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Living with a dual diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder is challenging. It’s hard to differentiate between symptoms and even harder to manage them. Fortunately, there are seven simple coping strategies you can use to help you manage ADHD and bipolar disorder symptoms.  

1. Manage ADHD and Bipolar by Tracking Your Symptoms

ADHD and Bipolar disorder share many similar symptoms. So, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. That’s why tracking your symptoms is helpful. Doing so allows you to learn and understand your individual symptoms for each condition. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what’s ADHD-related and what’s Bipolar related.  

Tracking your symptoms allows you to see potential triggers for ADHD symptoms or Bipolar episodes. Thus, preparing you to manage your symptoms and episodes healthily. In addition to identifying triggers, symptom tracking allows you to see what medications, treatments, and lifestyle modifications work. So, you’ll know what to do more or less.  

woman sitting at a table writing in journal to manage adhd and bipolar symptoms

It doesn’t have to be complicated when it comes to tracking symptoms. For example, you can use a mood journal to track moods. This will allow you to identify emotional dysregulation and Bipolar episodes. And as mentioned above, this better equips you to handle these changes.  

Lastly, tracking your treatment plan is another way to monitor your symptoms. You can track medications, coping strategies, and lifestyle modifications you’ve made to see how they impact your symptoms. This is a great way to provide feedback on whether your treatment plan is working. And it’s a great way to log and track medication to ensure you’re taking it.  

2. Set Aside Time to Plan Ahead

Time management issues can be a significant complication for both ADHD and Bipolar. Learning how to decrease time blindness will aid in improved time management skills. The first step is setting aside time to create a regular schedule. Having a set schedule lets you know what you’re supposed to do throughout your day. And it provides a flow to your daily life.  

My favorite way to create a schedule is to block out tasks and appointments using calendar blocking. Then, I set aside time each evening to plan for the next day. First, I determine what tasks, appointments, and responsibilities I must take care of. Next, I assign a time for each of these things on my calendar. This way, I know what I need to do for the day and what time I need to do it.  

close up of person using a digital planner to manage adhd and bipolar symptoms

In addition to calendar blocking tasks, prioritization is another tool you can use to get things done. Create four columns labeled urgent, important, can wait, and delegate on a piece of paper. Determine which tasks belong under which label. Then focus on completing the urgent tasks and working your way down to the can-wait-for column. The tasks under the delegate column can be passed on to another person to complete.  

As a rule of thumb, it’s essential to not focus on more than three to four tasks per day. Trying to complete a massive to-do list will only overwhelm you.  

3. Create a Consistent Routine

Schedules and routines go hand in hand. Schedules are the foundation, and routines are the framework. Routines help build discipline and allow you to create positive habits. They’re comprised of activities, tasks, and actions completed regularly throughout the day.  

For example, you may follow a morning routine where you exercise, walk the dog, engage in personal hygiene, eat breakfast and take medication. Or you could follow a sleep routine in which you perform relaxing activities such as reading a book, stretching, or praying before bed.  

You can create similar routines like those mentioned earlier or make a daily work routine, weekend routine, or evening routine. The type of routine you create will depend on your lifestyle and needs.  

4. Become Better at Time Management

I mentioned how planning ahead helped improve time management. But there are additional ways you can become better at managing your time. For example, digital reminders and alarms can help you remember appointments and tasks. For instance, you might decide to create an alarm to remind you to take your medication. Or, you can generate an alarm to remind you to leave for work.  

woman checking time on watch

In addition to reminders, timers can help improve focus and concentration when working on important tasks. For example, the Pomodoro method is excellent for studying or working. First, you work for twenty-five minutes, then take a short five-minute break for four rounds. Then, after the fourth round, you take an extended fifteen-minute break. This definitely helps improve productivity and efficiency.  

5. Find Ways to Decrease Stress and Anxiety

Sometimes it feels like you can do all the things. And this can lead you to take on too many responsibilities at once. Thus causing overwhelm and stress, triggering anxiety, procrastination, and depression. But, there are ways to overcome this.  

Utilizing the prioritization method mentioned above, you can determine what’s urgent, important, can wait, and can be delegated to someone else. Once you figure this out, you can shift your focus to one to two projects or tasks.  

woman relaxing on couch

However, stress and anxiety aren’t only about overtasking yourself. Having to deal with daily life stressors can also create problems. That’s why self-care is essential. Setting aside time to relax, recharge and do things that bring you joy. Activities such as meditation, prayer, breathwork, and journaling are great for relaxing and clearing the mind. They allow you to deal with daily life by helping you process events mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Thus giving you the clarity you need to problem solve and find solutions.  

Additionally, finding a hobby can help you recharge and find joy. Examples of hobbies include reading, engaging in a sport, or learning a new language. Regardless of what hobby you choose, it should be something that you enjoy and have fun doing.  

6. Prioritize Health and Wellness

Healthy lifestyle modifications improve well-being from the inside out. And they’re an essential part of every treatment plan. For example, making nutritional adjustments such as reducing sugar and caffeine can reduce the occurrence of manic/hypomanic episodes. And if you’re taking medication, it’s essential to abstain from alcohol as it can cause interactions.  

Additionally, following a well-balanced diet can help decrease depression, improve brain function, and increase dopamine levels naturally. An example of a diverse diet includes consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. You can find Omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish like salmon and nuts like walnuts.  

woman smiling and eating oatmeal at dining room table

Exercise is another healthy tool that decreases depression and improves focus. Aim to get thirty minutes of activity daily. This could take the form of a dedicated workout or something simpler such as a walk around the neighborhood.  

Lastly, sleep is vital for decreasing manic/hypomanic episodes. Following a regular sleep routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time is imperative. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And if it’s challenging for you to sleep or stay asleep, consider if taking a sleep aid like melatonin is suitable for you.  

7. Build A Support System

Having a support system is imperative for symptom management. Knowing that people in your life want you to do well and are willing to help makes you feel less alone. For example, relying on a trusted friend or family member that you can turn to when you need help. Additionally, they can help you implement healthy habits and lifestyle modifications that improve your symptoms. 

Furthermore, support groups are a great way to meet other people with similar challenges. And going to therapy will help you stay on top of your mental health. Your therapist will help you manage episodes, learn coping skills, and work through the challenges and stresses you face.  

It’s not easy trying to manage ADHD and bipolar disorder. But, these simple lifestyle modifications may prove to be beneficial for you on your journey. However, trying to make all these changes at once will cause overwhelm. And it sets you up for failure. It takes time, patience, and a lot of grace. Start with one thing at a time and add to it slowly. Before you know it, you’ll create an effective system that works for you.  

References and Related Reading

Psych Central: Coping with Bipolar Disorder 5 Self Help Strategies