Most of us approach the holiday season hoping, wishing and pretending that everything will be OK, but what we often fail to do is PLAN & PREPARE. By taking time to revisit past holidays you gather a lot of useful information to help with preparing and planning for the next holiday season. Your goal is to stop feeling overwhelmed, avoid being pulled in a 100 different directions, work with triggers before they happen, use pre-planning to lesson the burdens over the holidays and begin new and happy traditions.

* With Bipolar the key to stability during the Holidays is to keep a schedule
* Make a list that includes everything you THINK you have to accomplish
* Break down your list into two categories, Things you enjoy and the stuff
that triggers negativity and stress
* Schedule the things you do enjoy, (use calendar to keep track)
* Break your schedule down in to reasonable times
* Be realistic and don’t try to do it all at once
* If shopping triggers your anxiety schedule multiple trips,ask someone to go
for you or shop online
* It's OK if you don't get everything done, you do NOT have to do it all
* Other people pick and choose what they want to do,why aren't you doing the
* Ask why you stopped putting your happiness and your safety first?

What do You do with all the other “crap” that’s creating this feeling of dread and despair?
* How do You not go to a family event?
* How do You decline hosting the annual party?
* How do You tell someone we are not exchanging gifts?

The Answer just say ... NO !

The holidays are a great time to practice saying no. Think about this, what are you gaining if saying Yes creates stress and may trigger an episode? Saying no is an important coping skill to master once you do the end result is priceless

* Work together to uncover your loved ones triggers, then say NO to any
activity that is on this list
* Take the time to weigh all your pros and cons,then say NO to anything that
is on the list of cons
* If you know facing another holiday with your family is going to make you
crazy don’t go, say NO
* If you absolutely feel you have no other choice but to attend an event,set a
specific amount of time to spend there then stick to your limit and leave,
if you're ask you to stay longer, say NO
* You don’t have to make excuses when it comes to your health.

The holiday season can cause depression for people regardless of having Bipolar.

* When you’re depressed during the holidays remind yourself it’s OK to take it
* If you find yourself in an episode of deep depression check in with your
* Remember each holiday last only for one day
* Do NOT isolate, Canceling plans to stay home alone is Not an excepted
* Have a safety plan (contact numbers close by)
* Pick up the phone and let people know you're looking for something to do
* You don't have to feel guilty for backing out of attending parties, your
health always comes first
* Give yourself a break and go out to eat or order delivery
* Depression affects the people you love during the holidays accept their
offer to help in any way they can

Bipolar can mean dealing with uncontrollable moods and verbal or sometimes physical abuse. Bipolar may cause these episodes but in NO way makes anyone obligated to stand by and do nothing. You MUST SET BOUNDARIES.

* The Bipolar Illness can NOT be allowed to dominate a household
* Setting good boundaries prevents you from being hurt and allows you to feel
safe in your environment
* Know yourself and what you can and cannot live with
* Be prepared to enforce consequences
* Don’t let “bipolar” divide and conquer
* Discuss your needs with other family members. Get their support and have
them help
* Talk with the psychiatrist and therapist, enlist their help too
* Avoiding engaging in the poor behavior
* Keep a perspective on what's actually going on
* Write out and Sign a Boundary Contract stating what will no longer be
* Have your own support system and take time to learn affective coping skills
* If your having a hard time enforcing boundaries, you may need to consider
alternative care.

Let’s be realistic,in order to cope we all need support. Whether you’re the afflicted or affected doesn't matter without strong support managing the holidays becomes a nightmare. Your support system should be a mixture of strong and positive people. Don't let one person become overwhelmed. Anyone you feel comfortable reaching out to can be a person of support.

* Spouse
* Family
* Friends
* Therapist / Doctors
* Support groups (In person, via the phone and online)
* Coaches
* Coworkers
* Religious Leader
* Mentor
* Teachers
* Volunteer
* Hotline caregivers

During the holidays your support people become your biggest allies.

