10 Habits of Highly Successful People with Bipolar Disorder

Last Updated: 20 Dec 2021

People who are successfully treating and living with their bipolar realize there’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to behavioral, emotional, and psychological protocols. Here are ten habits that work for them.

#1 They’ve created their own treatment plan.

Through trial and error, these folks have created a personalized treatment plan that works for them.

For one person, focusing on therapy for the mind may work, while someone else is better treated with a certain medication and specific adjustments to their daily routines.

All treatment—medication, therapy, and lifestyle—needs to be designed specifically for you.

#2 They rally a supportive team.

First, they are not afraid to ask for help; second, they understand that they need the assistance of others when they can’t help themselves.

They know that support comes in many forms—such as joining a support group, either online or in person.

People living successfully with bipolar also nurture their support team by staying in contact, communicating, and expressing deep appreciation for the help and support they receive.

#3 They practice mindfulness.

A meditation practice improves your ability to manage work, organize tasks, and focus in stressful situations.

Over the past decade, mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve a whole host of health and disease outcomes; new studies demonstrate what’s happening to the brain in order to produce these beneficial health effects.

It shows that meditation reduces interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress adults.

Other people may practice a movement-based form of mediation, such as yoga, swimming, or walking.

#4 They know their triggers and have a plan.

Knowing which stressors leave you vulnerable to depression and/or mania can help prevent recurrences.

Work-related stress, sleep disturbances, and traumatic life events can all be triggers, and having a plan to help prevent minor symptoms from turning into a full-blown episode is vital.

Successful individuals have put together a comprehensive plan, usually with the help of their spouse and/or family.

They understand how to recognize the beginnings of either depression or mania and what they will do in such cases.

#5 They have a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

Whether they find it challenging or not, they know that having a healthy lifestyle—eating well and moving more—is a crucial complement to a treatment plan of medication to maintain mood stability.

Studies now prove that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, making a nutrient-dense diet all the more important.

#6 They have good sleep habits.

For people living with bipolar, sleep is found to be a significant cause of stress.

We know that sleep problems don’t just affect mood, they can also be the cause.

People who are successful with their bipolar treatment plans know to keep a steady rhythm throughout their day . . . going to bed and rising the same time each day and following the same bedtime routine.

#7 They stick to a schedule/routine.

The schedule itself is personalized to each individual, but the point is they stick to their set routines—especially for the important aspects like their medication protocol, exercise, diet, and sleep.

They know that by doing something regularly, like brushing one’s teeth, it soon becomes second nature and doesn’t take willpower to stick to it.

#8 They pay attention to their thoughts.

They are aware of the loop that links bipolar depression, anxiety, and negative thinking, and they work hard at breaking free of this.

They learn to shift out of negative modes such as catastrophic escalation, pessimism, and destructive self-talk and instead choose a more positive and practical outlook to almost every situation.

#9 They are grateful.

They understand that gratitude has a strong association with well-being and that practicing this state of being has a positive influence on their mood, relationships, outlook, and overall happiness—all of which can protect against anxiety and depression.

Some people have found it helpful to keep a daily journal and write what they are grateful for every day.

#10 They keep a journal.

Whether it’s charting their moods, diets, exercise, or even what they’re grateful for, the simple act of writing it down somewhere (or typing for that matter) does something to further instill the subject matter to memory.

Besides the validating and therapeutic benefits of journaling, writing one’s thoughts down in a journal can be meditative as it forces one to think only of certain thoughts and not about everything at once.

