I am no expert on mental illness, I only speak through experiences of my own and those brave enough to share their stories with me.
It isn't a big secret to people who live with bipolar that managing a career, or any relationship, is a big challenge. Dealing with the ups and downs can seem like a job in itself, and when you combine that with working a full-time job, you will notice that managing your manic and depressive episodes can be exhausting. So, how do you make it all work? That is the million-dollar question. However, the answer isn't straightforward.
There are several ways to manage your mood swings and the impact that they have on your well being. A good balance of therapy and medication is a start, but it takes more than that to be successful.
As I have stated in other posts several times, you have to work with the meds so they work with you. This means that there are a lot of different things you need to do for yourself in order for the medication to show its full potential. There are a few things you can do to help yourself function more efficiently and feel more in control during the working hours of your life.
A Few Tips
Here are some tips on working with your meds so they work with you. These tips will add a bit of extra control over your life, making it easier to maintain healthy relationships in and out of the workplace.
- Maintain a regular sleeping schedule.
- Have a clean work/home environment.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Find a few regular activities to help you unwind.
Below, I share some more information on each of these tips.
1. Maintain a Regular Sleeping Schedule
To start off, we want to talk about sleeping patterns. It should go without saying that your sleeping schedule has an impact on your daily progression. However, what a lot of people fail to acknowledge is that a proper sleeping schedule will help your mood. When you have a regular sleeping schedule, and you follow through with it, you feel more rested and in control over yourself.
To perform at their best, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Ensuring that you set some time to the side to sleep properly, you are also guaranteeing more control over your mood throughout the day.
A healthy sleeping schedule will leave you feeling refreshed, renewed, and invigorated. The way our bodies and spirits feel will have an effect on our moods. A poorly balanced sleep schedule will inevitably result in unmanageable moods.
Consecutive nights of poor sleep will keep you off-kilter and leave you feeling drained and depressed. It can also trigger more aggressive manic states that you will feel like you are out of control of. So, set aside some time to rest properly. It will pay off in the end.
2. Have a Clean Environment
Next, let's talk about your environment. Clutter and mess can make you feel down and depressed. It is easy to let everything go to hell when you are feeling your lows.
Waiting till you're in a manic high to clean isn't a reliable way to maintain that positive feeling you will get when everything is organized. That is why it is important to make sure you maintain your environment. Keeping things clean, tidy, and organized will offer a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
The trick is finding the motivation and energy to do so. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get going on cleaning chores. You have to really force yourself some days.
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3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
It has been shown in some research studies that a healthy diet will help lower anxiety and depression. Also, it allows you some extra control over your overall health. Making sure you get the nutrients your body needs will give you a grasp over your mood swings.
Simply put, a bunch of junk food will leave you feeling bogged down, sluggish, and out of shape. These feelings impact our mood greatly. If you feel like crap, chances are, you will act like a jerk. Whether you are being a moody mess towards other people, or yourself, your diet is partially to blame.
Make sure you eat your fruits, veggies, and proteins appropriately. Greasy foods aren't always the best meal to have when you are wanting to gain more control over your mental health.
4. Participate in Regular Activities
This is one of the harder tips to follow through with. Sitting around when you are in moods, even the moods where you need to be left alone, isn't healthy. When we isolate ourselves, we aren't curing our issues, we are feeding that voice in our head that keeps us down. It is important to make sure you have a way to unwind after a long week, day, or even just a hard event to deal with.
Take me, for example: I am a proud nerd. I spend my Wednesdays and Saturdays playing Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. It is a great outlet for me to escape the troubles of reality in a healthy way, socialize, and release aggression that has built up.
How you should apply this is subjective to who you are. You need to have an activity that works for you. Find a hobby, join a Facebook group, connect with like-minded people over your interests. This is the start of building a relationship with yourself.
This is the ideal way to unwind and find answers within yourself. Put on some calming music or background noise or sit in silence and reflect. Clear your mind of worries and stress, and just get in touch with yourself. It is great self-therapy. An hour of meditation a day is proven to improve the moods of those who live with mental illnesses greatly.
This all boils down to one major point: self-care. You need to make sure you are taking care of yourself in the right ways, that way, you don't get controlled by your emotions. But, how do these tips relate to working with bipolar?
Should You Tell Your Job About Your Mental Illness?
When you apply these tips to your everyday life, you are embracing the chance at a better version of yourself. Doing this will open the door to more control than you have had over your life in a long time. Your self-care will greatly impact how you handle work-related stress, tasks, and responsibilities. Your mood will improve, and with medication, therapy, and the self-care that is suggested, your work performance will improve.
However, many with mental illness struggle with one major question when it comes to working, “Should I tell my boss about my mental illness?” Honestly, it is a personal choice on whether you tell or not. On one hand, informing your employer may bring awareness and understanding, on the other, you could be subject to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Your medical history, mental and physical health, is your business.
If you feel that disclosing your mental disorder with your boss is the right thing to do, set up a proper meeting with them outside of the busier work hours. Make sure you come prepared with information and facts. Don't overwhelm them, but be prepared to answer questions and address concerns that they may have.
Not choosing to disclose this information has its ups and downs as well. If you keep it to yourself, and you have a bad episode, then you are subject to termination without understanding. I am not saying that disclosing this information will prevent you from getting fired, but it may help give you a chance on bad days to not undergo a termination. You can, however, avoid the stigma and try to muster through the job without episodes or being controlled by your emotions.
Personally, my boss knows I am bipolar. He is understanding, accommodating, and willing to work with me. This won't be the case for everyone, I just have a cool boss. So, tread these waters with caution, and educate yourself before you disclose any information that may be detrimental to your job.
What Kind of Job Is Best?
If you are looking into going back to work or are starting out in the workforce, you are probably curious as to what job would be best for you.
I will state this now: Avoid any job that has hectic, spontaneous, and unsteady schedules. You want to have a regular routine and balance when you are working. Doing so will allow you to maintain a healthy work environment, your moods, and your productiveness. Some find office jobs and warehouse jobs to be ideal.
Office jobs offer stability. They are usually pretty routine and straightforward. Warehouse jobs limit interactions with other people. They offer some space from those you work with so you can focus on the task at hand without too many added factors clouding up your behavior.
It boils down to what you can do. If you are comfortable with your job, you are going to find it easier to maintain your routines and mood. If your job is too stressful, unstable, or you feel out of place, then you should look for another one that is better suited to your needs. Just don't quit in a manic state without something to fall back on. That can cause a chain reaction of different emotions that will lead you on a roller coaster that is similar to the Willy Wonka boat ride.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Billy Haynes from Paragould, AR on September 14, 2020:
Good read, and longer than your usual articles. Nice. :)