SET UP YOUR PERSONAL ALMANAC
The word “Almanac” means “God’s Puzzle.” In this case, the puzzle is you. The Personal Almanac is your opportunity to document yourself and create a personal field guide. For persons with bipolar disorder, knowing our triggers and symptoms is essential and the Personal Almanac becomes especially important.
Here are several types of Almanac set-ups you can consider:
1. You can easily set up tabs and keep track of symptoms, triggers and solutions.
2. You can purchase a variety of binder colors and slip artwork behind the plastic cover.
The binders were too big to slip into a purse and are mainly for documenting at the end of the day.
The sketchbooks appealed to the artist in me and I enjoyed mixing art with writing.
They come in various sizes.
The paper is sometimes hard to write on when scrawling quick comments.
They were a bit expensive
It’s Easy to write notes on the lined paper.
Small enough to jam into satchels.
Sometimes the pages fall out
SECTIONS OR TABS TO YOUR JOURNAL
These are the tabs mentioned in Bipolar Almanac: Create a life worth living. You will, of course, create a journal that fits your needs.
Keep a notebook by the bed to transcribe the dreams.
Write about overall triggers and document when you experience an emotional “twinge” and what event, person, or thought might have triggered my feelings.
What are the symptoms or signs of various emotions and thoughts? What makes you tick? Where to certain emotions “live” in your body? Triggers and symptoms often flow into each other and can be combined into the same section.
Some people set up their mood charts in a separate tab. Others track their moods within the Personal Journal. Up to you.
This is where you list all the tools, or coping techniques that you’ve been reading about. List all the ones that sound interesting and that you feel you are likely to try out. Scan the tools regularly. When you are feeling a specific emotion or know that your energy is swinging, check out the toolbox for ideas. It’s sort of like trying out a new recipe. If you like it, then move it to your permanent toolbox.
This is where I test the coping tools that are mentioned everywhere. The only way to know whether these tools will work for you is to try them. I have a practice of trying a tool for 7 days. If I like it, I add it to my toolbox. If I want to add it to my schedule, I do it for 28 days. This usually makes the practice a habit.
This is how I set up the experiment:
I write up how I am going to use the tool on a daily basis. For instance, maybe I want to add walking to my schedule. I’ll write down how much I want to walk, when I plan to do this activity and where. I then document what I actually did during that 7-day interval.
At the end of 7 days, I write my results and whether I want to continue with the practice.
Ann Christensen has been writing diaries and journals since fourth grade. She has a degree in journalism and has boxes of journals in the attic. Her Kindle book, Bipolar Almanac: Create a life worth living is the first in the Mental Health Toolkit series. It includes anecdotes from Ann’s manic-depressive episodes and is a quick start guide for persons with bipolar disorder and their families.