A Bipolar Holiday Guide for Stability over the Holidays
It is not lost on me that next week is the holidays. Whether you’re religious, or, like me, just like a finely-dressed tree, there tends to be a lot going on.
So here is a bipolar holiday guide on maintaining bipolar stability over the holidays, which, as we all know, can be tough.
Take Time Out for You
This is my number one tip. Please, oh please, take time out for yourself. Don’t allow every minute of your days to be taken up by all the holiday activities. Being overwhelmed can absolutely destabilize your bipolar. Even if it’s just a few minutes, take a little nap, take a hot bath, practice yoga or meditate. Whatever you decide to do, make it just for you. (And this also means taking breaks during things like baking or shopping when it just becomes too much.)
One of the most empowering words in the world is, “no.” Learn to use this word. Say “no” to parties that are too much for you. Say “no” to staying out late. Say “no” to buying presents you can’t afford. Say “no” to organizing or hosting events that overwhelm you. Learn to pick and choose how you celebrate the holiday. Everyone might want you everywhere (lucky you) but your health always needs to come first as without that you can’t experience holiday joy and nor can you add to the holiday joy of others.
I am not Martha Stewart and neither are you, and just between you and me, she’s the only one who has a “perfect” holiday. You and I need to learn that perfection, equals pressure, equals stress, equals bipolar destabilization, equals depression or hypo/mania. You don’t need that. Imperfection is beautiful – remember the Charlie Brown Christmas tree? We all need to learn that life isn’t about perfection, it’s about joy and joy can come from the simplest of holidays.
Decide Whether You’re Going to Talk about Your Bipolar
The holidays are often times when we see family and friends with which we rarely have contact and sometimes these people ask us pointed questions about our bipolar. It’s up to you to judge each person’s relationship and decide what you want to say, but, in my opinion, my personal medical history is just that – personal. Therefore, I feel no need to share it. If someone really backed me into a corner, I would just say something like, “I am working with my doctor to maintain my mental wellness.”
On the other hand, I know some people feel relief in knowing that others know about their bipolar. This is because sometimes our family and friends can be our best supports during the season and if they know you are suffering with bipolar, they can take some of the load off of you. Of course, only you know who in your life would be in this group. (See: Explaining Bipolar to Others)
Don’t Drink (or Do Drugs)
Depending on your family, you might be tempted to drink or do a few other things that aren’t healthy for you this holiday season. Do not do this. Alcohol and certainly drugs are contraindicated with bipolar and bipolar medication. Don’t make things worse just because you’re trying to fit in and “have fun.”
Maintain your Bipolar Schedule
Finally, a critical thing is to try to maintain your routine as much as possible. This means take your meds, as prescribed, at the same time every day, and make sure you get to bed on time and wake up on time too. This can be challenging during the holidays, especially if we’re staying at someone else’s home, but your bipolar will thank you for it. (This also means likely not changing your bipolar medications over the holidays because that stress can disrupt how the change goes.)
Maintaining Stability with Bipolar over the Holidays
I think the moral of the story is this: holidays can be stressful and upset your carefully designed routine and you need to work to minimize this stress and maintain that routine. Remember, if you abandon what keeps you well for the rest of the year, then the holidays aren’t going to be very pleasant. Keep on doing what’s working, even if that means missing out on the occasional glass of champagne.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.