What Is a Bipolar Routine?
I have talked many times about how important a routine is in bipolar disorder (Limitations and Rules that Keep Us Safe). There are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is because bipolar disorder is considered a circadian rhythm disorder by many medical professionals. Your circadian rhythm is critical to your functioning as a human as it tells your body when to sleep and when to be awake (among other things) and trying to go against it is like swimming upstream. Assuming bipolar disorder is, indeed, a circadian rhythm disorder, we should do everything we can to work to regulate our circadian rhythms in a healthy manner. Keeping a strict bipolar routine is one major way of doing that.
What is a Routine?
A routine, obviously, it just a set of things you do in a given order at a given time repeatedly. Each person’s routine is unique. There are certain components that I think every bipolar routine should contain, but there are many that vary from person to person.
My Bipolar Routine
I’m not suggesting my routine is the best or that you should copy it, but at the request of a reader, I’m sharing it just to give you an idea of what a bipolar routine might look like.
- 7:40 AM – Wake up and get out of bed (do not hit the snooze button)
- 7:45 AM – Morning ablutions, take medication and say good morning to the cats
- 7:50 AM – Make breakfast (I eat the same, quick-to-produce breakfast every day) and decorate coffee
- 8:00 AM – Eat breakfast while watching TV
- 8:30 AM – Start work
- 9:30 AM – Feed cats and give insulin (to my cat)
- 12:00 PM – Take medication
- 1:30 PM – Take break and afternoon nap
- 7:00 PM – Take medication
- 8:20 PM – Put on blue-light-blocking glasses
- 9:30 PM – Take medication, clean the kitchen, set up coffee maker, give the cat his insulin, clean the cat box, brush teeth (and the like)
- 10:30 PM – Go to bed
The really critical parts are:
- The same wake-up and bedtime every day
- An evening routine before bed
Aren’t Routines Boring?
Well, yes, I suppose so. But routines do two things:
- They make you higher-functioning
- They work to stabilize mood
They make you higher-functioning because you know that every single day you are going to accomplish certain goals as they are consistently scheduled (like, for example, that my kitchen is always clean when I go to bed). They work to stabilize mood (especially the sleep schedule) as shown in therapies like social rhythm therapy.
And because doing things (side effect free) every day both makes me feel more well and function more successfully, routines are absolutely worth having and worth sticking to. These are the gains you need to focus on in order to maintain the motivation to stick to a routine.
Yes, I realize that having a set routine means inflexibility. Yes, I realize that people bristle against that. Yes, I realize that routines take work. Yes, I realize people like to think they can “do whatever they want.”
But if you want to be well, it’s unlikely that medications alone are going to do it for you. You’re going to have to maintain certain lifestyle choices in order to support the gains the medications make. That’s just part of the work involved in getting better.
Tracy, N. (2013, January 15). What Is a Bipolar Routine?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/01/what-bipolar-routine
Author: Natasha Tracy
Please make sure your doc is ordering blood tests; specifically thyroid levels. I know lithium can wreak havoc with those hormones, and having had thyroid problems in the past, I know that the pain-to-the-touch (from the shower) that you seem to be experiencing can be a symptom.
I sincerely hope you feel better than this soon.
And thank you all for this thread -- I've been feeling very isolated in my experience lately, and you've lightened my heart considerably.
NB: The form has the wrong email address. I can't correct it online!
I had the same sleep/wake cycle problem. Sometimes med changes will do that. I had to give my body a little time to adjust. Some meds were just too sedating and some not enough. Sometimes the dose was too high or too low. Sometimes it wasn't the right combination of meds. When I took my meds sometimes made a difference. I experimented a little on my own but ultimately I had to work with my psychiatrist to find the right balance. It's your life, don't settle for less than what is optimal for you and then fight like hell to get back on track the best you can. It's so important to having a fuller life. I know it can be very hard to do but don't give up til you find what works for you. Remember you have to speak up for yourself and be your own advocate. I know it can be very frustrating and discouraging at times but try to be patient.
Another commenter above (Julia) spoke on how self-implemented routines aren't possible with her, and I have to agree that there are some who can't do regular routines on their own. I am definitely one of those. It's part of why I function better in a job where I have regular, steady hours, because it forces me into a routine, and I do become much more higher-functioning again. When I was laid off and without work, trying to implement that routine was next to impossible. It would work some days, but others I just couldn't stick to it, no matter how persistent my intentions were.
There definitely has to be a healthy balance, and whether the routine is imposed or self-imposed, it helps. I was fortunate that when I first started my journey to recover, even though I wasn't working (and then was, but with a crazy irregular schedule), my mom and sister both worked hard to keep me in a routine, sending me to bed if I wouldn't go on my own and ensuring to wake me up in the mornings so that I was always up at a regular time.
As some other people have already commented on, this whole push towards part-time, irregular jobs is definitely a negative for those of us who struggle, and it's unfortunate, as revealing the need for a schedule can put people in a precarious position. Hopefully as mental health and mental illness become more spoken of, and people are more educated, the ability to make those kinds of requests will one day not count against us.
I am doing better with dishes. I usually maintain laundry pretty well. I don't have to clean the tub because I take my showers at the gym--to save on my water bill. I use a programmable thermostat so it's not subject to my possibly fluctuating temperatures.
I always wake up at the same time, but I don't get u at the same time. Getting out the door in the morning is nearly impossible still.
I always take my night meds at the same time. My therapist, who also has adhd, told me that we adhders only have to get one thing done a day. Do that, and call it a success!