When it comes to your ability to cope with Bipolar Disorder, there may be no more critical time of day than morning.
The way in which you wake up and tackle the day will have lasting effects on your mood, energy levels, and ultimately, your daily satisfaction. In creating a more stable mood throughout the day, this time is critical. It’s your daily “Cape Canaveral,” the launch point for your quality of life. The habits you maintain in the morning will establish the momentum you enjoy—or struggle against—throughout the day.
Maybe you’re already convinced about the importance of a healthy morning routine in dealing with Bipolar Disorder. But you don’t know how to go about it. In this article, we’ll explore five distinct habits that can change your morning routine. Even if you’re not a morning person, these habits will require minimal energy investment—all you have to do is apply them consistently. Over time, you’ll get a better handle on what makes you tick as you give yourself the morning boost you need.
Habit #1: Mood Tracking
“One crucial tool [for dealing with Bipolar Disorder],” argues Psychology Today, “is mood charting, keeping track of mood states on a regular basis… People who observe themselves in an objective way every day—rate their mood, record daily activities and amount of sleep—will see patterns that identify the triggers for their ups and downs.”
One of the best ways to affect mood is to get a good night’s sleep. That applies to the general population as well as it does those with Bipolar Disorder. Keeping a simple notebook or journal next to the bed can be a great way to start the day off with a quick way to track your mood. All you have to do is enter in a number on a one-to-ten scale. A quick sentence or two describing the previous night’s activities can be just as helpful.
As the data adds up over time, you may notice specific patterns that influence your mood. Does having more than one drink the night before lead to a terrible morning? What habits lead to the greatest amount and quality of sleep?
There’s an old saying in business—that which gets measured also gets managed. You can’t do a very good job of controlling your mood if you don’t understand it. But as you measure your mood, you’ll also get the insights that help you to have a more stable daily life.
Habit #2: Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day
Consistent sleep might seem like a far-off goal, but it can have an immeasurable impact on your life.
Why? Consider one issue that many people with BPD struggle with: consistency. A consistent daily life can’t very well happen if you wake up at 6:00 a.m. one day and 10:00 a.m. the next.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to wake up early in order to guarantee that this habit takes place. You might read this tip and think “great—except if I could wake up at 6:00 a.m. in the first place, this would all be a whole lot easier.”
But you don’t have to wake up that early. The consistency here is what’s important.
When you wake up at a consistent time, you also make it possible to better measure the other areas that affect your mood and your mornings. Think of it like isolating a variable: if you get a consistent amount of sleep every night—within a certain margin of error—you can then look at the other elements that affect your mood in the morning.
If you’re sticking with habit #1, then you’re already measuring your mood.
You can now look at the other areas of your life that affect the quality of your mornings. Issues like alcohol, exercise, and your nighttime habits will come to the forefront. You’ll have unique insights that will teach you how to handle your morning and nightly routines in a way that has you feeling better throughout the day.
Don’t think this will have an impact on your life?
Consider this study, which found that in Harvard students, a consistent habit of sleeping led to better overall performance. It’s not a stretch to imagine that this might apply to other areas of your life—even if you don’t attend Harvard.
This single habit might not change everything about your life. But it will give you a solid foundation upon to work on the other parts that trouble you. Just keep a few tips in mind:
- Allow your sleep to normalize over time. When you set your alarm for a consistent time every day, you might not always get enough sleep from the night before. You might get too much. That’s fine. Allow your sleep habits to “normalize” over time. Eventually, your body will adapt.
- Don’t ignore the influence of the sun. Waking up earlier in summer can feel easier because the dawn occurs earlier, too. It’s perfectly fine to let your consistency ebb and flow over time—so long as it stays consistent for the long term.
- Give yourself time to adjust at night. If you want to fall asleep in the proper time, don’t stay up late with glowing screens and stimulating music. Give yourself an hour of adjustment time wherein you relax, unplug, and gradually shift over to a more sleep-like state. Paired with your new sleeping habits, you’ll find it easier to drift off at night.
Put this all together and you’ll see just how wonderful it can be to wake up rested on a consistent basis. Try not to let yourself get discouraged if, on any individual day, you struggle with falling asleep, or sleep too much. The goal is to consistently apply yourself so you’re ready for action.
Habit #3: Morning or No, Take Medication as Prescribed by a Doctor
A quick warning: This might or might not fall into your morning routine. You should always listen to your doctor’s instructions and follow through with them.
That said, if you can take your prescribed Bipolar Disorder medication in the morning, make sure to take it consistently. You can even make a habit of laying it out properly the night before, or keeping your weekly medication near a glass of water in the morning.
There’s nothing particularly magical about starting the day with medication, which is why you should always follow your doctor’s instructions to the T. But if you have the go-ahead to get the medication out of the way early, it’s a good way to ensure that you’re taking it consistently.
If your doctor gives you other instructions, you can use your morning time for just a few minutes of preparation in other ways. If you have your medication organized, then you can spend the time with five minutes of meditation, just to keep your mind calm and your brain focused.
Habit #4: Exercise
There are few healthy mood stabilizers quite like exercise. Although they’re not specific to Bipolar Disorder, these benefits can help make Bipolar Disorder easier to manage.
Testimonials at PsychEducation.org include different sufferers of Bipolar Disorder pointing to exercise to help stabilize and manage their moods. Because of its ability to lower stress as well, exercise has the added benefit of improving the quality of life in response to other stressors throughout the day.
Why do it right away in the morning? Because studies also show that exercise can be more difficult in a down or depressed mood, which in turn makes procrastination more likely. Getting a light workout in right away helps ensure that the exercise actually takes place, giving you the rest of your day to enjoy.
Exercise is indeed a challenge, but even just half an hour or less a day can be a great way to start.
Habit #5: Relaxation
Anything that helps you manage stress will improve your cognition and your mood. There’s no better time to boost your mood than in the morning hours that affect how you’ll feel for the rest of your day.
The best part about this final habit on our list? You get to choose how you relax. As long as you avoid relying on external stimulants like drugs and alcohol and stick to healthy relaxation methods, you can pick whichever you like, including:
- Exercise (see above)
- Playing relaxing music
- Reading the newspaper
- Doing a crossword puzzle or other mental challenge
- Taking a bath
The list goes on and on. The point? Starting your day with relaxation will help you boost your cognitive function while aiding in your reaction to stressors.
Any of these five habits can really help boost your day. But the most important thing: don’t overwhelm yourself. Start with small changes to ensure the habits stick. Once you’ve accomplished that, you should notice long-term benefits that improve your overall mood. If not, try experimenting with other habits that might address your needs specifically. It’s your life, after all—and your habits will help shape how you enjoy every single day.