About the author
Tanya Hvilivitzky has spent almost 30 years in the communications field—a career that has included stints as an investigative journalist, magazine managing editor, corporate communications director, and researcher/writer. She has been with bp Magazine and esperanza Magazine since 2016, serving in roles such as interim editor and, currently, the features editor. She also writes for the bpBUZZ section of bphope.com, where she synthesizes complex information into a format that both inspires and informs. As an award-winning writer/editor, she received the Beyond Borders Media Award for her 2012 investigative exposé about human trafficking. Her work on this important topic also earned the Media Freedom Award “Honouring Canada’s Heroes” from the Joy Smith Foundation to Stop Human Trafficking.
  1. Thanks for the outline, I found my head nodding the entire time. I am very bad about a routine because I was a nurse for 20 years but I’m now on disability because of a back injury and cancer and multiple health issues and I’m now thinking of going back to work part time and I’m a Libra very indecisive am in my thinking and I can get stuck there for an unbelievable amount of time! If I start multitasking and 15 projects going and then I have to go complete them all I can be very frustrating so the outline is awesome thank you

  2. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety back when I was in my 20s. Now at 56 years of age I have been told that I was misdiagnosed and that I have Bipolar 2. I don’t remember when I last felt any joy or felt good about life. I can go a few months without feeling suicidal but too much stress drives me over the edge. It seems like once a year I get really mentally ill and unable to work. I am a Registered Nurse and my whole sense of worth is about taking care of patients. But when I sink low I can’t get out of bed and my self care goes out the window. Just taking a shower seems like a huge effort that requires energy I just don’t have. This is hell and I’m quite frankly sick and tired of the struggle to cope. I just started Lithium and I’m scared to death about it. As a RN I know the side effects can be awful and can cause kidney damage. I know I’ll need to get my blood level checked frequently if I decide to stay on it. The only thing that helps me cope is smoking weed. I know I shouldn’t but I’m miserable and it takes the edge off of my miserable life. I’m on short term disability due to this mental illness. I don’t know if I can cope with going back to work. Nursing is very stressful! I need help figuring this all out.

    1. I am in the healthcare field as well and work as an aide and professional with people with ID. I currently work as an at-home companion with a fairly comfortable low stress situation and it is the best thing that ever happened to me. I totally understand the highs and lows. Don’t lose hope! If you must adjust your lifestyle including work or friendships to suit your needs and moods, then do it and don’t look back. Weekly to biweekly Therapy and daily medication work for me.

      1. I know weed can help in the moment but it actually makes the illness worse and can cause full blown mania and psychosis. There are lots of studies and articles about this look some up and read them.

      2. Also weed used to be a huge help to me too before starting a combo of abilify, celexa, and lamictal… now I can’t get the same high but I’m leveled out so I don’t smoke anymore. Hope this helps.

  3. This post is not about my sons, or daughter or friends, etc… It is about me. Bipolar 1. I have been mentally ill what seems like all my life. My 1st encounter with a Dr. was when I was 17. He gave me drugs. Librium. I have been on a metric asston of drugs. The one that got me, gave me RLS. I am horribly angry about that due to the fact that was not listed as a side effect until later…way at the bottom of a list of side effects under “for professionals”. If it wasn’t so long ago, I would sue. I am now taking something for RLS and my bipolar. I will be taking this junk for the rest of my life. I do not like it. I am a mixed bipolar and rapid cycling and a plethora of other illnesses. These are so difficult to treat, plus now my realm of meds are now limited because of this RLS. After all these years of meds, Dr’s, therapists, I am this much better ___ as opposed to being this much better____________. I dislike taking medications but, if I don’t LOOK THE &%#$ OUT. They all have undesirable side effects and some permanent. I will live with and take meds for RLS. With all the technology and researching, you’d think they would come up with something that doesn’t make me sick, have lifelong debilitating side effects and whatnot. Even though I am better-ish after all these years, I am still, in that floppy disk in the way back of my head, pissed off. I am the lucky one. I get to be the recovering alcoholic (8yrs sober), the bipolar 1 and have RLS. To top that off, my family never let me forget all the weird stuff I did back when I was a kid. Yes, that’s how long I have been graced with this mental illness. I am socially awkward and an introvert or just don’t like being around people. I apologize for some of this content…ya caught me on a bad cycle. I could type a TLDR but not going to. This is just the tip of the rock, dig deeper and that rock is HUGE.

