A recent storyline in hit UK soap EastEnders is seeing character Jean Slater struggle with the decision to tell a new boyfriend about her bipolar disorder. Putting bipolar disorder in the spotlight like this can be helpful for those unaware of the illness, but also brings up issues for those dealing with the disorder in real life.
For many living with bipolar, distinguishing which of your moods are ‘normal’ and which are coming from the disorder can be hard. Friends and family may also add to the confusion, attributing all mood changes to bipolar.
The following strategies are designed to help you sharpen up your self-awareness and determine when your symptoms are present.
1. Get to know your baseline
An easy first step to take is to write down a list of what you’re like when you’re not experiencing a mood swing. What is your personality like? What are your likes and dislikes? What thoughts do you have and what are your mannerisms like?
This baseline can then be referred to when you feel an emotion out of the norm. It is also important to communicate this baseline with those around you, and ask for support when symptoms of bipolar surface.
2. Explore your feelings
Do this by writing a diary or blog and document your daily thoughts or feelings. This will help you understand yourself better, and the emotions felt when in a mood swing. Remember to write down how you feel your emotions and how you respond.
3. Practice mindfulness
Ideal for increasing your self-awareness, practicing mindfulness can be incredibly beneficial to those with bipolar disorder. Over time you should become more aware of your physical and mental state, allowing you to pick up on any changes.
4. Chart your moods
Sometimes seeing the way your moods change can help you understand them better. Use a paper chart or an online chart to note down your moods. This should help you connect more to how you’re feeling and help you to recognise the warning signs of a mood swing.
5. Research bipolar disorder
Ensure you have a good understanding of your mood disorder and how it works. You can do this by reading articles online, attending workshops or even by attending support groups.
Remember to ask for support and help when you need it. For many, seeing a counsellor helps enormously. To find out more about bipolar disorder and to find a counsellor near you, please see our page on Bipolar Disorder.
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