Road Map to Recovery: Self-Care After Residential Bipolar Disorder Treatment
In the midst of a bipolar mood episode, it can be hard to imagine ever feeling normal again. Conversely, after you’ve completed successful bipolar disorder treatment, it can be difficult to remember the depths of emotional instability you reached, and as you move further and further from your last manic, hypomanic, or depressive episode, you may lose traction in terms of self-care. Complacency settles in and life gets in the way; your mental health disorder is no longer at the forefront of your thoughts and you are happy to be living a normal life that doesn’t revolve around your bipolar disorder. This is the time when many people are vulnerable to relapse. By establishing a healthy self-care routine, you can optimize your chances of lasting wellness and enjoy a healthier, more stable life.
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Sleep plays a major role in maintaining emotional stability for people living with bipolar disorder. Long known to trigger manic and hypomanic episodes, lack of sleep and poor quality sleep can also be a predictor of frequency and severity of depressive episodes.[1. http://news.psu.edu/story/361868/2015/06/30/research/women-bipolar-disorder-sleep-quality-affects-mood] While the precise number of sleep hours each person needs varies, most adults generally need between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep per night to fully benefit from the mentally and physically rejuvenating effects.[2. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/adult-sleep-needs-and-habits] We have previously explored some useful methods of ensuring restful sleep. If you notice a marked increase or decrease in your need for sleep, it maybe a warning sign of an approaching manic, hypomanic, or depressive episode, and you should speak with your care team to alert them to these changes.
Your residential mental health treatment program should ideally have included a physical fitness component that taught you how to engage in healthy exercise to promote both psychological and somatic wellness. By incorporating physical activity in your everyday life after treatment, you can benefit from increased endorphin release that helps stave off depression and feelings of anxiety. Additionally, exercise strengthens your immune system and can help you manage the weight gain that accompanies some medications. The sense of mastery and enhanced connection to your physical self that exercise inspires can be important components of establishing improved self-awareness, control, and confidence.
Track Your Mood
Daily monitoring of your mood can help you and your care team gain important insight into your patterns and alert you to possible mood episode triggers. Tracking is not only important during mood disturbances, but also when you are feeling well, in order to produce a complete picture of your emotional scope. Traditionally, journals or calendars have been used to chart moods, whether through a system of symbols or detailed entries. Today, technology makes it easier than ever to monitor psychological variation through free apps such as Mood 24/7, which was developed at Johns Hopkins and sends you a daily text to track your emotional state.[3. https://www.mood247.com/]
While severe mood episodes may have disrupted your occupational function, work can play an important role in maintaining mental stability after treatment. By engaging in productive work–whether paid or unpaid–you can feel a sense of accomplishment and engage with your community, breaking isolation and giving you purpose. Ensure that the work you are doing enhances your psychological health rather than harms it; avoid shift work that may have harmful effects on your circadian rhythms, for example. If you need special accommodations to create healthy working conditions, speak with your doctor and an employment lawyer to determine the best course of action and to learn about your rights.
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Stick With the Plan
When you are feeling good, you may be tempted to stop taking medication or cancel doctor and therapy appointments. Many people with bipolar disorder fall into the trap of discontinuing treatment during times of stability, only to find themselves right back where they started–or even worse. It is important to remember that the sense of wellness you feel is the result of treatment, and treatment must be maintained in order to preserve the gains that you have made. If you would like to make changes to your treatment plan, speak with your doctor or therapist to see if they support you trying something new and will monitor your progress. However, if you have found therapies that allow you to feel good, it is usually prudent to stick with them.
At Bridges to Recovery, we create detailed aftercare plans to help our clients successfully transition back to their normal lives after residential bipolar disorder treatment. We work with you and your outpatient care providers to support the establishment of healthy routines to ensure that the progress you have made at Bridges is maintained. By implementing consistent self-care, you can continue to improve your mental well-being and stability while minimizing your chances of relapse, allowing you to fully enjoy the benefits of treatment.
Bridges to Recovery offers innovative, comprehensive mental health treatment delivered with compassion and respect. Contact us for more information about our program and how we can help you or your loved one suffering from bipolar disorder.