Tips on Dealing with Bipolar and Exhaustion

October 16, 2013 Natasha Tracy

I’m useless in the afternoon. My functional, working hours are extremely limited. And this is thanks to my bipolar disorder. It’s like every character I type and every minute that goes by zaps just a little bit more of me until, by mid-day, there’s nothing left.

This is hugely disheartening. I want to be like everyone else. In fact, I want to be like me a few years ago – me when I worked a full day – like everyone else.

But the fact of the matter is, I’m not like everyone else in this regard. In this regard I’m limited. In this regard I’m disabled.

Exhaustion and Bipolar Disorder

Exhaustion is a sign of depression, and, of course, depression is a part of bipolar disorder. Exhaustion can also be a side effect from medication. And, quite frankly, living with bipolar disorder itself can be gosh darn tiring. So people with bipolar disorder have more than their fair share of reasons to be exhausted.

Dealing with Exhaustion and Bipolar Disorder

But I do have some tips for dealing with bipolar disorder. These are the things that keep me going and these are the things that keep me producing all the work that you see here and elsewhere. These may help you fight the fatigue in your life:

  • Plan your day around your functional hours. Plan for the differences in your functionality. Anticipate them. Don’t think that suddenly you’re going to be functional all day when that hasn’t been the case in months or years.
  • If your early hours are the best ones for you, then get up early and get functional quickly. Don’t let one functional minute slip through your fingers. (Maybe have your partner get the kids ready for school so that you can get things done while you’re functional.)
  • Make sure you plan the tough tasks for during your functional times and plan the easy tasks for when you’re less functional.
  • Make lists and prioritize your tasks. Skip the small stuff. Give up perfectionism and do only what needs to be done.
  • Ask for extensions when you need them. Ask people to work with you (you don’t have to tell them why) because most of the time, they will.
  • For your non-functional hours – be kind to yourself and rest. Don’t beat yourself up for not being functional during that part of the day. Lay on the couch for hours if that’s what you need and hopefully that will help you get up again later in the day.

I said it before, but I’ll say it again – don’t beat yourself up for your non-functional hours. Would it help you if I told you that it’s normal for many? Well, it’s normal for many. And beating yourself up about it will not help you, help your mood or make you more functional, so be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

And remember, you can be successful even with only part of the day to work with. It’s hard and you have to utilize every second, but it is possible. I do it and you can too.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, October 16). Tips on Dealing with Bipolar and Exhaustion, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 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.

June, 27 2017 at 8:14 am

I'm currently having therapy, although only seen my therapist once. The doctor referred me as he said I show symptoms of Cyclothymia (mild form of bipolar) although it's felt quite severe at times. I'm changing therapists due to inaccuracy of judgement. I also keep a mood diary and have felt manic but have had extreme bouts of fatigue due to to major depressive disorder.

December, 22 2016 at 10:01 am

I know exactly what you mean in this article. It's so deceptive, you think that you have relatively few symptoms compared to times when frankly depressed or hypomanic/manic, but in reality there are always these subsyndromal symptoms grumbling along.
One thing that we know from the research in the field is that these grinding symptoms that extend beyond episodes are a normal part of the disorder, that they are much worse for up to six months following a mood episode (which means that many of us never escape them), and that the longer we have had BP, the more frequent and intense these symptoms are.
Some people benefit from taking N-acetyl Cysteine daily for these subsyndromal symptoms, and others (those who have done well on lamotrigine) benefit from taking methylene-blue. Ask your psychiatrist if they have heard of these adjunctive treatments. They are not conclusively proven, but they are largely harmless to try, so long as you have good medical supervision. One that anyone can try is taking tryptophan before bedtime (usually with milk for the tummy). One key thing to know is that methylene blue is totally incompatible with all SSRI SNRI NRI medications (it is a mild MAOi). Beyond that, self care (especially exercise and good sleep), and realistic goals are the best we can manage.

May, 25 2016 at 3:08 pm

I'd like to hear more about your coping mechanisms when feeling low energy, agitation, and just not up for relating to people.

