There are several key aspects to a person’s mental health. This bipolar treatment plan overview is based on those key aspects.
Scientists have determined that bipolar and anxiety disorders are often caused by environmental factors, genetic pre-dispositions (or perhaps circumstances of upbringing), and a bio-chemical imbalance. While we can’t change our genetic predispositions, or the circumstances of our upbringing, we can take steps to change the other factors contributing to these disorders.
A chemical inbalance can be caused by several different factors. For example, alcohol and drug abuse have a DRAMATIC effect on chemical production in our brains. Other substances such as tobacco can also have an effect. An unhealthy diet or vitamin deficiency can be an important factor as well. Food allergies (such as an allergy to milk products or wheat gluten (Found in bread, pasta and other wheat products) can also cause a chemical imbalance. Studies have also shown that we can change the chemical makeup in our minds simply by repeating the same kinds of thoughts and emotions. Environment also plays a key role in the chemical makeup of our brains. For example, someone who has been in a war would have a completely different chemical makeup from someone who has never witnessed extreme violence.
In order to create and maintain a healthy chemical balance in the mind, a person has to look at all of these important aspects of their lives:
A healthy mind needs to have both intellectual and creative stimulus.
- Learning something new (which is almost impossible to NOT do) on a daily basis will help. For example, finding a subject that interests you, and doing some research online or at the library.
- Creativity in any form can be therapeutic and an effective part of bipolar treatment. Dancing, singing, writing poetry or music, and doing craft projects -- even simple ones, such as coloring in a coloring book -- will deliver a positive effect on a person’s mental state.
- Repeating positive thoughts has been proven in medical studies of bipolar treatment to improve chemical balance in the mind. Looking in the mirror every day and saying to yourself, “I like the color of my eyes,” for example, will improve a person’s mood over time.
- Also, taking the time to find beauty in the world around us is another way to stimulate a good chemical balance. Take a walk, and take notice… “What a pretty flower.” “That is a cool looking cloud.” “It smells good out here.” “What a spectacular sunset!”… You get the picture.
One of the best programs out there for learning to reprogram your mental chemical makeup is cognitive thinking skills therapy. It is especially effective with Type I bipolar treatment.
First of all, when it comes to bipolar treatment, I can’t possibly stress enough the importance of being clean and sober. Tobacco also wreaks havoc on a person’s mental and emotional balance. Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are all poison. The feeling of “euphoria” they produce when a person first tries them is our body’s way of defending its self from the toxins that are suddenly present in our systems. Over time this “euphoria” often fades, and we are left with a physical need to have more of these poisons to get through our daily lives. But they are still poisons, and they will eventually cause severe health problems.
If you are addicted to anything, you already know this. Quitting any habit is terribly difficult, and a person almost always needs outside help to do it. But if you are serious about your mental health, it is essential that you do.
Diet and exercise is equally important in bipolar treatment. Pinpointing vitamin deficiencies and food allergies is a good first step. The BEST source of vitamins is and always has been fruits and vegetables. Omelets (I highly recommend an egg substitute like egg beaters) and smoothies are a great way to integrate them into your diet.
Whole grains (I know… but you’ll get used to it, and eventually prefer them) are the best source of carbohydrates. There are breads made without flour (they feel a bit stiff at first, but after a couple weeks of eating them I swore off white bread) that are extremely high in fiber, (another great thing to have in your diet) very filling, and will meet your daily whole grain requirement in two slices.
Cutting out highly refined sugar foods will boost your energy levels. This is very helpful for a person suffering from depression. Cutting down on fat and cholesterol will not only help your energy levels, but cut down on heart risk factors as well. This is not new news… but many people don’t realize the effect of these things on their mental and emotional well being.
Every person should be getting at LEAST 30 minutes of physical activity daily. I have yet to find a better physical activity than walking. But it’s a matter of personal preference. I wouldn’t recommend any more than 30 minutes without talking to a Dr. first. If you are really out of shape, or have an unknown health condition, you can really hurt your self if you don’t consult a Dr. before starting a daily exercise routine.
But again, if you are serious about mental health, DO IT! Exercise is probably the most powerful weapon against depression and anxiety, except for…
When I first decided to do this, I was going to leave this portion out of it. This topic can be so controversial! But… this has been the single most effective part of my bipolar treatment.
Everyone, in my opinion, needs a higher power. One that they are serious about. Spiritual growth is just as important to our mental and emotional health as any diet or exercise program. I'm not here to preach to anyone. I am a firm supporter of coexistence. I don't want anyone coming to me getting upset because I have shared my religious standpoint. Please, if you don't agree with me on this, just skip this section of my treatment plan.
Having said that, I would like to share with those who care to know, that I have entered into a strong relationship with God. I was recently baptized in a charismatic Christian church, both by water, and in the Holy Spirit. I cannot possibly express the vast difference this has made in my life. Now that Jesus is with me, I honestly feel that nothing can be against me.
