Last Minute Holiday Tips for the Bipolar

December 23, 2011 Natasha Tracy

The holidays are no longer around the corner; the holidays are now here - on top of us. The holidays have overtaken us. They have lay siege to our everyday lives and they have won. The holidays! Ack!

And while this sieging of lives has its plusses (like prezzies) it also has its downsides - like instability.

So now that you're staring the fat man in the eye, here's what you need to know to have a safe holiday and an unhospitalized new year.

Surviving the holidays is a lot like surviving everyday - only more so. Rules are harder to follow but rules are still the same. But knowing this is a special time of year, there are a few things to accept going in, so you can survive the holidays with as much wellness as possible.

1. Bipolar Instability Happens

If there's one thing to understand about the holidays it's that instability happens and it very well might happen to you. The trick is to look out for the signs that you might be becoming manic or depressed. Has your sleep changed? Has your energy level changed? Are you feeling moody? Are you eating?

These are not magical questions, they are the same ones that you could ask yourself any day of the year, but they are questions that can indicate there is a problem - if you answer them honestly. And you need to. You need to answer them honestly in order to protect yourself from a holiday that spins out of control.

Christmas lights2. Holiday Stress Happens

You're under stress. You're likely feeling it right now. Preparing for the holidays, buying gifts, baking goodies, preparing for parties and on and on and on. It's all a lot to do on top of your normal life. And I can tell you to de-stress. I can tell you to take a candle-lit bath. I can tell you to meditate. I can tell you to do yoga. But the fact of the matter is you're likely to be stressed anyone. So prepare for it. Know the stress is coming. Acknowledge it and then do what you need to about it. If nothing else, you can always say to yourself, "I know I'm stressed. I will breath." And then take five, deep slow breaths. Those five seconds can help even when you can't avoid the stress that's on top of you.

3. Holiday Imperfection Happens

Your holiday will not be perfect. There. I said it. Your holiday will have flaws. There will be parts of your holiday that won't go well and even parts that you may not like.

But don't worry, this isn't about to kill you.

No holiday is perfect so stop stressing out thinking that you can create the single perfect holiday in the entire world. Just relax and go with the flow. What's the worst that can happen? So you burn the turkey and everyone ends up eating mashed potatoes and carrots for dinner. That's not a ruined holiday that's just the holiday that everyone remembers and laughs about later. You just created a memory not a catastrophe.

4. Bad Behavior Happens

Likely you're not going to be on your best bipolar behavior. You're going to drink alcohol - which you shouldn't do. You're going to skip exercising - which you shouldn't do. You're going to live on sugar -which you shouldn't do. But try to give yourself a little break and enjoy your "bad" behavior in moderation. If you're going to do it anyway, at least enjoy it and don't feel bad about it. Just keep in mind that whatever you do over the holidays you will pay for in the New Year. Don't write cheques your body can't cash.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, December 23). Last Minute Holiday Tips for the Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 23 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 3 2016 at 7:10 am

Every year I absolutely dread Christmas. But before I tell you why I just want to preface what I am about to say with the following
1. I respect the right of children and consenting adults to celebrate Christmas, in private.
2. I respect the freedom of those who sincerely enjoy Christmas to enjoy it to the full extent of their ideologies and purses, in private.
3. But I also assert the right of those who dislike Christmas not to have Christmas thrust upon them, in private or public.
Year long is a constant struggle of living paycheque to paycheque, trying in vain to pay all of my bills on time which almost never happens. I'm always "robbing Peter to pay Paul" because I only have a limited amount of income to live on, thanks to bipolar.
Then comes Christmas which puts added pressure to give, give, give, and be cheerful about it, ugh!
Every year in Dec I am also reminded of another anniversary (one for each week) where parents and grandparents have passed away, one from suicide.
Then there are the social expectations. Besides suffering from GAD I also suffer from social anxiety as well.
So this year I've decided I am not giving into my usual ramped up Christmas depression, anxiety, guilt, weight, debt, stress etc which always makes it that much harder to cope and have a happy new year, especially living alone as I do with a rather fragile support system at best
I am avoiding the malls and all the rediculous gift giving. I usually give more than I get anyway. Instead I'll be giving of my time to help out those in need at a local shelter
I definately won't be watching all those damn TV Christmas specials. Instead at the end of the day I'm gonna grab some quiet time for myself and relax with a good book and the TV "holiday fireplace log" channel on because I don't have a real fireplace. Normally I listen to the Spa channel throughout the year but the theme of their usually relaxing music changes somewhat due to Christmas. With the fireplace log channel there is no music, just the picture of a burning fireplace and it's accompanying crackling sounds which I find very relaxing
I'm gonna avoid social gatherings at all costs when money, gift giving and extra food are also involved.
This year for once I just wanna have a peaceful stable Christmas and recharge my battery for the new year, well at least try. I only have a limited amount of energy at the best of times to deal with everything so I want to use that energy wisely especially now that I have another cold!
To everyone I wish you all the best possible Christmas ever and a very happy, healthy New Year!

