Living Well With Bipolar II Disorder: Taking Charge of Your Time, Part 2

Marcia Purse Health Guide
  • In my previous post on this subject, I talked about how making a monthly schedule has made a huge difference to my productivity and to my anxiety and depression levels. I'm not saying I don't have bad days. This last week has been tough because I haven't felt well most of the time. There were several days when I had to go back to bed in the morning or afternoon and slept for another three hours at a time.


    And yet - I did accomplish something every day, even if I didn't feel well, even if I didn't start till 4:00. Checking the schedule told me what was most important to do. I didn't have to come up with something to get done - it was already there.

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    But now for the things that are more difficult for me: finances, home and health.


    Finances means, first off, just opening the mail. Why is that so hard? Am I afraid of mail or something? It's not all that difficult! I swear, if I would just open and sort the mail every day, keeping up with financial responsibilities would be a breeze. (And since it's tax season, it's even more important to keep up!)


    Home means housecleaning, putting things away and - dare I say it? Opening the mail. Because not only do I get behind on my financial records and occasionally pay bills late (fortunately, most of them are set up to be paid automatically), but the mail is now covering the dining table, the piano bench and part of the floor. It's that bad.


    Health means just two things: improve my diet, and exercise. Both of these are seriously difficult for me - or maybe it's just too easy to say, "Ahhhh never mind" to both of them.


    I have some housework incorporated into the schedule now, but it's generally the first thing to be ignored if I'm tired, not feeling well, or blah. So... what's the answer?


    January's almost over, so I'm at the perfect point to think about expanding the schedule to incorporate financial, home and health issues.


    And here's where I need to use the mantra my psychiatrist told me: Action Before Feeling. (If I remember right, he said this is used in A.A. and in cognitive behavioral therapy.) What that means to me is: Don't spend time trying to get yourself mentally ready to do a task. Do it - and feel good about having done it afterward.


    Ever sat in a chair for half an hour or more telling yourself, "I've got to wash the dishes," or "I've got to mow the lawn" or something like that? And the more you think about it, the more paralyzed you become, or the more reasons you think of why you can't or don't want to do it? "Action before feeling" means putting a stop to that process. It means getting something done, and then enjoying the satisfaction.


    So for February, I will add some items to the schedule. "Open mail" will be there six times a week. February 1st will say "Do 5 pushups" and I'll add one to that every day or two. I need to be more specific than just "kitchen" with housework, and add more daily and weekly tasks.


    Hardest of all, I need to do something about eating better. Thanks to my meds, I'm seriously overweight. I agonize about that, but I don't do anything about it. So it is time to plan meals ahead, too.


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    Maybe this will make the difficulty clear: Today I have had one cup of coffee, two bottles of Mocha Frappucino, one bottle of iced tea, half a glass of milk and one corn muffin with a lot of butter. That's it. Ridiculous.


    So build meals into the schedule. That eliminates standing in the kitchen and wondering what sounds good and winding up grabbing another bottle of Frappucino because it's fast and easy.


    Finances, home, health: much tougher for me to handle than work. But wait a second - work used to be much more difficult than it is now. With that anxiety and pressure lessened, the next phase will be easier than it would have been if I'd tried to incorporate everything at the same time.


    If you're trying this out, I really urge you to plan for at least a week in advance, not just a day. Going day by day eventually leads to a buildup of tension every time you sit down to make your list for the next day. Once a week or once a month greatly eases that tension.


    I'll let you know how this works out for me. I hope I've given you some ideas of how to look at problem tasks - or problems with your own motivation. Action Before Feelings leaves out the whole motivation step. Start, do, finish - feel good.

Published On: January 28, 2012