5 Ways to Be Value-Driven When You Have a Mood Disorder
I have bipolar disorder (type 1) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). That means that my brain is geared toward making me feel stressed, anxious, and depressed — more so than the average person experiences these emotions.
I was diagnosed with these mental illnesses several years ago, during grad school. I’ll be honest — it’s not easy living with either illness. And there’s no cure (at least, not yet). Instead, mental health professionals and other resources have taught me about how to manage these illnesses on a daily basis.
The good news is that managing bipolar disorder and GAD is aligned with healthy living overall. Things like getting enough exercise, maintaining a daily meditation practice, and having a regular sleep schedule have helped me immensely. And they’re things I should be doing anyway.
So, what does it mean to be value-driven when it comes to managing a mood disorder? Well, in my daily activities, I can be driven by my mood or driven by my values. And when my mood is low, choosing value-based activities can help me feel better.
For example, with depression (a part of bipolar disorder), I often feel like sleeping all day. And that’s what I would do (and sometimes do) when I’m driven by my mood (tired/lethargic).
Or, I can choose, to the best of my ability that day, to practice behavior that is value-driven instead. In other words, I can choose to do something that supports my goal to live a value-driven, happy life.
For example, right now, I’m keeping up with my writing schedule when I’d prefer to take a nap instead. I’m doing this so I can pursue my long-term goal of building my writing career. I value creativity and self-expression, so writing instead of sleeping is a good choice for me today.
5 Things I’ve Learned Along the Way
Here are some things I’ve learned about myself and my ability to consciously choose the direction of my life, even with two mental illnesses.
- Journaling helps me check in with myself and determine my motivations (value or mood).
- With therapeutic tools Behavioral Activation, (which I’ve written about here and here,) I have the power to make conscious choices about my actions on any given day. (And I often need the help that these tools provide.)
- I don’t always get it right; sometimes I have to practice self-forgiveness. This is very important because carrying resentment towards ourselves is toxic.
- That brings me to the importance of “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Whether or not you have a mental illness, it’s important to be able to get back up and take action after falling behind on your goals.
- I give myself a ton of credit for making progress on my goals. For example, every time I finish writing an article like this, I say to myself, “wow! I did it!” I really say that, out loud. Appreciating my own victories makes me feel . . . appreciated and validated. And those are great feelings.
In sharing my experience with you, I hope to do more than just give you a rundown of how I manage my mental illnesses. I hope that my words and examples will help you manage your behavior, whether you have a mental illness or not.