Bipolar Disorder & the Holidays

The holidays can be a tricky time of year for someone with bipolar disorder. “Doom, gloom, and dread” often take the place of “peace, love, and joy”, creating a brand new can of worms that no one looks forward to. Not only are you not the life of the party, you might very well be its death knell.

Why are the holidays so hard for people who suffer from bipolar disorder? Doctors and research point to a variety of factors.

  1. Buying into the build-up: It may be the “most wonderful time of the year”, but you couldn’t feel more alone and depressed.
  2. Cycling with the seasons: Many bipolar people tend to feel more down and depressed in the winter months due to the time change.
  3. Schedule changes: People with bipolar disorder like and depend on their routine.
  4. Substance use/abuse: The temptation to drink or use drugs may come up during the holidays for a variety of reasons.
  5. Too much, too fast: Shopping here, stopping there…It can take its toll on anybody, of course, but it can be a trigger for someone with bipolar disorder.
  6. Overspending: This can already be a bad idea for someone with bipolar disorder. But with a reason it can be a disaster.
  7. Missing medication: As busy and hectic as the holidays get it’s easy to miss a dose of medication without even realizing it.
  8. Social anxiety: Not all family gatherings are pleasant and they can be even less so when anxiety is rearing its ugly head.

To tell a person suffering from bipolar disorder there are ways around these factors is similar to telling a circle to be a square: it’s a waste of time. However, there are some coping strategies that can be used to help avoid certain triggers.

  1. Be open and honest: Let your friends and family know you may just not be up to all the festivities this year.
  2. Keep a schedule: Make a schedule and stick to it.
  3. Just say “no”: Avoid the illicit use of any drugs and/or alcohol.
  4. Stick to a budget: Avoid overspending by creating and sticking to a budget.
  5. Shop online: Avoid the stores and any other unnecessary social situations.
  6. Avoid excessive stimulation: Stay away from things that could be a trigger of any sort for you.
  7. Prepare: It’s hard to do, but try and remain aware of what is on the schedule.

Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to be selfish when it comes to your health and self-care. Even during the holidays.

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