No matter how long it has been since you had a hypomanic or manic episode, there is always a possibility you will have another one. Of course, feeling a bit on edge or having to stay up late to finish a project doesn't necessarily mean you are on the verge of becoming manic. You can protect yourself from real crises by realizing that certain situations might increase the likelihood of mania. Recognizing specific triggering events or patterns of behavior that are especially relevant to your particular illness can save you, and those around you, a lot of pain and inconvenience.
Stay Out of the Fast Lane
From time to time, everyone is rushed — especially with instant communication technology like mobile phones, handheld computers, and instant messages delivered over wireless Internet networks. Many people cannot avoid having to do several things at once, as quickly as possible. You have to hurry to a store before it closes, but only after you get to a gas station to fill the tank. Your boss wants a report finished by noon, but you have other deadlines the same day. Or you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for your entire family, an exercise that often requires dealing with various personalities and a full to-do list of shopping and kitchen chores. Despite these sometimes unavoidable challenges, there are some things you can do to achieve a life less likely to be interrupted by manic episodes:
Try to avoid highly stressful jobs. For example, if a job involves a lot of last-minute deadlines or waiting on many customers who all want service immediately, it might not be right for you. Even if the job seems relatively low key, it can be made stressful by a less-than-enlightened boss or fellow employee who makes the work environment unpleasant. If you find yourself in an environment that overly stresses you, seek a better job. You may not find it, but the benefits are worth the effort no matter how long the search takes.
If you are lucky enough to find one, a job that gives you some freedom to pace yourself, provides flexibility, offers frequent short breaks, and either is staffed by understanding people or gives you a degree of autonomy might be better for you. While many people would love to have such a job, remember that if you have a disability due to bipolar disorder, you may be entitled to certain on-the-job considerations thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. To determine if you qualify, visit the website (
Obviously, try to avoid highly stressful situations. Plan your day carefully to avoid unnecessary rushing. You may not have to perform some tasks, errands, or favors that someone else can do or that don't need to get done. Don't make unnecessary work and stress for yourself.
Ask for help when appropriate. If you volunteer to cook Thanksgiving dinner or take on some difficult task at work, ask for help. If you can turn something into a team effort, it may be less stressful if your responsibility is clearly defined and you don't assume total responsibility.
Pace yourself. Take short breaks whenever possible. Step outside and get some fresh air. Have a snack. Read a few more pages of a book, listen to some music, or take some deep breaths. Pause at times to look around you. You do not need to compete with everyone. Remember that the task you are performing may be important, but with perspective, it may not be worth the worry it causes you. Strive to keep events in perspective.
Avoid putting things off until the last minute. If you can do part of a task on one day and a little more the next, you can avoid rushing around at the last minute to meet a deadline. This can decrease stress.
Stress has been estimated to cost the U.S. workplace around $300 billion each year. This figure includes compensation claims related to stress, health insurance and medical costs, absenteeism, employee turnover, and reduced productivity. Upward of 40 percent of the workers who experience job burnout claim that stress is the main problem.
Pay Attention to the Calendar
Some dates might be associated with a manic episode. These can include the following:
Cycles: Be aware of the patterns if your history of manic or depressive episodes tends to run in cycles. For example, if mania typically followed depression, you should be prepared for the possibility that you are vulnerable to mania or hypomania if you have recently been feeling down.
Seasons: Seasonal changes are sometimes associated with dramatic mood swings in some people with mood disorders. Be especially careful to avoid high-energy behavior during such times.
Anniversaries: The anniversary of a major life event can potentially trigger a manic episode. This is especially likely when the event is associated with a loss of some kind such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or other troubling event, including a major mood episode. In all of these instances, memories of the emotions felt at the time — even ones you might not be consciously aware of — can contribute to an episode.
Forthcoming events: Whether it is something stressful (such as a court date) or something potentially positive (such as a marriage or promotion at work), a major change can set in motion a manic episode. It is a good idea to discuss in advance with your doctor or therapist how to deal with significant forthcoming events that will have a big impact on your life.
Contacting your doctor when you recognize thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that precede a manic episode can be one of the best ways to head off a developing problem. She can provide temporary, supplemental medications and monitor you to help stabilize your mood, prevent a major disruptive mood swing, and keep you out of the hospital.