* Preplan with your ally
* Your ally will remind you it's time to leave a party even if you're having a
great time.
* Your ally will help remember medications
* Your ally will help you stay motivated
* Your ally can monitor your moods and possibly avoid full blown episodes
* Your ally can be your "out" person, someone who steps in when its time to
walk away
* Your ally will help you stay on a sleeping schedule
* Your ally will create calmness for you
* Tell your ally if you get agitated don’t take it personally
* Tell your ally if it gets to be too much it's OK to walk away and ask for
* Remind your ally their health and safety is just as important as yours

NOTE: Create and Sign an emergency care contract, having a contract in place lets others know what your wishes are when you are in a crisis

Triggers around the Holidays that can cause negative symptoms of bipolar

* The biggest problem with the holidays is when you change the regular routine
* Financial stress: Stick to your budget no exceptions.
* Prone to manic spending sprees: Hand over your credit cards, check book and
stay off the computer. When the euphoric feeling stops you don’t want to be
left with excessive debt
* When Travel means switching time zones: Begin changes ahead of time go to
bed earlier or later
* Flying: use music/book for diversions
* Over-stimulation or missing medications can set in to motion mixed episodes
* This time of the year the days are shorter and night are longer, your body
may not have adjusted
* Common triggers around deadlines and Job related stress may not be avoided,
ask for help
* Relationship Strains: including personality conflicts, past issues and
family, keep a perspective
* Not taking breaks: This time of the year you have more than usual on your
schedule take breaks
* Even having too much down time can trigger an episode

Ways to remain calm or avoid stress:

* Being around animals
* Journal
* Deep breathing
* Relaxing scents
* Enjoy nature
* Leave early
* Don’t rush
* Meditation
* Soothing sounds
* Be flexible
* Drink tea
* Dark chocolate
* Snooze
* Add omega-3s
* Laugh
* Let other people take control you don't have to do it alone
* Exercise
* Plan time for yourself

The way to remain calm during the holidays, create your own annual Traditions. This year is perfect to begin special traditions that are best for your health and also resonate with you and your family.

* Stay home and cook a new meal
* Watch your favorite movie or go to the theater and enjoy a night out
* Volunteer there are many other people who will benefit from your time
* Host a low key party at your home
* Pet sit for a friend (animals are known for uplifting spirits & you're
helping a friend)
* Take a vacation with activity options, go alone or with a group you'll enjoy
spending the time with
* Drive or walk around and look at the holiday lights
* Have kids gather up old toys and clothes then donate them, keep up the
giving spirit of the holiday
* Make gifts for each other
* Play boardgames, they are fun, make time fly by, are interactive and not the
* Make plans with your neighbors, sharing with friends close to home means no
* Alternate who hosts, don't take all the burden every year
* Change formal attire to comfy or vice-versa, dress up special even if you're
staying home
* Go caroling at hospitals, adult care houses, and rehab facilities.
* Can't be with with family set a time to call, knowing in advance eases the
* Read a book by the fire and candle light, nature yourself
* Decorate the tree with new themes each year
* Talk about the true meaning of the holiday you are celebrating. How does
each family member feel about it and does it inspire you to live life
differently in the upcoming year?
* Make Christmas day special, leave a written note from Santa to read
remembering of all the wonderful & good things that happened over the past
year: add a little humor and or some advice
* Instead of sending useless gifts pick a charity to donate the money to
* Exercise is always beneficial, after dinner take time alone to get away from
the crowd and go for a long walk


1. Create a list of everything you think you are obligated to do
2. Break down tasks into reasonable times
3. Schedule everything you like and want to do,
4. Leave off items likely to have triggers or disrupt your enjoyment
5. Your final schedule is a list about you & your needs
6. Remind yourself it’s OK if you can’t get it all done
7. Stick to a time specific schedule
8. Set Boundaries, do not allow unacceptable behaviors
9. You have the right to Say NO
10. Everyone should have their own complete support system
11. Spot depression and allow for help
12. Have coping skills or options that will assist in calming you down
13. If situations becomes escalated both the sufferer and the supporter should
have an “out.”
14. Your past does not have to equal your future, make changes Start New
15. Most Importantly remember You deserve to enjoy your holiday !!!

Author's Bio: 

Marcy Rubin is Professional Life Transition & Recovery Coach and Life & Leadership Potentials Practitioner. Diagnosed with Bipolar disorder in her early thirties. Now 42 and like many of others has endured all the unique issues associated with living with this illness.

Marcy knows receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar becomes a life altering event. Having to face the challenges, overwhelm, anger, helplessness, frustration, stigma and denial becomes a personal journey unlike any other. And although bipolar does affect the people around you it's easier to meet these challenges with support from someone who understands your needs and wishes.