5 Tips for Coping With Changing Seasons When You Have Bipolar Disorder


When the seasons change, what do I do as a person with bipolar disorder?

Seasons changing can be a dangerous thing when you live with a mood disorder. When the weather gets colder and it starts getting darker earlier, there is a good chance your mood may shift as well.

I know this because I live it every year. I don’t struggle with fall, or spring — but I’ll be damned if I don’t get knocked down every summer and winter… especially winter.

For me, there’s just something magical about the dark nights, the bitter cold and the holidays arriving. Something magically dark and dangerous, much like the “Nothing” from “The NeverEnding Story.”

I do wonderfully up until Halloween, and then on November 1, it’s like a switch goes off in my brain that says, “Holy sh*t! You’re doing awesome! Let’s wreak some havoc!” And then I spiral downward in a rapid succession.

How can you prevent a tragic spiral during the winter months? I don’t have all the answers, but I have discovered some techniques that have really helped me during the last three years.

1. I discuss it beforehand with my therapist.

We know what to watch for with me months in advance. I don’t surprise her with my internal struggles once they’re at a crisis level.

2. I have a game plan my entire support team is aware of and on board with.

My therapist knows what my psych is thinking, and my husband knows what everyone is thinking. And vice versa. There can’t be deep, dark secrets when it comes to staying safe during a potential time of difficulty.

3. I make time to do things I value, and I decide (before the crisis hits) that I will do them no matter what obstacles I may throw up.

For example, it’s very important to me to take my kids to see the lights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City each year. It’s a tradition my kids and I both treasure. We make the journey no matter what. Since that is such an important tradition to me, I make the decision beforehand that no matter how I’m feeling, or how my husband is feeling, the kids and I will make it there.

4. I extend myself some leniency from the hustle and bustle that can happen during the winter months.

I know I’ll need to take it slower than others might, and I might have to risk offending someone by turning down an invitation. But that’s OK. It’s me practicing self-care.

5. I try to go with the flow.

I can’t control everything. And that’s OK. I want to control everything; that’s something I’m aware I struggle with, so I fight it. The kids don’t want to go caroling around the neighborhood? I’ll sit down with them and color some cute pages out of our coloring books instead. I can’t get my 4-year-old into her adorable new Christmas jumper? I’ll softly sigh “Let it go” to myself.

Although these might not work for everyone, following these suggestions kept me out of the hospital last year for the first time in three years. It was beautiful. I fully plan on doing this again this year. In fact, preparations for my sanity have been underway for the last month now.

Of course, if you find yourself in a crisis situation, seek medical care immediately. There are people who care and want to help. Seek them out.

I wish all who struggle with mood disorders the best of winter seasons. Let’s all make this year the best one yet!

Image via Thinkstock.

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