August, 18 2014 at 5:50 pm

Mel. ...
I know ecactly how you feel.
Listen to me; this is important...
Do not make any big decision at this time. Okay? No buying cars. No cutting hair. No filing for divorce.
I know this feeling. It will pass. And then the real Mel is left to deal with the aftermath.
You need some YOU time. TAKE IT. TODAY.
Nap... bath... manicure... shave your legs...get a facial. And when you feel like you again then (and only then) you can start making decision.
This is hard.
It does suck.
It is not fair.
It WILL pass.
This is bipolar.

August, 17 2014 at 5:58 pm

Someone please help me.. I have no emotion at all. I'm not happy, sad, excited, etc. I feel empty inside and it is honestly the worst. I would rather feel sadness or pain than nothing at all. I live a decent life and this suddenly hit me a few weeks ago. I don't want to be like this and it's scaring me:( is there something going on in my brain? I've also been having memory loss lately.

January, 18 2012 at 3:15 pm

This was the most beautiful holiday I've ever had. I took control of my experience and did what I wanted. My girls went to their dad's. They always do. Normally it's a depressing time for me (not great for someone with bp disorder) and I cling to family who's been psychologically not good for me in the past. People wonder why I hate the holidays. Lol. This year I took off the entire time they were gone (11 days), did things for myself and promised to not feel guilty, promised myself that is. I was lazy when I wanted, went out when I wanted (not when someone else said I needed to), ate when I wanted (no forced dinners) and rested my soul a little. I've never taken this time for myself or real enjoyment. It's (Christmas) always been a chore. This year it wasn't. This was the best present I've ever gotten.
I think part of what makes this disease so hard is that society doesn't let us "self-care". I think we need more care than most people. More time to rest, less obligation stress.

December, 27 2011 at 6:38 am

Thank you for your kind and understanding mailings, and for taking the time to care.

December, 25 2011 at 11:34 pm

Oh, Emily! I hope you are doing better today. You did not fail. You are alive! Everything else can be fixed.
Take care, a friend with bipolar, also trying to make it through the holidays, Beth

December, 25 2011 at 5:02 pm

I hope you are ok,Emily. I feel your pain because I am experiencing the same feelings. The guilt is overwhelming. I am supposed to be the stable one, the one who keeps everything happy for everyone else when I am dying inside.

December, 24 2011 at 7:46 pm

I failed everyone tonite and now I face tomorrow where I've already failed cuz I'm not spending both days there. I failed my son who is home on his first leave from the Navy, and I failed my husband by my preoccupation with. my own pain when his parents both died this year. I just have to keep going until Monday, I hope.

December, 23 2011 at 1:40 pm

Felt a little down today. Slept alot but I've had a bad cold this week so I might have just needed the rest. Feeling okay otherwise. Planning a mellow stay at home Christmas, just immediate family. Maybe a visit to some neighbors after dinner. No biggie. Low stress here! Yay me.

December, 23 2011 at 12:54 pm

Thank you.

December, 23 2011 at 9:17 am

Thanks for the reminder. I have been (I think) hypomanic. I'd like to say that I was stable but I just don't think so. Then today I feel it. Depression. That knot in my stomach. Not wanting to go out. Just feeling yucky. I don't know if it's just today or what but whatever it is I don't like it. And it happens every Christmas. So I guess that should tell me that things aren't good. But I'm trying to stay positive. Hope you have a happy holiday.

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