Managing Bipolar Disorder During the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time. Many people enjoy various aspects of the holiday season such as decorating, gift-giving, gathering with loved ones, and celebrating. However, for those of us living with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, the holiday season can exacerbate our symptoms. Managing bipolar disorder during the holidays can be challenging but with the right tools, you can learn to survive this time of year. 

With bipolar disorder, incorporating self-care into your daily routine is vital for stability but it’s even more essential during the holidays. There are numerous potential triggers that you need to be mindful of. Some of these triggers may include:

  • Stress
  • Changes in routine
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Substance use
  • Seasonal changes
  • Problems with family and friends
  • Overindulging 
  • Grief and loneliness
  • Financial stress

Having a plan for how you will make it through the holiday season can prevent you from having an episode. Here are 8 tips to help keep your mood stable over the holidays.

9 Tips for Managing Bipolar Disorder During the Holidays

1. Stick to a Routine

Having a daily routine and sticking to it is essential when living with bipolar disorder. Those of us living with this condition thrive with consistency.

According to a study led by clinical psychologist Ellen Frank, Ph.D., and reported by the American Psychological Association, a consistent routine can ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

One routine that’s helpful for people with bipolar disorder is practicing good sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep is often a trigger for bipolar episodes. It’s important to try and have a regular sleep schedule. 

If you struggle with a sleep disorder such as insomnia, it may be time to talk with your mental health provider about other options. 

Managing your regular schedule during the holidays can be difficult. You may have several commitments that completely throw off your routine. Try to find balance. 

2. Know That It’s Ok to Say No

During this time of year, there may be different events happening that you’re expected to attend. If you’re feeling pressured and overwhelmed, know that you don’t have to commit to anything. Boundaries are essential for protecting your peace of mind and managing your mental health. 

It’s ok to say no. While being social can be great, it can also lead to feeling stressed or triggering symptoms. Don’t feel obligated to show up to events or interact with certain family members who may trigger you. 

3. Continue Taking Your Medication

If you take medication for bipolar disorder, it’s crucial that you stay consistent with taking it. With the busyness of the holiday season, it’s not unusual to miss a few doses. 

One way to prevent this is to set reminders on your phone. It could also help to leave your medication somewhere that you’ll see it and to take it at the same time each day. 

4. Practice Meditation

Meditation offers a plethora of mental health benefits. Practicing meditation can reduce stress and anxiety and promote healing. These benefits can help improve your mood and keep you grounded as the holiday season approaches.

Meditation gives you a safe space to turn inward and connect with yourself. 

If you’re not sure how to start, there are apps you can download like Insight Timer or Headspace where you can follow along with guided meditations. 

5. Keep Up With Therapy

If you’re in therapy, it’s vital to continue treatment throughout the holiday season. Some therapists take a vacation during the holidays so they may be unavailable; however, if your therapist is still available, it may help to have a few appointments scheduled.

6. Check in With Your Support System

If you’re struggling, try to have regular check-ins with your support system. Being able to rely on friends and family can help keep your mood stable. The holiday season can bring up a lot of difficult feelings for some of us. Sometimes talking through these feelings with someone can make a difference. 

7. Move Your Body

We all know about the physical health benefits of exercise but there are also numerous mental health benefits.

Exercising regularly can reduce depression and decrease anxiety and stress. While it may be difficult to work out when you’re struggling with your mental health, creating time to move your body can increase some of the chemicals in your brain like endorphins which may improve your mood.

If the thought of working out sounds overwhelming, start with 15-20 minutes a few days of the week. Even just some exercise is better than none. 

8. Prioritze Self-Care

Self-care will vary from person to person but it’s ultimately about taking care of your overall well-being. When you live with bipolar disorder, loving yourself can be challenging.

Most of us have spent so much time at war with our minds and it has often left us feeling depleted. During the holiday season, it’s imperative that you carve out time for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with putting your needs first. 

9. Find Peace

With a complex mental health condition like bipolar disorder, it can be difficult to find peace of mind. Every day, try to remain hopeful and remember that if you’re struggling, it’s only temporary. Find peace in knowing that with the right treatment plan and coping methods, you can overcome any challenges you may face over the holidays.

Staying Well This Holiday Season

Staying well throughout the holidays may feel impossible but it’s not. What’s most important is that you’re taking care of yourself before showing up for others. You’re not required to do anything that puts your mental health at risk so if that means not attending a family event or telling someone no, that’s ok. 

Even with so many people celebrating this time of year, it’s ok if you’re not in the holiday spirit. Don’t try to force yourself to be excited and don’t overextend yourself. 

Bipolar disorder affects so many areas of our lives. Unfortunately, we don’t get to turn our illness on and off. We constantly have to think about how anything we do will impact our diagnosis. Following these tips will help you continue to manage your mental health during the holiday season. 

Photo by Any Lane: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-girl-putting-a-christmas-star-on-a-christmas-tree-5727889/

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