The holidays are tricky for everyone. For those with bipolar disorder, mood instability is a unique challenge over and above what the average person faces. Here are some reasons why bipolar relapse is higher during the holidays for those with bipolar disorder.
More than the Holiday Madness
A bipolar disorder relapse is defined as the return of depression or a manic or hypomanic episode after a period of wellness. Sometimes a relapse can be predicted, but often it is not and seems to come out of the blue. Several things come together to make the holidays challenging for people with bipolar disorder, including:
- Schedule disruptions: Changes in daily routine due to travel, late-night gatherings, or other events.
- Overstimulation: Shopping, decorating, and family gatherings can be overstimulating in different ways.
- Alcohol consumption: Drinking large quantities of alcohol seems to go hand in hand with the season. However, it can worsen your mood swings and interact with your medications.
- Medication: You may miss medication doses because you got busy and forgot or wanted to drink alcohol (and not have it interact with your meds).
Planning for Holiday Stress
We often equate the word “relapse” with failure. The sense of failure from relapsing can be devastating and make it more challenging to form and follow a plan to stay well. People living with bipolar disorder and their loved ones need to understand that relapses will happen. It’s perfectly possible to do all the right things, including eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and still relapse. This doesn’t mean they have failed themselves or somebody else.
Here are some tips you can take to help ease the stress this holiday season:
- Realistic expectations: Scale your expectations back from needing everything to be perfect. Perfection is a tall order no one can meet. Instead, congratulate yourself on what you do accomplish and solidify in your mind that it’s good enough.
- Stay on track with treatment: Skipping medication can be disastrous, whether on purpose or by accident. Set reminders or tie them to everyday habits like with your morning coffee.
- Try to keep your same schedule: Studies show that people with bipolar disorder do best when they’re on a schedule, so keep to your normal routine as much as possible.
- Keep exercising: Exercising regularly helps reduce depression and improves mood. Even if it’s just for a walk, keep active!
Trouble Managing Bipolar Disorder Symptoms? A Study May Help!
Most people with bipolar disorder will relapse at some point, whether on medication or not. Bipolar disorder can be treated, but sometimes finding what works for you takes time and patience. If you’re struggling to manage your bipolar disorder symptoms effectively, joining a clinical research study may help.