Self-management strategies for living with bipolar disorder

When it comes to living with bipolar disorder, it’s really important to develop self-management strategies for use in everyday life, in addition to seeking professional help. Find out more about different strategies you can use and what to do if you’re still finding your symptoms hard to control.

This can help if:

  • you want to learn about strategies to self-manage bipolar disorder

  • you want help in tracking your mood

  • you want ideas on how to get into a routine.

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Why self-help strategies for bipolar are effective

If you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it’s really important to work with a mental health professional rather than try to manage the condition on your own. However, research has shown that self-help strategies that are planned with your mental health practitioner can make a huge difference in managing your bipolar disorder.

Changes in mood can often be triggered by stress or changes in sleep. Having a daily routine and looking after yourself is important for everyone, but it’s even more important for someone living with bipolar disorder. There are a lot of different strategies you can try that may help with the day-to-day management of your mood.

"When it comes to dealing with bipolar disorder, keeping a regular routine, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and throwing in some exercise can really help keep your mood in check and boost your overall well-being. Give it a shot! 🌟" - Anonymous, 17

Self-help strategies for living with bipolar disorder

  • Monitor your mood. Keep track of your mood daily, including factors such as sleep, medication and events that may influence and contribute to mood swings. Use a chart or app to help.

  • Develop a schedule. Routine is important in keeping your mood stable. Organise a schedule and try to stick to it regardless of your mood, to help maintain stability.

  • Sleep hygiene. Disruption to sleep cycles can influence circadian rhythms and have a negative impact on mood. Read about getting into a sleep routine.

  • Limit stress. Where possible, limit stressors in your life and don’t take on too many commitments. This might mean taking one less subject for a semester or working shorter hours.

  • Take your time in making decisions. Or ask others such as a trusted family member or friend to help you make decisions if you’re feeling impulsive.

  • Build a good support network. Family and friends can help you manage your day-to-day symptoms by giving an outsider’s perspective on your mood. They can also be there when you need to talk about your more difficult moments.

  • Join a support group. It can be really reassuring to hear from people who are going through similar experiences. Support groups can offer great advice and comfort. You could also start up an anonymous conversation with other young people on the ReachOut OnlineCommunity.

  • Exercise. Regular exercise is helpful as a way to help manage mood.

  • Take time to relax. Relaxation is effective in reducing stress.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. These can make our moods worse. If you’re on medication, alcohol and drugs can be particularly dangerous. Talk to your psychiatrist or GP.

  • Take medications only as prescribed. Never make changes to medication without talking to your psychiatrist or GP.

  • Make a wellbeing plan. Keep a record of your plans for how to manage sleep and routines, how to manage bipolar highs and lows, and details of contacts if you need help. Make this plan with your mental health professional and give a copy to family and friends.

  • Make a suicide safety plan. Prepare how to manage low moods and suicidal thoughts.

Whether you or someone you know is living with bipolar disorder, these self-management strategies can be a helpful way to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder.

"Discover what self-help strategies work best for you, stay consistent with them, and know that progress takes time – be patient with yourself. You're not alone, and your journey matters." - Anonymous, 17

For more tips on how to manage your symptoms when living with bipolar disorder, check out this great resource from HelpGuide.

What can I do now?

  • Try some strategies from the Centre for Clinical Intervention’s website.