Do You Have Bipolar Disorder? You Can Still Thrive This Holiday Season

Bipolar? You can thrive this holiday season – Tips on how to manage mania and depression during the holidays.

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This post was previously featured on the International Bipolar Foundation website (ibpf.org), here.

The holidays strike fear into many hearts, especially those of us with mental illness. But they don’t have to. People with mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, can thrive during the holiday season.

Don’t Neglect Basic Self-Care

You won’t be able to enjoy the season if you neglect basic self-care. This applies to whatever episode you’re in. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, get your heart rate up for 30 minutes, drink enough water, get outside, and socialize every day. These six suggestions are the basic tenants of self-care, first outlined by Sophie at WellandWealthy.org. If you often do all six, you will feel better.

But how do you manage that during the holidays, which can upset your daily routine? Planning. You can plan to bow out of conversations if you’re overwhelmed, plan times to take your medication, and plan for downtime by yourself to recharge your social batteries.

Also, don’t be afraid to communicate your needs. Figure out your needs ahead of significant social events and prepare yourself to ask for help. (For a post on how to communicate with your family during the holidays if you have a mental illness, click here.) And try to avoid alcohol, especially if you’re taking medication.

What to Do if You’re Manic

If you are manic during the holidays, you may feel like partying and socializing 24/7. But mania borrows energy from the future, so there’s a crash coming if you don’t manage your enthusiasm. You need to pace yourself, not only for your own sake, but for those around you who might not be able to handle your verve.

When you’re at a party, check in with someone you trust on a regular basis to see if your behavior is edging out of control. Set a timer on your phone every thirty minutes to take breaks outside the main party area. Use this time to take stock of what you’ve been doing at the party.

In addition to taking care of yourself at events, keep in mind that overspending frequently accompanies mania. Spending too much on gifts can be quicksand. Before you search for them, set a budget, and be vigilant about sticking to it. Limit presents to one per family member or loved one.

One of my manifestations of mania is crafting, so I get obsessed with painting, baking, and stitching stocking-stuffers and other gifts. Because I’m rushing through the projects, they always turn out sloppy. Once I’m no longer manic, that’s obvious to me (unfortunately, it’s also obvious to everyone else when they open the gifts). Don’t follow my lead; if you must make homemade gifts, limit yourself to one project at a time, and budget enough time to complete them well.

What to Do if You’re Depressed

If you’re depressed during the holiday season, don’t worry, you can pull through this. Most people with depression hide away from the world. But being around others can help. If you’ve been invited to parties, make an extra effort to go.

When going to a party, make sure to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Take a shower. Drink some water. Psych yourself up, and plan out what to say if you need to bow out of a conversation. Try to talk to at least two different people. Don’t stick your head in the ground like an ostrich, as tempting as that is.

If you’re spending this holiday season alone, cities and churches often host free holiday events that you can attend. Try volunteering at a food bank or animal shelter. Burn through your Netflix backlog. Drink non-alcoholic eggnog. And if you can afford a change of scenery, go!

Final Thoughts

Regardless of how your mental health issues present, there are plenty of strategies to help you thrive during the holidays. Don’t neglect your basic self-care, don’t isolate yourself, and do keep an eye on your budget and energy levels. You can do this.

Have Bipolar? You Can Thrive During This Holiday Season - Tips and tricks to manage mania and depression during the holidays

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Bipolar? You Can Survive This Holiday Season, part I

This is part one of a two-part series.
Part I | Part II

I’m a little late for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to address what to do before Christmas and Kwanzaa sweep the land. For some, the holiday season is filled with joy and light, sweet treats, and time off. But for others, hasty decisions and loneliness reign supreme.

What to Do if You’re Manic

Credited to flickr user derekskey.  Used with permission.
Credited to flickr user derekskey. Used with permission.

When at get-togethers, try to steer clear of the alcohol, especially if you’re taking medication. If you’re partying with someone you trust, ask them to give you a signal if your behavior is out of control, but don’t let them be responsible for checking in on you for the entire gathering. Set a timer on your watch, and step outside–alone–every twenty minutes to regroup. Breathe. Have a glass of water. Take stock of what you’ve been doing at the party. Don’t pass any judgments. Just acknowledge it. Then go back inside.

Next, be wary of getting sucked into the gift-giving trap. Mania exacerbates spending, and what better excuse for racking up credit card charges than purchasing gifts for friends? Make a list of your friends, family, and co-workers. Rank the names by importance. Sketch out a basic set of “what they like” for each person. Then set a realistic budget accordingly. If you’re over-budget, then pare down your list your list and reorganize who gets what. Easy, right?

I’m a crafter, so of course I love to paint, bake, and stitch everything–including stocking stuffers–by hand. Each year I’ve ended up as a sobbing mess on the floor, so I’d recommend not following my lead. If you also have a love for DIY, plan one small, easy project for each person on your list–and start early. If you feel it’s not enough, supplement with candy or thoughtful trinkets.

Over all, try not to stress yourself out.  Gorgeous décor and intricately decorated cookies may be fun, but each project you take on tests your ability to manage everything else.

Stick around for my next post, where I’ll cover what to do if you’re depressed during the holiday season!

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