Change. A dreaded six-letter word, a constant in our lives, and the thing that simultaneously makes us grow, and sometimes dread that growth. Change is a constant in a world that morphs rapidly, and preparing for, and managing, change is an important life skill that most adults work on, on a regular basis. Change happens to everyone, but can be especially tricky for those living with bipolar disorder, as routine and schedule helps patients manage their disorder and stay on top of medications, symptoms.
As challenging as change can be, it doesn’t have to be feared! Preparing for change is the best way to take a proactive stance to addressing, and even embracing, it. Consider some of the below ideas the next time change is coming in your life, or develop a plan for yourself, so you have it on hand when change comes around.
• It is always great to plan… – Of course this seems obvious, but planning ahead for change and the stress it brings can help manage the reality of it in the moment. Prepare for challenges so if they come your way, you’ve already developed a way to approach them. Each season of change carries its unique challenges and mentally thinking through how you’ll address them is already half the battle.
• …but remember to be flexible! – Change changes, all the time. And knowing that and keeping in mind that what you’ve prepared for may not come to fruition can help when you’re navigating tough things. Of course some things can’t be flexible or fluid, but having a “Plan B” or options for the things that can is important!
• Communicate what you need with whomever needs to hear it – Patients who live with bipolar disorder know that sometimes, talking about how they’re feeling can be difficult. But in times of change, strong and clear communication with your family/support circle, your work, your doctors/care professionals, and others who need to know that a) change is happening and b) that you may need some assistance through it. Talking early and often about change can help it feel seamless. If your needs change, remember to update those with whom you’re communicating.
• Keep things manageable – When change comes around, we sometimes find ourselves swept up in lots of details and tangents. When you need to focus on change and managing it, eliminating things that aren’t as important or urgent may be key. Consider delegating some responsibilities or step back from things that you can. This isn’t permanent – but it does give you a chance to catch your breath, find a new “normal” and, when you’re ready, take on more.
• Track what’s going on – Sometimes we get so swept up in change, even if it is positive. Who wouldn’t get lost in the moment a few times when you’re celebrating a new job or move or addition to the family? But it is important to check in with yourself a few times each day and truly, critically assess how you’re feeling. Make sure to track what you’re feeling and experiencing so you can discuss it with your health care professional and/or see trends. Mobile apps like eMoods make it quick and easy to record how you’re feeling, other notes or trends, and then be able to retrieve that information when you need to discuss it or reference it in the future.
• Say “no” and be OK with it – Change brings opportunities and whether those are in your personal or professional world, some things will come up that you just cannot, or to not want, to handle. And it’s OK to say no, firmly and resolutely. With the change you’re already managing, this may not be the time or the season to take anything else on. That’s OK – focusing on you, your health, and the things that matter to you should be your focus.
• Take a break (or build them in!) – Moments of stress and change can be overwhelming. Remembering to step away from a situation if it becomes too much, or being ok with saying “no” to the things you can say no to will help you keep a clear mind and perspective when you’re navigating change and unknown waters. If you have the ability to plan, build breaks in! Take the time to enjoy the process, the scenery, the company or the moment. Because we know, that this will soon change, too!
The reality of perfectly managing change is that perfectly laid plans can also go awry. Regardless of how you have prepared yourself for a change, or encounter change when you’re not expecting it, sometimes change hits us harder, or in different ways, than what we expected. When that is the case, sometimes the best option is to reach out for support from your care professional – whether you need to talk, you’re not feeling right, something is going on with your medicine, or something else entirely. With the ease, confidentiality, and accessibility of a counseling service like BetterHelp, patients are able to connect with an online counselor and process through the challenges, roadblocks, and opportunities that come our way during change. BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed, accredited care provider who you can interact with over video, call or text – whatever is easiest for you at that time. Online counseling can provide patients with immediate connecting in overwhelming times, and BetterHelp is committed to ensuring that patients can receive timely, relevant care and support by connecting them with one of thousands of licensed care providers. Discussing these roadblocks and challenges with a mental health professional will help you in navigating how you can help yourself now, and identify strategies and connections to build on in the future.
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