  4. Its so nice to hear things from people that understand, I’ve had a really really long struggle with this. A therapist told me I had bipolar, psychiatrists told me I didn’t, one did. I had my own stigma as well as stigma from A LOT of people. Before disclosing, people treated me normal and then after all of a sudden I text too much I bug too much. Major major learning lessons. The label is heard and all of a sudden you’re a DSM statistic. Its considered crazy and I don’t know what else because people have stopped talking to me and its more talking about me. The one thing I’m grateful for is that I’m okay with being alone. I’ve had the worst kind of stigma and sometimes (a few times) from health care providers which can be really disheartening because you gotta keep getting up and trying. I can also relate to what was said above about drinking buddies vs friends. A lot of people I knew had issues but it seems the more you hide it the better it is. Most of my “friends” were alcoholics and it hurt to come to that realization but I agree with what the lady above said- meetup.com is great. Especially for going on hikes (when its safe to do so). One of the kindest things someone said to me and explained to me which may help with the father who’s son thinks he’s another patient is its on a spectrum. Its not just black and white. It took a very very long time to get on a medication that worked and that was the hardest part and I think some of you may understand. Having people pressure me to go to therapy and take medicine when they wouldn’t even take a tylenol was really hurtful. And there was A LOT of put downs but you just kind of learn to accept it. I’m currently in school and I think having a goal in mind is of utmost importance. I find when there’s so much emphasis placed on the “illness” and food and sleep it can sometimes get worse. You start to feel like the people who care about you only see you as sick. It was really hard to go through a lot of what I went through but I survived and its nice to hear stories of people who are doctors and lawyers and people of like “high status” speaking openly about having bipolar. Some days are difficult but I know a lot of people have it are able to function in society in big ways and disclosed to only the people they trusted. My most trusted person told me to speak about it and advocate about it but the community I come from is just starting to understand mental health issues. The idea of medication is almost like you’ve *insert metaphor here* and the talking starts. Not to you but about you. I find that I know my body best, I didn’t take medication most of my life and I’m sensitive to it. So it was nice when I had a doctor that heard that but then when I took Xanax- that was my hell on earth. I got addicted in a year or so it did help me eat and sleep but also numbed that part of my brain that tells you okay- this isn’t okay. With the other medications, I’m grateful he heard me because there were some medications that changed my vision, I’d lose coordination, one was upped and I couldn’t keep down. But as long as I could keep it down I did for the recommended 4-6 weeks. Nobody believed me and that was really frustrating because “bipolars aren’t medication compliant” but I was and am. I’m grateful to be on a low dose of a medication that has regulated my symptoms. My doctor said that dose doesn’t do anything but for me I’ve seen the effects and also when I upped it I saw the effects. I think for some people it just takes a bit longer. It feels good to be able to write about it. If anyone saw this automatically they would think I was manic- but writing is one of my coping skills, and I could fill pages if I didn’t have this fear that I was “manic”. But you learn as you go. Sometimes support can be helpful and sometimes its okay not to put too much pressure on the person. As long as they are connecting to people somehow or letting it out I think its good.

    1. Yes, yes, yes. Finding the right healthcare professional who is knowledgeable and understanding when it comes to finding the correct medication or group of medication and have the patience to work on the getting the dosage that works for YOU is vital to a successful journey. Every individual is different.

  5. I am a bipolar manic depressive physician neurologist…irony of life suffering from this grave neurological condition of Bipolar disorder. after being successful for many years as a practicing neurologist I got this illness with suicide attempts x 2 , my identical twin brother shot himself in a forest, my dad died..I turned into an alcoholic and lost my license to practice, facing charges and now bankrupt dealing with foreclosures after making millions of dollars in clinical practice. I have been homeless and jobless because of this mental illiness and dont know what to say…I got out of jail last year after spending 14 months in county jail. any suggestion from all or any bipolars.

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