g. take extra medication, stop drinking alcohol, get enough sleep) 
  • Who to turn to first if you have symptoms 
  • when to contact your general practitioner or psychiatrist (e.g. your partner will call your psychiatrist if your symptoms persist for more than 2 days). 

Your plan should be written down and shared with your partner or family and all of your health care professionals. Your GP could coordinate this. If you have children, your plan should include who will look after them and how to organize them.


Join Head Habitat's course on 'mood disorders' to get the tools necessary to cope


Pregnancy and bipolar 

If you're pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, speak to your psychiatrist as soon as possible. It is best to seek treatment from a psychiatrist during pregnancy and after your baby is born. This is because your medications may need adjustments to keep you and your baby safe. Also, childbirth is a stressful event and can lead to bipolar symptoms in some people. 


Support groups 

Many people find that they benefit from being in contact with others who have also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Recovery is more difficult and slower when you are lonely. Support groups can help you get support and information. The kind support you get from your support group will remind you that you are not alone - other people have mental illnesses and have many of the same problems as you.



Counseling

Talking to someone is an important part of treatment.

Your case manager and psychiatrist can provide general counseling and support during and after an episode of mania or depression.


Internet and phone apps

Websites designed by experts to help people manage their bipolar disorder include:


Headhabitat.com


If you are using an online program, let your doctor or psychologist know so they can advise and assist you in keeping it up. 

Some of the mental health information on the internet is incorrect or helpful. If you're not sure or can't find what you're looking for, contact your health team.