Since my psychosis was of a Biblical nature, learning about God, and reading what the Bible has to say, has revealed the truth about those thoughts to me. I used to be so terrified of God, and the possibility that this world could come to an end. It used to cause me anxiety whenever I saw a picture of Jesus, because I was so terrified of him, and what I thought he meant in regard to the future.
My spiritual journey has not been an easy one.
Many religions feed on the fear of hell and “the end of the world” to convince people that they MUST believe or perish! That may be true. But the Bible also says forced faith is not faith at all. And it says that his disciples should be spreading the word about his LOVE for us. It took me around five years to actually find a church that obeyed that command.
That is sad.
Ok, enough about Church. I honestly believe that if you truly seek spiritual enlightenment with all your heart, you will find it. And it is VERY important to do so if you want to have complete mental health. There are two reasons for this.
- We are only human.
I agree that we should all be responsible for our own actions. I also believe that it is our responsibility as human beings to recognize that we don't know it all, we can't do it alone, and we need help. We can't possibly make it through this turbulent life using only our own strength. People who are isolated go crazy within days. We NEED someone else we can count on. It would be nice if we could count on other people, but we really can't. We must have a higher power that we love and trust. What can hurt you if your best friend is an omnipotent being that loves you like crazy??
- We all have unresolved issues of guilt, anger, and addictions that are difficult to overcome.
Unless you are psychotic or a malignant narcissist, there is SOMETHING you have done in your life that you regret. And… There is something horrible that happened to you that you can't let go of. There is only one being that can truly understand what you have been through, help you through it, give you strength, and forgive whatever mistakes you have made if you ask. That is YOUR GOD.
However you have to do it, find your God.
A good home and social environment is extremely important when it comes to bipolar treatment.
Mental and emotional growth cannot happen if you are constantly surrounded my negative people and stimulus. Take a look at your surroundings. Examine your entertainment. Do you constantly read books, watch movies and television programs that sensationalize violence, anger, despair, or other negative emotions? How often are you exposed to the image of someone getting hurt verses getting help? Does the group of people you associate with have healthy habits? Do they contribute to the negative stimulus you receive daily? Are you constantly looking for affirmation from the opposite sex? Have your relationships been healthy?
I’m not telling you to leave the people you care about, although under some circumstances it may be necessary. What I am saying, is that if you are serious about your bipolar treatment, you should consider placing yourself in places and among people that will have a positive effect on your mental health more often. Join groups that you are interested in where you can develop healthy platonic relationships with other like-minded people.
This is not always as easy to do as it is to say. Some people get caught in the trap of looking to the opposite sex for companionship no matter where they are. If this is a problem for you, you should consider looking for groups that are specifically for women or men. Churches often have these kinds of activities. Another good place to look is your local recreation or community center (like the YMCA). These places often host retreats for men or women, as well as other beneficial classes and activities. Community colleges sometimes offer classes to non-students as well.
If you have social anxiety, you may find it easier to join an online community like MySpace, Friendster, or Facebook. Oftentimes you can find groups within these sites that may interest you. It also will give you the opportunity to interact with others without putting yourself in an uncomfortable setting. MySpace even allows for anonymity. But again, be careful not to fall into the trap of looking for affirmation from the opposite sex.
This is kind of a hard one to learn.
Nobody wants to be labeled as “selfish” or “self-centered”. But it really is necessary in bipolar treatment, for a person's mental and emotion well being, to spend time and money to make YOUR SELF happy.
- Buying new makeup or clothing can do wonders for a person's mood. (Be careful not to overspend if you are having a manic phase!)
- Keep up on personal hygiene. Scented soaps, oils, and bubble baths are great for relaxation, and can make you feel beautiful. A clean mouth is more important than you may think for a person's mood.
- If you have flaws you've wanted to fix (tooth whitening, hair removal, spa facial, a hair cut, etc.) DO IT! Oftentimes there are low priced solutions you can look into.
- Get a massage.
- Think about what YOU want, and what will make YOU happy, and how you can get or do those things.
- Keep a journal. This was sooo hard for me at first.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a huge help in many ways. It helps you organize them, and it displays them for you to read later. Sometimes we are not even aware of how irrational we are until we read our own diary.
If you hate to write but don’t mind typing, make a digital diary. Or, use your digital camera to create a video diary, and upload it to a special place on your computer.
Paying attention to all of these things daily can feel impossible to someone with a bipolar or anxiety disorder. Don't try to do it all at once. You will not begin to manage your disorders overnight. Healing takes time. Prioritize. Work on one goal at a time. When you have comfortably integrated one of these things into your life, work on the next. This may take weeks, months, or even years depending on the severity of your disorder. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t give up.
There is no "one size fits all bipolar treatment plan." The information I have provided here should be tailored by you and your doctor to create a bipolar treatment plan that is right for YOU! Friends and family should also play a part in your treatment plan. You should have a support system among your friends and family that know about your disorders who will help you commit to your bipolar treatment.
You must stay committed in order to be successful. Relapse prevention requires knowing what your triggers are, and having a "game plan" to manage your symptoms as they occur.
Sarah invites you to find more information on mind development and emotional health as well as more about her own personal journey.