Bipolar and Exercise for Recovery
Bipolar is an umbrella term that covers many variants of a disorder. The main symptoms are mood episodes ranging from hypomania/mania (which includes symptoms such as racing thoughts, impulsive behavior and insomnia) to depression (which includes symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, a low mood and suicidal ideation). Some types of bipolar, such as type I, can include bipolar psychosis symptoms.
If you are struggling with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, a healthy lifestyle is one way you can manage your feelings and regain control of your life. Following a balanced diet and avoiding excessive amounts of caffeine are two ways to do this, but regular exercise may also help some of the symptoms associated with bipolar episodes, especially those connected to the depressive type.
However, it is important to treat each episode on a unique basis, and to take things slowly. If you are in doubt about any aspect of exercise, or the way you are feeling, reach out and talk to someone as soon as you are able to.
Detailed below are some of the ways exercise might help you alleviate the symptoms of a depressive episode, and some general useful information:
Join an Exercise Class
If you experience depressive symptoms, you may withdraw socially and become increasingly isolated. Joining an exercise class may seem daunting at first, but will help get you out of the house, into new surroundings, and will expose you to positive social situations. If this feels as though it would be too much to cope with, consider taking a gentle walk with a friend a couple of times a week. Not only would that help improve your exercise regime, it would also build on previous social relationships.
Benefiting From Endorphins
It is well documented that exercise releases endorphins, so during times of depression exercise could be extremely helpful in helping you get back to a level setting. Exercise, however, is not a sole therapy, and it may be that you need medication alongside it in order to rectify the chemical imbalances you are experiencing.
Taking It Slow
Remember you do not have to start with intensive exercise — try taking it slowly and increasing your sessions until you hit 30 minutes roughly three times per week. If you are unable to do this, do not let it set you back, but rather do the best that you can, and achieve that which is within your reach.
Choose Activities You Enjoy
Picking a type of exercise you enjoy is also important. If exercise feels like a chore it runs the risk of feeding into a depressive episode; if you skip a session you may suffer a blow to your self-esteem. Choose something you like and make a positive choice, that way you have something to look forward to every few days. Doing something you enjoy also helps you build on a skill for the future, as you grow and improve through classes or self-study.