I don't think I've ever had balance in my life, whether working to the point of crashing, drinking until I've blacked out, staying up all night and sleeping in all day, or overspending and racking up credit cards. However, I am finally learning that I can still enjoy most things within limits.
Many individuals living with bipolar disorder tend to struggle with balance, possibly due to impulsivity, too much or too little energy, or disliking rigidity. However, it will eventually catch up to one's mental health without some form of regulation. And though it's not always fun living with the mundane feelings of rules and regulations, rather than saying let's stop it altogether, how about we instead bend a little without breaking.
I am very fortunate to have a flexible job from home, but it wasn't always that way. I worked for almost 30 years in the outside world, but unfortunately, I crashed and burned one too many times. I've realized that my brain just isn't hardwired to handle a rigid schedule or work environment.
Working from home doesn't mean not striking a balance, though. Although I may not start blogging until later in the afternoon due to my focus issues or low energy, I make sure that I start on a project right away and stick with it from the beginning until completion.
I know it's not that cut and dry for everyone, especially in a hectic world with a mound full of expectations. Still, if we don't allow ourselves some flexible time, it can push us over the edge. As it is, we often struggle with a heightened sense of awareness and moods that fluctuate daily, so we need some downtime or stress-free time to decompress.
Some examples can include taking a short break from the office and walking around the building or taking time out from the kids and watching a half-hour show. Or, how about taking a break from homework for a few minutes by doing something relaxing or staying in bed with the kids a little longer on the weekends before you start your day.
I've always struggled with impulsive spending, but fortunately, I have come a long way. And though I am not always aware that I'm manic until I've received too many deliveries to count at the door, I am at least finally able to return these purchased items rather than keep them all.
To balance, I always ensure to pay my bills and buy groceries every month before purchasing a little something for myself. I also recently discovered that I don't have to spend every last dime just because it's there. But instead, I put it into a retirement fund.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to something nice, but when in a manic state, we often become impulsive and spend to excess, facing the consequences after the fact. And if we are not taking care of our bills, buying groceries, or paying our rent or mortgage first, it can lead to significant financial problems. Therefore, try to ensure to take care of your bills first. If you have multiple credit cards, try to go down to no more than one card with a set maximum amount. Then, once you've paid the bills, buy yourself a little something if you can afford it.
Ever since I was a teen, I hated going to bed at night – I always felt like I was missing out on something. In contrast, mornings have never been my favorite. However, this routine of staying up all night and sleeping all day eventually landed me in an inpatient hospital.
There is something about living with bipolar disorder and loving the nightlife. And I don't necessarily mean going out on the town, but more so not liking to go to sleep at night. Still, your body is not fit for that regimen, and it will eventually take a toll on your body and mind, and overall mental wellness.
Suggesting that you go to bed and get up at the same time every day is hypocritical of me, as I often fall off the wagon. However, I now keep my schedule within a two-hour window. For instance, if I go to bed at 10 PM but want to stay up later the following evening, the cut-off time will be midnight. And I do the same with my morning routine.
So, rather than feeling forced to a strict schedule, see if you can try that.
My weight has fluctuated over the past 20 years due to my lack of balance regarding food. For example, I eat incredibly healthy, but I love my sweets too much. So, the first year I gave up sweets altogether, I lost 40 pounds. Three years later, I decided to try sweets again, which eventually went from one treat a week to several a day. I have now put half the weight back on and am very hard on myself. Therefore, I know it's time to simplify my life by learning balance.
There's always some new fad diet, but hearing that word sounds like impending doom if you're anything like me. So, whether you struggle with eating too little or too much, for the most part, it's okay to eat what you want (unless you have doctor's orders or particular health issues), but see if you can at least balance the portion size. For example, if you overeat, try putting your food on a smaller plate. Or, if you like sweets, allow yourself a cheat night or buy a portioned size sweet. And remember, if you are afraid to gain weight and deprive yourself of food, it will only slow your metabolism down, so allow yourself to eat a little more. Again, it's about balance.
The same is true with exercise. Nobody says you have to run a marathon, as too much is not always a good thing either, but even a little bit goes a long way. And if you don't like exercise, be creative – play ball outside with your kids, garden, or do whatever activity you might like that doesn't feel like a chore.
Yes, individuals living with bipolar disorder often starve for more excitement and less boredom in their lives, whether it has to do with eating forbidden foods, staying up until all hours, or spending or drinking excessively, but balance isn't impossible. If anything, you don't have to deprive yourself but can still find enjoyment in smaller increments.