Mood Swings and the Holidays

Holiday stress is a reality of life for many people, but for those struggling to manage chronic illnesses like bipolar, the holidays can be a real trial.  Each year, MoodSurfing encourages readers to spend some time before the holidays reflecting on how they want to face up to, and hopefully get some fun out of, the winter holidays.  Here are some of our best tips:

  1. Make a plan. For people with bipolar and depression there are special challenges to the holidays.  Planning ahead for possible pitfalls can help you keep in control, instead of letting your moods take control. Take time to consider what could happen that would trigger a manic or depressive mood, and write down what you will do to counteract them if they come up. Identify people in your support network that you can call if you need an extra listening ear for a challenging day.
  2. This is also an important time to review self-care habits and needs.  Healthy routines can   get disrupted during the holidays, and making a commitment to get them back on track always helps.  Acknowledging ahead of time that there will probably be a disruption or two at some point in the next few weeks is the first step to being prepared.  When it happens, don’t waste time feeling guilty because you didn’t “make the grade”.  Forget about grades and do what needs to be done to get the routine back on track. Sleep schedules underlie everything: be sure to keep track of when and how you are sleeping, especially at a time of the year when natural light may be less, weather may discourage you from going outside, and holiday partying may keep you out later than usual.
  3. Think of family as a resource, not a drag.  Sure, they know how to push all your buttons, and you know how to push theirs too.  But take note of the aunt who never forgets a birthday.  Thank the ones who read up on your diagnosis after you revealed it.  Think of ways to make the holidays memorable for the children and young people in the family.  You are what their memories will be made of.
  4. And, last but not least, Celebrate! Humans have always taken time for feasting, relaxation and fun at some important point in the year. Take a few minutes to reflect on what you really love (or used to love) about the holidays, and make a point to find some way to get that enjoyment back. Give yourself a break, and do something just because you want to.

Holiday stress is real, and it will keep on happening, but it doesn’t have to ruin everything.  You have the skills and tools to manage stress, and you can stay on top of it this year, too!