Bipolar disorder, commonly referred to as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes changes in energy level, mood, activity levels, and the ability to accomplish goals and tasks in a timely fashion. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States suffer from bipolar disorder, and children with a parent or sibling who suffers from the disorder are four to six times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder themselves.
Exercise can boost endorphins during low periods and help those with bipolar disorder feel more balanced. Outdoor activities like hiking, mountain climbing, trail jogging and skiing can be helpful since being in nature can have a calming effect. However, going to the gym, running on a treadmill, playing a sport or lifting weights are also appropriate activities.
Sedentary activities like watching TV can trigger depression or anxiety because they are not fully stimulating, according to Jay Miklowitz, author of "The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide." Replace them with domestic activities like cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming or giving a pet a bath.
Meeting with close friends and family to talk or simply spend time can benefit people with bipolar disorder. Make--and keep--regular plans with friends or family. Go to the gym with a friend, start a book club, take a cooking class or meet for coffee once a week. The activity doesn’t matter as much as the company. Don't meet friends at a bar, however; people with bipolar disorder should avoid alcohol.
Volunteering can help those with bipolar disorder fill time and give back to those in need, which can help them feel more balanced. Involve yourself in charitable activities based on personal interests or hobbies. If you are a good cook, volunteer at the soup kitchen. If you have a way with words, help with an adult literacy program in your area.
Stress-reducing activities can help some people with bipolar disorder relax after a hard day. Deep-breathing exercises, yoga, meditation and visualization can all help reduce stress. Doing such activities a few hours before bedtime can also be helpful during hypomanic periods, when energy levels are higher and restlessness sets in.
- "The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide"; Jay Miklowitz; 2002
- "Bipolar Disorder for Dummies"; Candida Fink, Joe Kraynak; 2005