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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bipolar Wellness Plan - A Roadmap to Emotional Stability

Well, I planned on getting this post out earlier but ran into production problems. Specifically, I picked a topic that was over my head. I was writing about developing a wellness strategy for long-term, successful management of bipolar disorder.

My plan was to write a three part series of posts around (1) creating a well thought out bipolar strategy, (2) writing a plan that addresses elements of the strategy, and (3) implementation assistance. It makes sense to me. In my prior life as an engineer this is how we tackled all sorts of large projects and programs. The steps I would take to execute a large project/program were like this:

Step One - Strategy. A strategy is a set of related activities and actions designed to achieve a specific goal or achieve multiple objectives. The strategy document defines the issues, wellness elements, and directs you toward action required to successfully implement the strategy. It represents the "big picture" about how one intends to address a significant problem or run a new program. The strategy usually articulates goal(s) and purpose.

Step Two - Planning. Planning transforms the strategy into a series of steps that are taken to live a more balanced, healthy life. It is your map to achieving your strategic goals and objectives. It transforms goals into specific objectives. For example, using the goal of reducing depression symptoms, an objective could be to get the right amount of sleep and maintain the same sleep schedule every day.

Step Three - Implementation. Implementations assistance is key to realizing the goals and objectives previously defined in the planning and strategic documents. Implementation guidance is necessary for executing your plan from Step 2. For this step we used things like schedules, status reports, logs, and other tools to stay on course with what has already been planned.

After a few hours of researching and writing I didn't find much about developing a strategy for managing bipolar disorder. Hmmmmm. Instead I found that elements of a wellness strategy were being incorporated into health and wellness plans. In fact, there are books, programs, and training to help us make these plans.  So, I regrouped and decided to write this post about developing a Bipolar Wellness Plan (The Plan).

Bipolar Wellness Plan

A Bipolar Wellness Plan can put you in control of managing the disorder by providing a clear picture of how to take action that moves you away from disorder and towards order. It will help you create an environment that supports and prepares you and those supporting you for challenges along the way.

I used a helpful template from the Black Dog Institute to create my own Bipolar Wellness Plan. The Institute calls the template "MY WELLBEING PLAN to manage my BIPOLAR DISORDER."  I recommend it for starting your own plan. 

There are other cool things online.  The Black Dog Institute also has this introduction slide show called Staying Well with a Stay Well Plan.  

The Plan addresses several key areas including activities to maintain wellness, identification of things that could trigger a relapse of bipolar symptoms; and specific action items to take in the event of a relapse. It also identifies your medical team by name and number, 24 hour emergency numbers, current medications, and a medication contingency procedure.

Ideally, the Bipolar Wellness Plan should be discussed collaboratively with one's health professionals and friends and family that support you. I ran mine by my mother and good friend. They gave it a thumbs up, I think.

A Look Inside

I want to look at three of the components addressed in the Black Dog template: maintaining wellness, triggers, and relapses. 

The maintaining wellness section of the plan points the person towards seven areas: physical activity, sleeping, eating, alcohol and drugs, pleasurable activities, issues related to treatment, and other activities.  

I think "other activities" should be expanded. There are a lot of other areas that can influence wellness like relationships, spiritual, physical health, hobbies, stress and so on. I wrote down friends, family, my faith, hiking, and reading.  I think I will expand on this area.  

Triggers are important to be aware of. Triggers are external factors (e.g., environmental, psychological) that can set off an episode of depression or mania in someone. Stress, alcohol use, and ruminating about negative things are big triggers for me.

The section on relapses was straightforward. Simply put down what things you do that would be considered evidence of relapse and early warning signs of problems. I wrote excessive sleep, anhedonia, slow thinking, and withdrawn behavior are evidence that depression has returned.

Now What?

So, now I have an "approved" Bipolar Wellness Plan that should keep me stable when I get out of this 19 month (so far!) depression. The template recommends carrying a copy of the plan with you and giving it to all your health professionals and support people. I haven't done this yet. I'll put it on my list of things to do.

I was going to put my mostly completed Plan in this post but it is too big.  So if you would like a copy of my completed Plan shoot me an email at


  1. Thank you for sharing this information.
    It will really helpful to solve my confusion

    Heathrow Medical Services

    1. Your welcome, Process. Stop by anytime. I have over 50 posts here. I figure some will have information that applies to your situation. If you have specific questions you can let me know by replying/commenting here or email to I will read your concern and more than likely address it in an upcoming blog post! If I can not post about your question (for whatever reason?) I will respond with the specific reasons. Happy trails, Jeff.

  2. Bertie McElfluffJuly 8, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Very much along the lines of a WRAP plan; I've been completing one with a nurse this past few weeks. There are many WRAP formats out there but all carry the same elements. Here's the one I like.

    1. Bertie - Thanks for providing another source for wellness plans. I checked it out. It is very thorough. I'll probably use that one when I update mine. - Jeff