8 Bipolar Recovery Skills We All Need to Know

John McManamy | April 14, 2015

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Medication is but one small element in the total recovery equation. Over the long-term, your well-being is going to depend on a wide range of practices and strategies you decide to implement. Many of these will be unique to you. But at least eight are universal.Let us begin …

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Know Thyself

Said Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” All the accumulated wisdom on the planet means nothing without self-knowledge.

Take time out to pause and reflect. This is the first step to taking charge of our illness, and our lives.

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Mindfulness is the practice of the mind watching the mind. In essence, we are dispassionately observing our thoughts and emotions and energy levels as they ebb and flow. If we catch a shift in any of them at an early stage, we may be able to head off trouble at the pass.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as stopping to smell the roses.

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Avoiding and Managing Stress

The brain in crisis or overload is setting us up for a mood episode. Using mindfulness, we can often avoid stress before it eventuates, or manage the stress we can’t avoid. This is where a whole range of personal coping skills comes into play - from learning to substitute erroneous thoughts with rational ones to developing better interpersonal skills, to finding ways to gain control over your life to learning how to relax.

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Good Sleep is Crucial

If you struggle with your sleep, you are certain to be struggling with your illness. Stick to a daily routine and a regular sleep schedule, and practice good sleep hygiene.

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You Are What You Eat

There is no one right diet, but there are millions of wrong ones. The excessive sugars and saturated fats in our food set us up for everything from sharp mood and energy swings to mental sluggishness, jitters, and low self-esteem to medical complications galore.

Avoid fad diets that set you up to fail. Losing weight tends to be self-defeating. Focus instead on feeling fit and healthy. You will be far more pleased with the result.

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Numerous studies have linked exercise to elevated mood. This includes aerobics, walking, and yoga. Simple advice: Make your exercise fun. Find something you like to do (such as walking) and fit it in to your daily routine. Plus find activities you enjoy doing with others (such as dance lessons).

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This includes being connected with who you are, with other people, and with something greater than yourself (be it God, your own intuition, or a sense of higher purpose).

Numerous studies link reaching out and generosity of spirit with greater happiness. The very opposite, withdrawing into ourselves, militates against recovery.

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You are a lot tougher than you think. Take credit for the strength and courage you have already displayed in the teeth of one of the worst illnesses on earth. Even the best of us enter states of hopelessness. But even in our worst states, we have a small element of control, and that is cause for hope.

NEXT: 5 Rules for Bipolar Relationships