How to Manage Common Bipolar Triggers

Bipolar disorder is worsened by triggers, or events that occur in your life that may cause mood episodes. Stressful events can be positive, like a new baby or moving to a new home, or negative, like a job loss or ending a relationship. But there are other common

trigger
A picture of a fruit-and-oat granola bar with a wrapper that reads “trigger.” Credit to flickr.com user Martin Bekkelund. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

bipolar triggers as well.

Here’s some of the most common bipolar triggers (advice for minimizing the impact of these triggers will follow):

Common Triggers

  • Stressful positive or negative events, such as entering a relationship or ending one.
  • Sleep disturbances. Sleep is crucial for bipolar patients to maintain a healthy mood. A lack of a good night’s rest can contribute to manic or hypomanic episodes, and increases in sleep may increase the risk of depression. Jet lag or a new baby can cause people to miss out on their forty winks.
  • Overstimulation from external sources, such as clutter, chaos, or crowds.
  • Overstimulation from sources directly affecting the person, such as stimulants like caffeine or stimulants/depressants like nicotine, or excitement from achieving challenging goa
  • Substance abuse.
  • Unresolved conflict with others. Dealing with others can be stressful, especially if someone is angry at you and you don’t know why, or don’t know how to resolve the conflict.
  • Untreated or unmanaged illness, mental or physical.

These triggers are stressful for anyone regardless of the state of their mental health. But these events and issues are especially stressful for bipolar patients.

Here are some ways to minimize the effect of common bipolar triggers:

Minimizing the Effects of Triggers

  • Take prescribed medications and therapies for your bipolar disorder. Treating and managing your mental illness is incredibly important. Attend therapy sessions and take your meds to prevent relapse and hospitalizations. For a post on how to survive a stint in a mental hospital, click here.
  • Sleep regularly. Try to keep to a self-care routine. Take a nightly bath before bed, and stick to a regular bedtime. For advice on how specifically to get sleep with a baby, click here.
  • Maintain a basic routine. Keeping to a regular routine will help you better cope with stress, and hopefully prevent life events from impacting you poorly. Maintaining a schedule with kids is one of the best parenting strategies you can do for them. This will also help you sleep better.
  • Exercise. Working out can improve your mood and overall physical and mental health. You may also sleep better, and suffer less anxiety. For a post on how to exercise with a baby or toddler, click here.
  • Reduce stimulation. Learn how to cope with stress by attending therapy or reading self-help books. Set up quiet times between social engagements. Set realistic goals that won’t take too much out of you.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Like sleep, diet is crucial for maintaining a healthy mood in bipolar patients. Sugar harms your mental health. For a post on how to follow a Mediterranean diet to help manage your mental illnesses, click here.
  • Reduce reliance on substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or street drugs. Quitting an addiction is one of the hardest issues you’ll ever face. But your life will be better off.
  • Listen carefully to others. Resolving conflicts is sometimes difficult. But if you don’t resolve the problems, then they will eat at you. Listen to other people intentionally. Try not to think about what you’re going to say while they are talking. This makes people feel listened to and appreciated in your company. Keep in mind that this probably won’t resolve the issue on its own, but it will go a long, long way towards open communication.

The Bottom Line

Managing these common triggers is key to helping yourself maintain good mental health. If you find yourself being triggered by stressful events, then find a way to step back from your responsibilities, if just for a brief time.

Good luck!

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Author: Cassandra Stout

Hi! My name is Cassandra Stout, and I am a freelancer and memoirist who blogs at The Bipolar Parent (Cassandrastout.com/bpparent) and at the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF.org). My current project is Committed, my upcoming memoir that depicts my time spent in a psych ward after a postpartum psychotic breakdown. I am a ten-year member of a five-person critique group called the Seattle Scribblers. It's nice to meet you!

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