One of the many things I say over and over again is that people living with bipolar disorder are just like everyone else. We participate in the same cultural traditions that most others do — and that means some of us make New Year’s resolutions.
In 2016 the number one New Year’s resolution was “enjoy life to the fullest” according to Time Magazine. The article didn’t list the top New Year’s resolution for people living with bipolar disorder, so I decided to list seven New Year’s resolutions for people living with mental illness (and anyone else who is interested).
Start a Mood Journal to Track Bipolar Symptoms
I used to think mood diaries/journals were silly. When the idea was first floated to me I laughed and thought, “only 12-year-old girls keep diaries.” Aside from being a bit sexist, I was also dead wrong. Journaling is something that many people do – all ages, races, and genders – for all kinds of reasons.
In my opinion, the number one reason to keep a mood journal is to literally track moods. Before keeping a journal, I would report to the doctor and/or therapist that my mood for the entire month was exactly how it was on the day of my appointment. In other words, if 29 days were happy and the day of my appointment I was depressed, I would report my symptoms for the last month as “depressed.”
Giving a doctor accurate information is a huge deal when it comes to reaching recovery.
- Take Medications Regularly, as Prescribed
Many people with bipolar disorder have issues with being “medication compliant.” Without opening up a can of worms, I’ll simply say that medications cannot work unless taken exactly as prescribed and on a regular basis.
Make Amends for Things that Occurred Because of Bipolar Symptoms
Bipolar anger, mania, and depression aren’t exactly the best traits for a person to have. While these symptoms were very hard on me, they were also hard on my friends and family. Once, during a particularly bad manic / anger episode I screamed, “I hate you” at the women I was married to.
It took me years to realize how horrible that must have been for her to experience. I should have apologized much sooner. But, better late than never.
Remember, while the things you do because of bipolar disorder may not be your fault – they aren’t anyone else’s fault, either. Take responsibility and make amends.
- Create and Keep a Routine (Including a Sleep Schedule)
There is overwhelming data to support that routines are very helpful in managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Eating at the same time, going to familiar places, and keeping the same sleep schedule are all excellent tools in achieving and maintaining wellness.
I single out sleep hygiene because most people in the US don’t respect sleep enough. Everyone should get up and go to bed at a regular time. Sleep recharges the body, relaxes the brain, and is necessary for proper functioning.
- Exercise More
Exercise has long been proven to help ease the symptoms of depression. Runners, for example, talk about the “runner’s high” quite frequently and they aren’t incorrect. Simply put, exercise makes a person feel better.
Plus, you can’t have a New Year’s resolution list without including exercise.
- Make Time to Do Things You Enjoy
Bipolar disorder is difficult to manage and a person can spend a lot of time on it. Time that, frankly, isn’t very fun. While that time is necessary, it doesn’t mean that it’s all you have to do. Every day, or at least a couple times a week, carve out some time to do something enjoyable.
Whether it’s going to a movie, going to dinner with friends, or relaxing at home with a good book or TV show, give yourself permission to have fun. You’ll find it helps with motivation to do the not-so-fun work.
Create a Vision Board That has Goals Unrelated to Bipolar Disorder
Finally, create a vision board — or just a simple list if you aren’t the creative type — that includes goals that have absolutely nothing to do with bipolar disorder. Often I talk to people living with bipolar and all of their hopes and goals surround being well and reaching recovery, and those are phenomenal goals. However, we all want to get well and stay well so that we can do something other than be sick.
Your entire life cannot be focused exclusively on bipolar disorder — regardless of it’s being sick with it or living well with it. Having goals such as buying a new car, going on vacation, or getting new furniture (as examples) can pay huge dividends in how we view the world. And how we feel about our place in it.
There needs to be a reason to move forward other than “not suffer from bipolar disorder.” When I created my vision board many years ago, I put some easy items on it like “eat at a new restaurant” and some difficult ones, like “buy a Rolex watch.”
As of today I still haven’t gotten the Rolex, but I’ve done almost everything else on the list. It was exciting for me to dream about a world past bipolar disorder and once I started achieving those goals I felt successful, motivated, and happy.
No matter what New Year’s Resolutions you make, remember to be kind to yourself and take time to compliment yourself for your successes.
Have a safe, happy, and healthy 2017!
Gabe Howard is a popular speaker, writer, and advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is an award-winning writer and the creator of the official bipolar shirt. (Get yours now!) Gabe can be reached on Facebook, via email, or via his website, www.GabeHoward.com.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community