March, 29 2016 at 10:17 am

I'm so grateful to have found you and most of all someone who could validate how I feel! Knowing there is someone that understands that energy levels come and go, that moods can twist on a dime and the absolute need to shut down - is my normal. I may have bipolar illness, but I'm very clear on how I feel and how it's ok to do what I can, when I can and lay down when I need to take care of me.

December, 31 2015 at 4:46 pm

I can now justify why some mornings I wake about tired, have breakfast then go back to bed unable to face the day. I have also woken very early in the morning and have been able to work at the computer for an hour and a half. To me this is quite an achievement. Fortunately I have a part time job that I can do at home.

Hillary Roberts
September, 21 2015 at 2:07 pm

OMG I thought it was just me. I can do stuff from 1-9pm other than that I am dead.

Judith Aldridge
May, 16 2015 at 2:56 pm

I'm 70 yrs old and chronic fatigue is a big part of my life. I know I have to do my housework and errands in the morning. After lunch is not an option. It's been this way for many, many years. Had to go on disability for this and bipolar.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 13 2018 at 7:37 pm

I am 62 yr old female and I feel the same. I get my housework done in the morning. I am also on disability for bipolar since age 53. It is good to hear others share the same type of stories with fatigue and exhaustion and how it is important not to feel ashamed or beat ourself up with it.

January, 20 2015 at 10:34 am

Thank God it's not just me

November, 18 2014 at 2:31 am

I know my functional hours are in the morning, and yet there are days even my functional hours are nil. I have to make my doctors and any other appointments for morning hours. For me, there is a great deal of guilt and shame associated with feeling exhausted - I used to be so full of energy. I find myself apologizing for the things I wasn't able to do that day. I also tell other people to be kind to themselves-I should take my own advice.

November, 15 2014 at 3:09 pm

... watching a funny movie can help to pull me out of a depressive slump and energize me. One of my favourite movies to watch is '"Analyse This" with Robert DeNiro and Billy Chrystal. Another thing that helps is watching youtube videos of "Stand Up For Mental Health" stand up comedy skits by other people also suffering from mental health issues. But sometimes all I can do is just listen to them and roll over on the couch and fall asleep all the while hoping that some how through osmosis the words will sink in subconsciously and I'll wake up feeling a little better than I did before.

November, 15 2014 at 2:51 pm

... the movie "Analyse This' with Robert DeNiro and Billy Chrystal is one of my favourite movies to watch that'll often pull me out of a depression. Even watching youtube videoes of Stand Up For Mental Health comedy clips by people who also suffer from a form of mental illness can help. Has anybody else tried this? If so, what comedy is your favourite?

November, 15 2014 at 2:18 pm

My best time of day to get anything done is before noon. I take Abilify after breakfast and again after lunch and that sometimes helps. After that it's usually a struggle to make it through the rest of the day unless I get physically active... a nice brisk walk on a cold winter day helps... but in the hot summer months it's another story altogether (I feel like a wilting flower and desperately require a couple of power naps to make it through to dinner and beyond. Lists help but not if I don't have any energy to follow through with what's on them. Sometimes I get very depressed when I take a holiday from work and I don't get a single thing done that I had wanted to. I'll get hopelessly addicted to playing on the computer or mindlessly watching TV. When I get like this a funny movie or listening to upbeat music sometimes works wonders to lift my depression and motivate me to get something more productive done. On my holidays though I generally tend to do better by staying on a regular sleep schedule which helps to regulate my moods energy levels

April, 14 2014 at 9:54 am

Thank you for posting this! At the moment I am struggling without medications to treat my bipolar and although my mind races endlessly with things I "have to get done," but physically I find I am unable to make it all happen, thus setting myself up for failure. This list is helpful to put things into perspective and remember to work with my mental illness, not against it. :)

November, 14 2013 at 8:57 am

I stay tired and never seem to get anything finished..i start..then stop..then I am so depressed that ifeel so behind and lazy and what's the use? I cry...a lot here lately..glad I found helps..

November, 6 2013 at 11:03 am

May God bless you, for sharing these tips, and part of your bio. Warm Regards.

