I’m sure those of you who have been on an airplane before are familiar with the steps to take in case of an emergency.
Put the oxygen mask on yourself before putting it on others.
It is my experience that people would usually rather focus on others than turn the eye inward on the self because it is easier to do so. I mean, who really wants to face all those feelings from the past, or scrutinize their own behaviors when it is much easier to scrutinize others?
Honestly, this bothers me a lot, and I see it all the time; people who are worried about others before taking care of themselves.
I realize that not all people are taught to take care of themselves, but like any other skill it can be learned. I also realize that with bipolar disorder, there can be times when it is very difficult to take care of yourself, but if you focus on taking care of yourself when you are well, some of that often trickles down into the more difficult times.
Here are a few things to focus on that will help keep the focus on you.
Eat (healthy). I know a good number of people who will just stop eating altogether because of hypomania, anxiety, (or simple carelessness). Taking care of yourself means feeding your body, and feeding your body the food that it needs to feel healthy and good is one of the most important steps in taking care of yourself.
Communicate with others. Talking about yourself and your experiences helps you learn about yourself and problem solve when you feel stuck or unsure about a decision. Having someone in your life you can talk intimately with about some of the more sensitive subjects in your life can help you move past them. You could talk with a close friend, a trustworthy relative, a support group, or a therapist to help you understand your life and your actions. Once you understand how you operate, it is much easier to care for your emotional health.
Pay attention to your body. Have times when you can push yourself physically with exercise, but also allow yourself time to relax each day. Both elements are key to feeling healthy, and knowing when your body is able to exercise and when you better take it easy is an important part of taking care of yourself.
Help yourself succeed. Taking the initiative to refill your medication before it completely runs out, or making sure your fridge is full of more than just ramen noodles will help you in the long run. Sometimes that might mean doing an hour of work in exchange for a few hours of relaxing when you don’t feel like doing anything, but having the tools around that can help you succeed in taking care of yourself can help immensely and keep your streak of taking care of yourself intact.
Keep the focus on you. It is difficult to work or interact with others or take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself, and by putting that emergency oxygen mask on you before putting it on others you can be more attentive and potentially more stable.