Living with Bipolar Illness

How can you motivate people with Bipolar to exercise?

When I work with people diagnosed with bipolar, they often hear my broken record,

“Make and keep a regular schedule, get up and go to bed at the same time each day, no caffeine after 3 pm, eat whole foods, stay in touch with your doctor, and build in time for fun and exercise.” Week after week, they report back to me on their progress. They usually end their check in with, “And my exercise? Mm, not-so-much.” New word. Notsomuch.

Why can’t you just take a walk around the block?

Knowing we all feel better after we exercise does not always help on those terrible dark days where a loved one is at the floor of a dark hole. Advice from well-meaning friends and family can boomerang. “If you just exercise, you will feel better.” We all know  

clearly your well-intentioned friend will feel better if they just (fill in the blank) gave up cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, etc. Get my drift?

Does weight lifting count?

I suggest my clients share the following example with their loved ones who do not suffer from the crushing fatigue of bipolar depression. “Depression feels like strapping on 50-pound weights on all 4 limbs, which makes brushing teeth or showering on bad days pretty darn impossible.”

How to build in exercise into day:

Motivation is an inside job. So, sorry, you can’t really motivate them. You are pretty much powerless in that regards. However, you are powerful over asking how you can help to create an environment that has fewer roadblocks to getting started with moving. It is even better if those modifications help them actually move, such as something as silly as putting the cereal box in the upstairs linen closet.

Teeny Tiny

My best advice for helping someone else make progress is to shoot for teeny tiny baby steps. Success breeds success. An object in motion stays in motion.