4) Healthy Lifestyle

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I have a family member who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over 10 years ago. They seem to be quite depressed right now and they do not have much for social support besides myself. I am concerned that their quality of life is not very high but I don’t know what I can do to help. Any suggestions?

In order to determine how your family member is feeling about their quality of life it is important to ask them. Work with them to improve their quality of life. You are right to be concerned about their quality of life as research shows that quality of life for people with bipolar disorder is often lower than for other people. So, just how do people stay well? Important areas to consider are:

  • identifying triggers,

It is important to practice stress and anger management skills as these can trigger bipolar disorder symptoms.

  • recognizing warning signs,

  • managing sleep,

One of the best ways to create stability is to promote regular meal and sleep times and stick to them! This scheduling helps regulate the body’s internal clock. It makes it easier for your loved one with bipolar disorder if changes are made by both of you together! Try switching from coffee in the morning to herbal tea together, looking at eating regular meals together and so on.

  • managing stress,

Remember that no life is without stress. Learning how to cope with it is the key to making and keeping a life of your own. Look for what gives you peace of mind and enjoy it. Some activities that may relieve stress (although not for all people) include back rubs, manicures or pedicures, or yoga.

  • managing what goes into the body

Avoiding alcohol, recreational drugs and some herbs is important, as well as decreasing junk food and caffeine consumption. It is important to note that many people use these things to help with symptoms of bipolar disorder and it may be difficult for them to change this. Work on changing even one thing at a time and doing so gradually. If trying to help your loved one stop drinking alcohol or smoking that they may feel symptoms of withdrawal – it may be necessary to seek advice from a trained health professional.

  • introducing exercise

Find exercise that your loved one enjoys. Help them develop a regular routine of exercise such as going for evening walks.

  • spending time with loved ones,

Relationships are very important in creating stability. Work on developing a strong relationship with effective communication.

  • having quiet times,

The home environment can play a big role in bipolar disorder symptoms – one of the best ways to help your loved one is to help create a calm living space.

  • laughing.

Having fun is an important part of life. Take part in activities that are enjoyed by your loved one, whether it is a hobby, volunteering or other activity.

There are many areas where you can assist with the above list of wellness strategies. These strategies can help anyone and everyone stay well – not just the person with bipolar disorder!

If your family member is feeling depressed right now, it might take them some time to recover from symptoms and their functioning may be compromised. Also, as discussed under the social support section (Social Support), perceived or actual low levels of social support can impact quality of life in a negative way. Connecting your family member to social supports available in your community or online may be one way of improving quality of life.

One must have a baseline in order to know if their quality of life is seemingly up or down – when your family member is feeling well have them take a real look at the various factors that influence their subjective quality of life. Try to offer your family member hope – this can have an impact on how they feel about their quality of life. Also, work with them to figure out if they have any care needs that are not met as this is a strong predictor of low quality of life.

My brother, who has bipolar disorder, just started a new job where he has to work day and night shifts. He is having a hard time coping with change in his sleep and wake routines. I don’t know if he is going to be able to continue this job. How can I communicate this kind of sensitive information to him?

Good question. Having a consistent routine has been proven to positively affect people with bipolar disorder. This disruption to your brother’s regular sleep and waking cycle may cause problems with his bipolar disorder. Many people with bipolar disorder have difficulties responding to stress which can be triggered by a new job. To assist him through this, you could help him to identify any deficits he has in coping, look at what assets he has and focus on the successful coping skills he is utilizing. Be honest with your brother that working shifts may not work. An interesting acronym to think about when communicating any sensitive information to your brother is S.E.T. communication – Support, Empathy and Truth. Your brother may not hear the truth until he receives support and empathy from you!

Some general guidelines for interacting with people with a mental illness, including bipolar disorder, include:

  • respect the person
  • be calm and straightforward
  • take breaks and pace yourself
  • separate the person from the illness
  • maintain a positive attitude

By using these guidelines and good communication you should be able to convey information to your brother effectively. You can also assist him by using the practical suggestions given on this website and through the resources we have provided. Some simple solutions to help your brother may be to concentrate on one area first, such as his eating while on shifts. You could help him plan his meals by going grocery shopping with him or going out for meals together on a regular basis to ensure healthy eating habits.

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