Living With Bipolar Disorder: Six Key Coping Strategies

G.J. Gregory shares the top six coping strategies that have helped guide him through the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.

Coping Strategies for Bipolar Disorder

I'm often asked how to cope with bipolar disorder. It is a question all of us with the disorder are asked. The truth is, sometimes we cope successfully, and sometimes we do not. And I will be the first to admit that my manifestation of bipolar disorder is not the same as the next person's, and their level of functionality may be far different from mine. But the principles of coping should be the same no matter what. I have a way, silly as it is, to remember my personal coping method. I'm not a rapper, but I have rapped.

Have a Routine

Routine is a huge part of my life. When I get pulled out of my routine, I run into problems. This can make for a boring person, but it also makes for a healthy person. I try to go to bed at about the same time at night. I get up at the same time. I work out at the same time. I go to work, come home, eat, write, or do other activities, go to bed and do it again. When my body and mind know what to expect, they are so much easier to work with.

Engage in Activities

This is what makes life enjoyable to me. I don't live to work, so my activities are what I really enjoy. I love to watch my daughters play soccer or basketball, and I used to love to watch my boys play football. I love to camp, fish, and bike. I take a hunting trip with my father and brother each year. My wife and I love to visit garage sales on Saturdays in the summer. In other words, I have a lot to look forward to. I hate to miss any of them, and will do everything I can to be healthy enough to participate.

Find Your Passion

To some degree, this goes along with "Activities", but it encompasses so much more. What is it that you're really passionate about? That thing you lie in bed at night thinking about? That calling, that activity, that thing that you can't wait to tackle, that gives you that rush of excitement and satisfaction? We must have passion in our lives. Now for a caveat: I am not talking physical passion. That is a different type of passion which, while enjoyable and perhaps necessary, can be perilous to our frame of mind for so many reasons.

Live with Purpose

I strongly believe we all have a purpose in life, and I don't believe that purpose is pre-ordained. Through the hardships we face, and the decisions we make, our purpose usually becomes increasingly clear as we move through life. It also changes based on our stage in life. As young adults, our purpose may be to raise the best children we can, or be the best spouse, employee or student we can. As our lives change, so will our purpose. The important point is to keep watching for the way that we can make a difference in the world. Believe it or not, one person can change the world.

Prioritize Exercise

I can't stress enough how important an exercise program is to a healthy mind and body. We all give lip service to exercise, but the vast majority of us just don't do it. You can improve your mood, stabilize your swings, improve your memory, lengthen your life, avoid life-changing illness, boost your self-esteem - improve everything about you with a serious exercise regime. There is a book that has changed my life, and it will change your life if you let it. It's called "Younger Next Year" by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge. There is also a separate version of the book specifically for women. It's written with an over-40 audience in mind, but will motivate and change anyone's view of exercise in life. It's an indispensable book.

Embrace Your Spiritual Beliefs

We all need a spiritual side to our lives. We need to be devoted to our particular form of spirituality. I'm not about to tell you what is right, as finding it is one of our great purposes in life. And what is right for me is not necessarily right for you. But when things get bad, we need that hope, that way of reaching out and embracing our beliefs. A wonderful gentleman in one of my support groups has a very strong spiritual side. When we share our challenges, and he's had a bad week, he doesn't hesitate to tell us how his God has pulled him through the week. I admire his faith, his devotion, and the way it helps him find his way. Not everyone at the meeting shares his spiritual views, but we all respect how it guides his life.