Being diagnosed with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder can be overwhelming. You may feel anger that you have to deal with treatment or scared about falling into depression or becoming manic. But there are things you can do to compliment your treatment program and improve your quality of life. If you know someone that is dealing with bipolar disorder, you can help them by understanding the things that help (and the things that don’t).

Build a Strong Support Network: A support network doesn’t have to be an army of friends and family. It could be just one person who you can talk openly to about how you’re feeling. It’s important to have that person you can call if you’re having a particularly rough day or be honest with when things are overwhelming. For some people, that person may be their counselor or doctor.  The important part is that you aren’t holding it all in and that you have that support system in place. It’s also important to help your support network understand the warning signs that you may be manic or depressed so they know when to be concerned and take action. The Bipolar and Depression Support Alliance has a directory of support groups in your area.

Take Care of Yourself: It sounds so simple, but little things like getting enough sleep and eating as healthy as possible can make a huge difference on how you feel emotionally. Lack of sleep can, in and of itself, cause problems with depression and anxiety. Also, exercising has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of depression.  So if you’re feeling down, stuck or overwhelmed, take a walk or head to the gym for a little while.

Use Moderation: We all know that drinking too much or abusing drugs can actually make you feel worse in the long run. Moderation is especially important when you’re managing a condition like bipolar disorder. Your doctor may recommend that you don’t drink and only take medications that are prescribed to you. Moderation is also important in other aspects of our lives. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may have to say “no” to certain activities or opportunities. It’s more important to rest and take care of yourself than it is to do everything.

Be Patient: Sometimes it takes a while to find the right treatment program for your condition. It’s important to understand that this is normal and part of the journey to building the program and lifestyle that works best for you. Be open and honest with your doctor about how you’re feeling and any concerns you have about your treatment program.

Be Grateful and Give Back: When we’re struggling emotionally or working to manage a condition like bipolar disorder, it can be easy to focus only on the bad stuff. Take time each day to think about the things you’re grateful for — the opportunities, people or things that do make you feel good. And, when you’re feeling up to it, volunteer to help other people. Getting out of your own head and feeling the satisfaction of doing good can help boost your mood and lessen symptoms of depression.