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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Bipolar Disorder: Handling the Holidays

With a little planning you can avoid holiday depression, anxiety, and mania -- and enjoy the season.
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Planning for Holiday Success When You Have Bipolar Disorder

It's very easy to let the holidays dictate your life. You have to go shopping. You have to go to your office party. You have to bake four batches of Christmas cookies. It can make you feel completely powerless. Your own needs become irrelevant.

The key is to take control before that happens. "Where is it written that you must do all these things?" says Frank. The key to a successful holiday is to plan for it well in advance, she says. Here are a few tips that may help ease your holidays:

  • Scale back your expectations. Be easy on yourself. "The gifts don't have to be perfect," Crowel tells WebMD. Neither do the decorations. Or the turkey. Or anything.

  • Think twice before playing host. The preparations for a holiday dinner -- shopping, cooking, cleaning -- can be overwhelming for a person with bipolar disorder. So make sure you are really up to it. If you do host, simplify. Pare down the guest list. Cook something you can prepare in advance. Ask for help from friends or family.

  • Be open and direct with your family. Tell them what you need this year. If the usual family gathering of dozens seems like too much, see if your family might cut down the guest list. Obviously, this could cause conflict with the rest of the family. But if the extended family members really care about the person with bipolar disorder they should understand, Frank says.

  • Make this year different. If holidays have not gone well in the past, make changes. Instead of doing the usual dinner at home, go to a restaurant. If staying with your in-laws hasn't been good for you, check into a nearby hotel instead. Or simply get away from all the holiday hubbub and go on vacation.

  • Spread out the visiting. Frank suggests shifting some of your visits into October and January, instead of trying to fit in everyone in November and December.

  • Increase the number of check-ins. You might want to step up the schedule of appointments with your therapist or check-ins with your family and friends. It's a good way of staying grounded.

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