October, 25 2013 at 1:59 am

Thank you so much for this article. There are days when I call myself a "lazy bitch" because I'm just to tired to get anything done. I'm so tired, and I know part of it is due to my meds. I take them at 9 in the morning and by 11:30 need a nap...which can last for up to 2 hours.
There are days even when I've had a nap I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open. Those are the times when I start to beat myself up. You've help me see this can be average (don't like the word "normal")for someone with bipolar

October, 24 2013 at 9:21 am

Oh and I recently made the best choice. I was trying to finish my last 2 quarters of vet tech school and work full time. Working is necessary because of bills but stressing myself out to the point of exhaustation for a degree was not ok. I am now doing online schooling for Business Administration. Having days where you are up working and out and about from 8am-10pm=not okay when you are bipolar!

October, 24 2013 at 9:19 am

Thank you for this. I am sitting here at work just absolutely exhausted. I have no urge to do anything but surf the internet and practically sleep at my desk. I am irritated and so tired. I know I am going through my depressive state, I am on great meds but I can still feel my moods (which is great because no one should be a zombie!). Unfortunately my place of employment is only open Monday-Friday 7-5. Too Bad I can't find something more active to do. Desk jobs are horrible sometimes but I know if I was in a more active position I would feel the same way!

October, 21 2013 at 2:05 pm

I'm so grateful the write brought up this issue. For years I have suffered from the afternoon "clomp" as my mom used to call it where I'm falling asleep at my desk and escaping to the privacy room in the office to doze off for a bit. It's nice to not be alone. I like the tip about scheduling the day around your functional hours. I will try that at work tomorrow! (My first day back after a manic episode).
Cheers all,

October, 19 2013 at 10:10 pm

While none of us is a doctor and therefore cannot advise you, I did look up Temazepam. As indicated by its latter letters, it is a Benzo, and it is one that primarily treats insomnia. That said, I can't imagine that someone taking it could simply go off of it and not have any problems sleeping. Depending on your reasons for wanting to go off, your dr could add something in a different class that may have a somnulent effect. But that depends on the reasons you want to go off, the reasons you were on it to begin with, and possibly other things as well.
The most important thing is to not go off any medicine cold turkey without first consulting with your dr. Cold turkey cessation can be brutal and even life-threatening in some cases. Always, always, always, talk to your dr before making any changes. If you can't talk to your dr, then maybe you need a new one!
Good luck.
Yes, I have a suggestion. Work less. Reduce jobs, or reduce hours. Reduce responsibilities to only the essential ones of the job, and with any assistance needed. I wrote a fairly lengthy response not too long ago regarding work. I think it was on the post called "High-Functioning and Bipolar" or something to that effect. You can probably find it if you type into the search box at the top. But the post itself is pretty similar to this one, and I wrote a few little tips about work. If you're in the US, that is.

October, 17 2013 at 5:46 pm

I'm glad to hear you say this is normal. I feel so tired sometimes I feel like I could pass out. I work a full time job and a part time job. I know I'm working way past my productive hours. I feel it every day. When I'm not at work you can sometimes find me on the floor. Any suggestions for my current work situation?

Maureen - wonderful stuff
October, 17 2013 at 7:50 am

I can't believe how I have been beating myself up for years about this dreadful exhaustion I carry around much of the time. Now, I shall keep a note of productive hours over a period of a couple of weeks to see when I can stay awake long enough to get anything done.
If anyone knows how to get off Temazepam and have a good nights sleep please let me know.

Jessica Hudgens
October, 17 2013 at 2:22 am

I have been so exhausted lately and hadn't even considered the role my bipolar was playing! I am definitely going to pay attention the next couple of weeks and figure out what my functional hours are so that I can make the best use of my time!
Thank you!

Tanisha Neely
October, 16 2013 at 10:24 am

Great info! A few years ago, my doctor helped me to determine my "functional hours" and put them in a medical note so that I can use it to negotiate better working hours. I've also used some of your other tips to make the most of my functional time as well.
Is is somewhat disheartening when you first realize that you are not quite what you used to be. But once I moved past that disappointment, it was much easier to put practical tips like these into action.
Thanks for the reminders!

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