My illness has totally turned me into a creature of habit. Studies have shown that routines can ease Bipolar and I have found that to be true as well. I typically eat at the same time every day (5 times a day) which helps keep my blood sugar stable and in turn regulates my moods and energy. I try my best to go to sleep every night and wake every morning at the same time also. I’ve found planning my meals and snacks and having good sleep hygiene to be keys to managing my illness. If you aren’t on a good eating and sleeping routine, I suggest you work on that first and foremost. I also try to plan my work days by scheduling tasks on my calendar. I get what’s most important done first thing in the morning before my territory gets going and I also schedule weekly and monthly responsibilities to make sure I stay on track.
My mind likes life to be predictable and I always feel the need to be in control so when change happens it often leaves my head spinning. For instance, I recently had two full days of meetings at work and team activities after work. It completely threw me for a loop and gave me some pretty intense anxiety. I had to be at work an hour and a half earlier than normal which I found to be stressful. That is a big change for someone who is on a strict schedule. I had to take medicine to put myself to sleep earlier to ensure I got enough rest. This would be probably be no big deal for a lot of people, but I was experiencing a bout of Irritable Bowel Syndrome also during this time so the thought of not having control over when and what I ate as well as being stuck in a room for hours on end really freaked me out. So I decided to take some of my control back by bringing my own food for breakfast and lunch. I left the room during lunch to eat my own food in peace and be close to a bathroom in case my stomach acted up. This helped ease my anxious mind.
I find traveling work to be challenging as well, but I am getting better at managing it. The first time I travelled for work, I had my first and only panic attack. I was not medicated at the time and not doing so well mentally when I was asked to drive to Illinois and Wisconsin with a co-worker. The first day we spent at a job site watching an installation of one of our stormwater quality units followed by lunch with a sales person then a visit to one of our supplier’s warehouses. Something I ate during lunch upset my stomach and when we got the supplier I found myself getting sick in the bathroom while everyone was waiting on me to go on a plant tour. I tried to pull myself together and go on the tour, but i became worried about having an accident as I wandered around the huge warehouse not knowing where the closest bathroom was. My heart started pounding and I found it difficult to breathe and I high tailed it to the car where I sat for the rest of the visit. I was completely panicked and mortified.
That first work trip made me terrified to travel for work again and I did everything I could to avoid it. It almost became a phobia of sorts. So when my boss called me into his office a little over three years ago and told me I was getting promoted and I had to fly to Oregon and present in front of over 100 of my co-workers, I freaking flipped. I have little experience presenting and public speaking is my number one fear. That combined with my fear of traveling for work threw me into a Bipolar episode that lasted for months. I ended up traveling to the meetings, but I made sure my flight times fit into my normal daily schedule and I did not present. I did it on my terms and I survived. Each time I have travelled since, it has gotten a little easier and my last work trip was even my idea. I refuse to take super early flights so my sleep routine is not disturbed and I also book the shortest travel time (even if that means flying into LAX or traveling on a weekend, ugh). I bring snacks with me so my blood sugar doesn’t get too low and I try to set my own schedule, always.
This might sound like a boring way to live, but my routines help keep me stable. The consistency they provide in my life make them worthwhile to me. If you are struggling to stabilize your moods, I highly suggest you try to your best to stick to a schedule. It could be exactly what you are missing.