Nine in ten people with bipolar disorder have said it has impacted their job performance. Working with the disorder can often be a challenge, but it can be overcome with the proper understanding and by changing your routine. Here are a few tips on how to manage your bipolar disorder at work as well as in the rest of your life.
Decide Whether You’re Going to be Open or Not About Your Disorder
While you may feel like it is an obligation to divulge your bipolar disorder to upper management, or your colleagues, this is still your choice. If you feel like it is manageable and doesn’t affect your work relationship that much, then that shouldn’t be an issue. However, it would be wise to let someone in upper management know in case your bipolar is particularly debilitating, as they might be more inclined to accommodate you if you’re having a particularly bad day.
Be Mindful of Your State
This includes keeping to your schedule and understanding when you’re going through a mania or a depressive stage. Adhere to your medication schedule, even if this means taking medication at awkward times. Again, alerting someone in upper management could help accommodate a schedule for taking your medication if it interferes with your work hours.
Watch for symptoms. Even if you’ve taken your medication and done everything right, there are times when you might fall into a depressive or manic state out of the blue. If that is the case, you have to do everything you can to reduce stress and go back to a relaxed mental state. Your therapist probably gave you a few relaxation techniques that you can practice; make sure you take the time it takes to get back to your regular state, or even take the day off if you feel like it’s too much.
If you had to take an extended leave from work because of your bipolar issues, take the time to pace your return to not overwhelm yourself with work responsibilities. Even consider switching to a part time schedule. Going back too fast could actually exacerbate your problem, so make sure that you take things slow.
Look for Jobs that Suit Your Needs
One of the advantages of the gig economy is that you can choose when, where and how you work. If you have skills that let you work from home, this may be a better solution for you depending on your needs. Or you could look for a temp agency that lets you work day to day or on short term assignments. This way, you can take more control over your working hours rather than worrying about a particularly low depressive episode costing you your job. Obviously this won’t work in all cases, since you may need to work five days a week to pay the rent. You could also consider working less hours and complementing your income with a side gig as well.
Seek the Right Type of Counselling
Instead of simply seeking counselling for the depressive episodes, seek interpersonal and social rhythm therapy. This type of counselling helps you better maintain your daily routine regardless of how you feel. It should also address how to handle work relationships and setting routines so you do what needs to be done at work as well as at home. And speaking of routine, on to the next topic – structuring your life.
Structure Your Life
Counselling should help you to establish a routine that ensures you get what needs to be done, done, including taking care of yourself. Set a schedule so that you always get enough sleep, and you can enforce this by setting an alarm clock and the TV timer to turn off at 9 PM so you don’t mindlessly veg out in front of it until midnight. If you have a consistent routine you keep no matter what, you’re less likely to sleep too late and come in late to work. Don’t neglect nutrition as well, as it has a direct effect on your mental state as well.
You can also visit sites like Mental Health and Money Advice which are dedicated to helping people living with mental health problems like bipolar and can give you advice on how to structure your finances and manage a good work/life relationship.
Managing your bipolar disorder is perfectly possible if you are ready to do the work it takes and develop the self awareness needed. Always make sure that you are aware of your mental state and consider switching to part time work if you feel like the stress of a full time job is too much for you. Set up a routine you can abide by that ensures you take care of the essentials, whether financial or self-care. And also consider seeking counselling on how to handle work relationships.