Bipolar and the holidays can be a recipe for disaster for your stability.
I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I love the idea of the holidays and celebrating the birth of Christ, but every year on December 26th I want to cry, and I don’t even know why.
All I know is that the holidays are over and whatever I wanted to get out of the holiday season didn’t happen. Can you relate?
I think it is natural to feel a little let down once the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving and Christmas are over. Don’t we all hold our breath a little until December 26th and then exhale and wonder why we feel so sad and unsatisfied.
Living with bipolar disorder presents extra challenges when navigating the holiday season. You can huff and puff and say, “But I am stable right now, so I am just like everyone else.”
But the truth is you are not like everyone else. When you live with bipolar disorder, you are wired differently, so you must adjust how you approach the holiday season, so you can maintain your hard-won stability throughout the holiday season and beyond.
So, how do you do it? How do you navigate bipolar and the holidays without losing your hard-won stability?
Here are seven tips to help you navigate bipolar and the holidays while maintaining your stability:
1. Lower your expectations.
We all have this Norman Rockwell image of what we want the holiday season to look like. We want to select the perfect gifts and entertain at a Martha Stewart-like level.
Save yourself a lot of heartache and lower the bar a few notches. It’s perfectly acceptable if your turkey doesn’t look like the one in the picture, or your cake is lopsided.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. If everyone gets socks for Christmas and takeout for Thanksgiving dinner because you burned the turkey, remember that the holidays are about the people you share them with, not the polished image you want to present on social media.
2. Just say no (to some invitations).
Your social card is full during the holiday season, and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by turning down their invitation. And if you are like me, you don’t want to miss out on any of the holiday fun.
If you want to maintain your stability through the hectic holiday season, you must pick and choose which invitations to accept and which invitations to politely decline.
I have learned the hard way that if I try to do everything, I become exhausted and enjoy nothing. When you live with bipolar disorder, sometimes you have to choose a good night’s sleep over a night out with friends.
3. Make self-care a priority.
I can’t say enough how important it is to make self-care a priority 365 days a year. You can’t take a hiatus from self-care during the holidays.
During the holiday season, there are so many roles you are juggling. You want to be the best spouse, parent, friend, and child. You want everyone in your sphere of influence to have a memorable holiday season.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you don’t pencil in self-care on your to-do list during the holidays, you will pay the price well beyond the end of the holiday season. It is crucial not to let yourself become too anything—too tired, hungry, or overwhelmed.
Making self-care a priority during the holiday season ensures that you can enjoy the holidays without your stability paying to price.
4. Don’t overindulge.
There is nothing wrong with partaking in holiday food indulgences, but if you are smart, you will plan for them and have a set of rules in place.
For example, don’t go to holiday parties when you are starving. If you make food choices on an empty stomach, you will stack your plate extra high.
Have a snack or a small meal before you attend holiday gatherings so that your empty stomach does not dictate which treats you will enjoy.
For some, overindulging at holiday gatherings means something entirely different. The same principles apply to alcohol consumption. It is always smart to have a plan in place, so you don’t overindulge.
As a rule, it is not wise to mix alcohol and psychotropic medications, but if you are capable of moderation, drinking one glass of wine or one festive holiday cocktail is perfectly fine.
5. Keep moving.
The closer it gets to the holidays, the harder it is to fit in time for consistent exercise. And yet, that is one of the key ways to maintain balance in your life when you live with bipolar.
I am not saying that you must hit the gym five days a week while you balance work, family, and the holidays—although that would be great.
If that is not an option, commit to moving every single day. Ten minutes a day of exercise during the holidays is better than no exercise at all, and it is critical to surviving bipolar and the holidays with your stability intact.
6. Pick your battles and be a peacemaker.
Let’s just be real here. Families are complicated, and the holidays bring out the worst in everyone. Everyone is overtired, spread too thin, and they know they don’t have to put on a show with you because you are family.
So, they don’t put on a show with you, although it may seem like a farce or a comedy of errors. Family drama ranks high on my list of contributing factors that impact stability during the holidays.
Don’t let family drama weigh you down. Pick your battles and remember that sometimes maintaining peace is more important than being right.
You may have a love-hate relationship with some of your family members but go easy on the hate and heavy on the love. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins.
7. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
Presents are fabulous and holiday treats are even better, but there would be no cause for celebration without Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on the Author and Perfecter of your faith as you navigate the holiday season. Remember that the holidays are actually holy days.
If you keep your heart and mind on the true meaning of Christmas, it will keep all the craziness in perspective, and it will help keep your heart at peace: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 NKJV).
It may sound like a cliche, but there is no denying that Jesus Christ provides a supernatural peace that defies explanation, and a peaceful heart is a stable one.
Bipolar and the holidays can be a recipe for disaster for your stability, but you don’t have to let the holidays wreak havoc on your mental health. Keep this bipolar disorder holiday survival guide handy as you navigate Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Keep your eyes on the bigger picture—continued stability and mental wellness throughout the entire year. Make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that your stability stands firm even when there is holiday chaos all around you.
Subscribe to My Email List
Before you leave, take a second to subscribe to my email list. You won’t want to miss out on more bipolar coping strategies, weekly devotionals, and my latest blog posts jam-packed with helpful information that you can apply to your own life. Don’t worry. I promise I won’t flood your inbox with emails.
As an added bonus, you will receive a free download of my top five favorite bipolar disorder online resources. You won’t want to miss it.
So true! This was a great list of things to keep in mind over the next several weeks.
Raquel, I am glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and comment.