Song of the Day: Fame by Irene Cara
Managing Home Life
It is essential for me when employed that things are as calm, balanced and enjoyable at home as possible. If work is stressful and challenging you really do need to come home to partners/family/roommates who are as understanding and supportive as possible and a house that is relaxing and fairly tidy and clean (doesn’t have to be spotless). Maintaining energy levels with healthy eating (which means regular cooking- something I’m pretty lazy about), some form of exercise and getting enough sunlight, is important too.
If Chris and I have had a row over something- the tension between us can last a few days or even weeks. Going from a challenging work environment to a home filled with negativity can be miserable for anybody whether Bipolar or not. However if Bipolar, it can contribute to triggering symptoms.
I’ll often become more withdrawn at home and work, and more irritable. My usual behavioural warning signs or prodromal symptoms (see my post Bipolar Disorder- Prodromal Symptoms) will then kick in: not cooking, eating more junk food, increased sleep, watching more TV.
So it’s really important that Chris and I nip any relationship issues in the bud as early as possible and then inject some fun and humour back in; or if I’m properly depressed we fall back on our main common interest-films: we’ll either go to the cinema or watch a movie at home. Walking the dog together or having a drink at the pub can help us to relax too. Anything that connects us back together again is really helpful.
Boring, in my eyes, but essential to my mental wellbeing is keeping on top of housework- practically impossible when depressed. If the house is messy and needs cleaning I find it more difficult to relax.
If I’m not well I tend to try to do one task a day and only the bare essentials (that’s an ideal situation anyway- in reality I hardly do a thing-I’m such a liar!), rather than going all out for a few hours. Even when I am well, I’m happy enough with a tidy house, clean kitchen and bathroom. I’m not too precious about the garden being immaculate or the house being completely dust free! I guess how clean and tidy you want your home is a personal thing and there is a balance to be maintained between doing too much housework (thereby causing possibly more stress) and doing too little (stress can be caused by the environment being messy and disorganised). Some people enjoy housework and find it relaxing- wish that was me!
3. Energy Levels
Also important when I’m working (even when not working!) is maintaining my energy levels with proper nutrition, some sort of exercise (sigh- it must be done) and sunlight!
The diet part is my main challenge as I’ve developed Binge-Eating Disorder as a coping mechanism over the last 10 years; healthy eating doesn’t come easily! If I’ve had a sugar binge the night before work, by the time I arrive there the next morning the sugar low hits (a sugar hangover!) and I struggle with drowsiness and low mood- on top of being in a stressful work environment. I make life so hard for myself sometimes!
Exercise for me involves lots of dog-walking. That’s double the therapy because it sorts out getting enough sunlight too. Nature always does wonders for improving mood as well. I have found in the past that going regularly to the gym and doing fairly exhausting workouts can trigger hypomania and I get a bit obsessive about it. Dancing classes have been fun in the past- learning the steps and enjoying the music can help take your mind off the fact that you’re actually working out.
4. Relaxation and Quiet
I class myself as a sociable introvert- I need the company of others on a regular basis, and to feel part of a team/group, but I probably need double (or more) the amount of time alone.
I’ve got a whole room of my own at home and it is decorated with all the things that I love- pictures of wildlife/films I love, statues of angels, crystals, and all the books I can manage to fit in there. To me this is my relaxation room where I can shut the door and be alone, listen to music/meditate/do a bit of yoga/read. I love it and feel calm here. I love having space to myself and I think this also helps to maintain my sanity!
Working can be a big challenge for those of us with Bipolar- so we owe it to ourselves to make the task as easy as possible by keeping things at home balanced and maintaining our energy levels.