Limitations and Rules that Keep Us Safe

February 27, 2012 Natasha Tracy

Rules and limitations help create an environment for wellness and make sense for a person with bipolar disorder. Here are some of the things I don't do.

My last post was about accepting the limitations that having a mental illness puts on us. The examples I used in that article were:

  • Not watching upsetting movies
  • Maintaining a strict bedtime (not staying out late)
  • Not watching / reading the news

These are three of things I do to maintain stability. As commenter Mary Ann stated, these limitations might be considered enduring the illness rather than suffering per se. But I say tomato, tomahto.

But regardless, these limitations are self-imposed and the rules they bring about are there to keep me safe. In response to a commenter’s question, here are a few more rules I obey:

  • I don’t listen to upsetting music – only happy upbeat music for me
  • I sleep the same hours every night and wake up at the same time every morning
  • I reduce light exposure at night
  • I never skip breakfast and make sure to eat at least one other meal (getting me to eat three is a bit of a challenge)
  • I don’t drink or do drugs (although I admit I occasionally break this rule and have a glass of wine)
  • I don’t wander the streets alone, I find it depressing
  • I always, always, always take my meds on time – the world could be ending and I would do this
  • I always attend healthcare appointments on time
  • I focus on now over tomorrow – thinking about tomorrow tends to lead to worry which leads to stress which leads to depression
  • I listen to my body and rest when I need to, even when I don’t want to
  • I work when I need to, even if I don’t want to
  • I make time for friends, even when I don’t want to
  • I skip the hot yoga – meds make me heat intolerant
  • I break tasks into small chunks and make tiny goals that I know I can reach
  • I cook to eat fewer processed foods
  • I watch and analyze my thoughts constantly to look for mood-disodered patterns (really)

Rules and Limitations Set Me Up for Success

So basically, from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed I’m setting up my world for wellness. It’s a lot of work and I get really tired of it and I really want to give it up sometimes but there it is. The plan, in a nutshell. It’s just me recognizing that my brain is altered and it needs extra work to keep it propped up. It’s how I manage. It’s how I cope. It’s how I’m here writing these words instead of crying in a corner. If I didn’t do those things I would be unwell pretty much constantly.

Maintaining those kinds of rigorous rules is ridiculous. I know. It just so happens that the alternative is worse. So while I hate all the rules I recognize that I choose them and that I choose them for good reason – to keep me well. And that’s worth the limitations and the rules.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, February 27). Limitations and Rules that Keep Us Safe, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

March, 23 2012 at 11:26 pm

Thanks for the awesome blog. I have just discovered it and I'll be back reading. I set many rules around myself and I find in doing so I am really well and therefore free to do what I choose in life. I see maintaining my wellness as a challenge and therefore it is part of the game to stay within the rules. These would be my main rules. Regular sleep (with the occasional sleeping tablet where necessary), taking meds, aerobic exercise, limiting sugar, eliminating caffine and alcohol, I try to take an hour a day to sit and read and have a short nap to 'reset' myself to prevent going high. I also will cancel commitments if I am going high. I aim for life balance. I make sure that I have enough activity in my life to stay fullfilled (and prevent depression) and not too much that I get stressed and overload (resulting in high mood). I also have a very effective partnership with my doctor.

Elizabeth Smith
March, 5 2012 at 9:35 pm

thanks for telling us what helps, I realise I have my own 'rules' although I've never thought of them in that way. Some of mine are: I must take the dogs out at least once a day and take them to training (guilt works in my favour here!), I make it as easy to smile and preferably laugh as I can (so I put pictures that make me smile where I see them often, have a list of jokes sent to my inbox every day, I even wear novelty socks and knickers to cheer me up on the loo!), if I can't sleep I get up and enter some free online competitions (better than getting frustrated and getting the odd prize lifts my spirits)
These 'rules' alone do not keep me well but I believe that I'm giving myself the best chance I can.
Living in the UK all I seem to hear about at the moment is the forthcoming Olympics and I bet that there are thousands of athletes around the world forcing themselves to live with far stricter rules than those we live by - and they are lauded for them. So rather than thinking of our rules being a little ridiculous perhaps we should congratulate ourselves for striving to be the best we can - just like an Olympic athlete. Without the smelly trainers/sneakers...

Natasha Tracy
March, 5 2012 at 12:27 pm

Hi Cindyaka,
Thanks for sharing your techniques. I agree, it's always good to be able to laugh at yourself and your disease.
- Natasha

March, 5 2012 at 11:48 am

Hi Natasha!
I personally try to take my meds about 12 hours apart, not always successfully though. Also I try to be aware of when I'm wound up and need to take a sleeping pill instead of laying awake in bed till 3 am.
I like to listen to all kinds of music,in fact I've created a music mix of songs about insanity. (Am I Going Insane; Entangled; They're Coming to Take Me Away and others) I find it is a coping mechanism and a fun way to view my mental illness.

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