It sounds funny, right? Why should you need survival strategies for something that’s supposed to be fun? But as people living with chronic health conditions all know, holidays can be disruptive. For people with bipolar, holidays provide some particular challenges: the temptation to give into impulse (buying, eating, partying…), the potential for activities and events that may trigger a manic or depressive episode, and then there’s afterwards: the bleak time in January when the bills come due and the fun stuff seems to be over.
So how to survive? This is an important time to review self-care habits and needs. Healthy routines can get disrupted, 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.
These routines may take several forms and each person is the best judge of which routines are more critical and/or more difficult for them. 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. If you get off the schedule, that’s okay, just get back on again as soon as you can.
Diet is infamous for causing problems during the holidays, when there are a lot more treats around. On the one hand, a few judicious breaks at holiday times may be a healthy way of keeping the diet year-round. On the other hand, impulsiveness is rife and even encouraged at holiday time, and it’s easy to lose track of how many breaks you’ve given yourself. Keep avoiding refined sugar and flours, and stick to a routine of mostly vegetables and fish with smaller amounts of meat and eggs. Keep in mind that alcohol is never your friend. Drink only limited amounts and responsibly. But if you forget the guidelines, don’t beat up on yourself, just get back up and start again.
The same thing is true of exercise routines. We all know how important they are, and we all know how easily they can get sidetracked. Just keep trying, that’s the best advice you can give yourself. Just keep at it, even when you’ve missed a bunch of exercise times.
Holidays CAN be fun, with a bit of planning and discipline. Maintaining healthy habits, even during a more chaotic time of year is the key to enjoying things as they come.