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Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder at Work

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Bipolar Disorder and Your Work Schedule

Many people with bipolar disorder find themselves seeking project-oriented careers, where the work is intense for short periods. Even though this seems to fit the ups and downs of the illness, it is often better to seek more structured work with a regular schedule. Long or irregular work hours can wreak havoc with your stability and job performance. Shift work, and unpredictable or frequent disruptions to your sleep schedule, also can have a destabilizing effect on moods.

Sometimes, though, full-time work feels too challenging. If that’s the case for you, it may help to ask your supervisor about flexible hours, a self-paced workload, the ability to work from home, or part-time work schedules. Also, see whether you can make up lost time when necessary.

Whether with work or other aspects of your day -- such as sleep, meals, and exercise -- regular schedules may be the best policy. Structure provides predictability. It also reduces stimulation and promotes organization and stability.

Other Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder at Work

If you have bipolar disorder, there are things you can do to make it easier to succeed at work. For starters, know your symptoms of depression and mania. That way, you can better manage them. See challenges as learning experiences and look for opportunities to learn. Give yourself lots of credit for big and small accomplishments, especially when you persevere through the hard times.

Here are a few other tips that may help you with managing bipolar disorder at work.

Manage stress. Remember to try the following tips at home as well. It’s important to get plenty of down time.

  • Take regular breaks -- before you think you really need them. This is particularly important if your stress levels rise.
  • Try a relaxation exercise, such as deep breathing.
  • Take a walk around the block.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Call a friend.
  • Take time off for counseling.

Make other healthy lifestyle changes. Besides managing your stress well, it’s important to exercise daily, get enough sleep, and eat nutritious meals. If stress is affecting your sleep, it’s definitely time to take steps to get it under control. Think about stress management techniques that have worked well for you in the past. 

Take your medications as prescribed. It may be tempting to go without treating your mania. After all, this is when many people feel most productive. But that can be risky thinking. During mania, you’re more likely to make mistakes and can become irritable, making working relationships challenging. Also, untreated mania can lead to depression.

If you tend to forget your medications, it may help to set a timer or reminder on your computer. Keeping your medication in a plastic container bottle can help you guard your privacy.

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