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    Bipolar Disorder: Handling the Holidays

    With a little planning you can avoid holiday depression, anxiety, and mania -- and enjoy the season.

    Bipolar Disorder & Shopping Sensibly

    It's very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the season and become fixated on finding everyone the perfect gift. But again, you need to stay in control -- especially if you're prone to unhealthy buying sprees. Here are some suggestions:

    • Keep perspective. Don't get too caught up in finding the best gift for everyone. It's not worth the anxiety -- and besides, your nephew would probably be happy with a check anyway.

    • Stick to a budget. If you have a problem with overspending, come up with an explicit budget well before the holidays arrive. You may want the aid of a friend or family member to help you stick to it.

    • Spread out the shopping. Try to shop ahead. Frank suggests Halloween (or earlier, if you can manage it) as a great time to start looking.

    • Shop online. If you have access to the Internet, online shopping is a low-stress way to avoid the mall's hassles. For a little extra, some sites may even gift wrap.

    • Go for gift certificates. Just about everyone loves a gift certificate. And they don't have to be impersonal. Choose one that fits the person: get your sister one from her favorite boutique and your uncle one from a restaurant he likes.

    Caring for Yourself

    The holidays are a time when we're encouraged to think about other people instead of ourselves. That's fine, to a point.

    But if you focus so much on other people that you neglect yourself, you're at higher risk of descending into mania or depression. That's not good for anyone.

    "Your first order of business during the holidays has to be taking care of yourself," says Thase. "If you don't, all sorts of bad things can happen."

    Thase compares living with bipolar disorder to diabetes. "Just as diabetics can't eat all of the sweets during the holidays, people with bipolar disorder have to take extra precautions," he tells WebMD. "But if you take those precautions, the holidays really can go well."

    So this holiday season, plan ahead, keep to your schedule, and scale back your expectations. If you do, you can beat holiday depression, mania, anxiety, and hassles -- and enjoy the season. That's good for you as a person living with bipolar disorder -- and for your loved ones too.

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    Reviewed on November 30, 2007

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