You’re full of ideas and thrive on challenges, but know a stable lifestyle is essential. Fortunately, you can satisfy your desire for challenges, and still maintain balance.
If you’re like me, you’re chock-full of bright ideas. You’ve got tons of inspiration. You love the new, new, new—and get bored easily. You’re always looking to shake things up with new challenges.
I think part of this is my personality: I think big. But
over time, I have realized I need to monitor my craving for novelty and find
less disruptive ways to challenge myself. The bottom line is that I thrive on
stability, and stability helps me manage my bipolar disorder.
So how can you build a more stable lifestyle? Here are some
ideas I have put into practice for building and maintain stability while still
satisfying my desire for challenges:
Keep a schedule
I try to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. This can be harder on the weekends, so I set an alarm to keep me on track. I also try to take my medication at the same times daily. Sure, I am not perfect about this, but doing these things gives an overarching structure to my day that I can then fill in.
I also try to structure time when I am not busy. I might cook,
exercise, write, or spend time with friends or my fiancé (lately, we have been
planning our wedding!). You don’t necessarily need a hard and fast plan, and
you don’t need to go-go-go. But if I don’t set an intention for my free time, I
get blue. Just saying to myself “I am going to read for a while before bed” is
helpful. That alone is a plan.
Something that helped me tremendously was, first,
volunteering and, now, working. This gave me a sense of purpose, structured my
days, and put me into contact with people besides my family and friends. I am
about to mark my two-year anniversary of my hiring as a part-time employee at
my current workplace. This is a victory for me; a victory for stability.
If you would like to volunteer, start small and consider what is doable for you. Is volunteering one or two days per month doable? If you would like to work, take the first step by researching resume writing.
Figure out what is doable for you, and take the first step.
Remember, as my NAMI co-facilitator likes to quote, Martin Luther King Jr.
said, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.”
Surround yourself with trusted people
It is essential, when you get those bright ideas that make you want to shake up your life, that you have trusted people to give you feedback. My trusted people are my parents, my fiancé and my therapist. But certainly with my parents, I had to go through a process of rebuilding trust and making amends for actions taken when I was not well.
Saying “I’m sorry” can be so powerful. Even more powerful can be demonstrating that you are a person to be trusted by following through on commitments and keeping your word. Something as simple as showing up on time, day in and day out, shows that you respect the other person’s time and is a way of rebuilding trust.
Open up to these trusted people. Nobody knows what is going
on if you don’t talk about it. Be honest with your providers. Run ideas by
loved ones. Seek feedback.
Finally, be willing to modify your plans based on the
feedback you receive. Incorporate that feedback into your life. These people
are trusted for a reason.
Make decisions based upon your values
I have a more stable lifestyle when I am making decisions for myself based upon my values. However, I realize that figuring out what your values are can be difficult if you are overwhelmed by bipolar disorder. I know it worked that way for me. I needed a measure of health before I could start seeing what was important to me and what I wanted to guide my life.
But these are good questions to ask at any stage, especially
in therapy. Maybe you know what you disapprove of and the things you don’t want
to do with your life. This is a great starting place.
Something I found useful in isolating my values was the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Marsha Linehan. Originally developed for people with borderline personality disorder, dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that is highly useful for managing overwhelming emotions. The workbook has a handout on values that spells out principles and asks you to rate their level of importance to you in directing your life.
When making a decision, ask, “Does this align with my core
values? Does this make me feel good about myself as a person?” You will be
surprised at how this gets you to stop and think! It is a great rule of thumb
for making large, life-changing decisions, but also medium-sized decisions as
well. You are building a life worth living and that means living in accordance
with your values.
Know when to shake things up
This past fall, I felt unfulfilled. I wanted to shake things up. But I wanted to stay at my current job. I didn’t want to make big changes in relationships or other activities. So, following my trusted older brother’s advice, I shook things up on the exercise front. I made a goal of running a 5K.
Had I ever run before? No! But I found a program that
offered to get you from “the couch” to running a 5K in eight weeks. I started
by running 60 seconds at a time and walking for two minutes.
Well, I have been at this running program 17 weeks. I am
still not up to 3.1 miles. However, I did run 2.5 miles this past Sunday.
Will I always run? Maybe not. But right now, running is
satisfying my desire for something new in a healthy way.
Do you have to run a 5K? Absolutely not! But if you long to
change your life, maybe you need to shake things up a bit…in a healthy way. Try
making a goal, ambitious but not so outrageous you will never fulfill it. Make
it measurable and time-oriented. Whatever you do, find a way to reinvest and to
satisfy your craving for something new without upending your life.
As a person in recovery, I am always learning. I would love
to learn from you! What have you done to stabilize yourself and build a life
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