Everyday Tips for Living With Bipolar Disorder

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 31, 2023
5 min read

There’s a lot you can do to help manage your bipolar disorder. Along with seeing your doctor and therapist and taking your medicines, simple daily habits can make a difference.

Start with these strategies.

Set a schedule. Many people with bipolar disorder find that if they stick to a daily schedule, it helps them control their mood.

Pay attention to your sleep. This is especially important for people with bipolar disorder. Being sleep-deprived can sometimes trigger mania in those with the condition. It can also be a sign of a flare-up of your symptoms. For instance, just a few nights of less sleep may mean that a manic episode could be coming on. Or if you start to sleep a lot more than normal, it might mean you’re depressed.

Use these tips:

  • Go to sleep and get up at the same times every day.
  • Relax before bed by listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a bath.
  • Don't sit up in bed watching TV or scrolling through your phone.
  • Make your bedroom a calming space.
  • If your sleep patterns start to change, tell your doctor or therapist.

Exercise. It may improve your mood whether or not you have bipolar disorder. And you’ll probably sleep better, too.

If you’re not active now, check with your doctor that you’re healthy enough to get started. Keep it simple at first, such as walking with a friend. Gradually, work up to working out for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.

Eat well. There’s no specific diet for people with bipolar disorder. But just like anyone else, choosing the right kinds of foods can help you feel better and give you the nutrients you need. Focus on the basics: Favor fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. And cut down on fat, salt, and sugar.

Tame stress. Anxiety can worsen mood symptoms in many people with bipolar disorder. So take time to relax.

Lying on the couch watching TV or checking your social media accounts isn't the best way to go. Instead, try something more focused, like yoga or other types of exercise. Meditation is another good choice. An easy way to do that is to simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes, letting other thoughts come and go without paying them a lot of attention.

You can also listen to music or spend time with positive people who are good company.

Make adjustments at home and at work. Are there stressful things in your life that you might be able to change? Whether it’s in your family or on the job, look for solutions.

For instance, could your partner handle more of the chores at home? Might your boss be able to cut down on some of your responsibilities if you’re overloaded? Do what you can to simplify your life and make it easier.

Limit caffeine. It can keep you up at night and possibly affect your mood. So don’t drink a lot of soda, coffee, or tea. And take it easy on chocolate, too, because it has caffeine. You can even cut these items out completely. It’s often best to do that gradually so you don’t get headaches and other signs of caffeine withdrawal.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. They can affect how your medications work. They can also worsen bipolar disorder and trigger a mood episode. And they can make the condition harder to treat. So don’t use them at all.

Bipolar disorder can be a lot to deal with. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs and have a substance use disorder.

If you think that you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, get help now. Bipolar treatment may not be enough. Substance misuse often needs its own separate treatment. You may need to tackle both conditions at the same time.

Talk to your doctor or therapist about your options. Look into local substance use disorder support groups. Consider calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration help line: 800-662-HELP (4357).

Dealing with your alcohol or drug issues is a must for your recovery.

Navigating any romantic relationship -- whether it's dating or marriage -- can be a tricky endeavor. Add bipolar disorder into the mix, and relationships become even more challenging.

Not everyone with bipolar disorder experiences the distinct mood phases of mania and depression. But when those episodes do occur they can strain a relationship.

When you first meet someone you like, it's natural to want to make a good impression. Introducing the fact that you have bipolar disorder may not make for the most auspicious beginning. There is always the fear that you might scare the person off and lose the opportunity to get to know one another. At some point, though, you will need to let your partner know that you are bipolar.

Knowing what triggers your cycles of hypomania, mania, and depression and watching out for warning signs that you're entering one or the other phase of the cycle can help you avoid uncomfortable situations in your new relationship.

Sustaining a long-term relationship when you live with bipolar disorder is difficult. But it's not impossible. It takes work on the part of both partners to make sure the relationship survives.

The first step is to get diagnosed and treated for your condition. Your doctor can prescribe mood stabilizing medications, such as lithium, with antidepressants to help control your symptoms. Therapy with a trained psychologist or social worker is also important. With therapy you can learn to control the behaviors that are putting stress on your relationship. Having your partner go through therapy with you can help them understand why you act the way you do and learn better ways to react. It allows them to recognize how you are feeling and know when they can offer help.