7 Ways to Get the Best Bipolar Care

Taking medication is critical when you have a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder

1. Stay on Schedule. For the best bipolar care, engage in daily rituals at the same time each day or within a half-hour window, Dr. Aiken advises. This can regulate neurohormones and cut your risk for mood swings in half, he says. The four activities most critical to your body clock are: when you get out of bed, the time you start work or chores,

2. Get Regular ZZZ’s. Getting enough sleep is very important for bipolar treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Aiken says to focus on the regularity of sleep as well as the quantity you get. Research shows that waking at regular times and staying out of bed during the day are much more important than trying to fall asleep at regular times.

3. Consider Talk Therapy. Adding psychotherapy to your bipolar treatment can help. “I would never advise taking medication without also engaging in long-term psychotherapy,” says Stephanie Schroeder, a 51-year-old writer in Brooklyn, New York, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 37 after two suicide attempts. Medication clears the path for talk therapy to help uncover and then change negative thought patterns and unproductive behaviors (like repeatedly making the same bad choices) associated with bipolar, she explains.

4. Chart Your Progress. One of the best ways to get the best bipolar care is to track your symptoms on a mood chart, Aiken says. Psychiatrists appreciate the information, and patients can keep their own copy with a record of their bipolar treatment medication changes and mood history.

5. Document Your Wishes. “Another helpful idea for folks with bipolar is to make an advance directive,” Schroeder says. “This helps let people you care about and who care about you know what you are willing to do and not do if you are hospitalized against your will — things such as having your own doctor continue to treat you or declining to take medication other than your own.”

6. Build a Social Network. Go beyond the Internet. A real-life circle of supportive friends and family can help medications work better, Aiken says. “I find, and I know others do as well, that going out with friends for coffee, dinner (not alcoholic beverages though), and socializing generally elevates their mood or at least keeps them from isolating and spiraling downward,” Schroeder says.

7. Get Moving. Add exercise to your daily routine to give yourself the best bipolar care. “Regular aerobic exercise treats depression and helps protect brain cells in the mood center,” Aiken says. “Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day is enough to get this effect.”

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