Planning Ahead for Mental Illness During the Holiday Season

November 11, 2015 Taylor Arthur

Planning ahead for mental illness during the holidays means that you can enjoy them and be peaceful knowing you'll keep your mental health into the new year.

Planning ahead for mental illness during the holiday season is tough, but it is doable. I could almost feel the whisper of hypomania pulsing through my veins last weekend as my family and I rolled through the Starbucks drive-thru. I squealed with excitement as the green aprons passed me my steaming red cup. As I sipped my cup of eggnog and espresso, I couldn't help but hope that my usual upswing was on its way. I look forward to my Christmas high--to actually feeling good--all year long. Christmas is so much fun. But is hypomania really a good thing for my family (Effects Of Bipolar On Family And Friends)? How can I navigate through my bipolar disorder to have a magical and peaceful holiday season? How can I plan ahead for my mental illness during the holidays?

Planning Ahead for Mental Illness Over the Holidays

When you live most of your life in a depressed state, fighting tooth and nail just to stay afloat every day, the magic of Christmas hypomania feels like dry land. Suddenly, flavors and colors come alive again. I can breathe, and rest, and jump for joy. My heart swells with hope and overflows with generosity.

Include mental illness in your holiday plans to have a healthy and peaceful holiday season for you and your family.

In this state of breathing, jumping, and overflowing, I’m a blast at Christmas. I throw a gingerbread party for the kids, stack up the presents under the tree, and even play a great Mrs. to my Mr.’s Santa Claus. I bake coffee cake and eggnog muffins, Christmas cookies, and beef bourguignon. We watch old Christmas movies, visit all of the holiday lights shows, chop down our own Christmas tree, and take our boys on a special Christmas date every year.

In my magical Christmas state, I pretend I don't need to take care of my bipolar disorder. I don’t afford myself a lot of downtime between the shopping, wrapping, decorating, and party planning. I don’t sleep enough, fueled by the bright reds and the twinkle lights and the endless to-do lists, I push myself. I usually drink a little more caffeine than I should, eat more sugar then I normally would, and gulp a little too much wine at holiday parties to quell my nerves.

The Holiday Season Crash and Regret

The day after Christmas, I can see the worry creeping into my husband’s face. I know he’s wondering when my crash will come and how long it will take me to recover. I know he’s checking the accounts to see how much money I actually spent on all of this Christmas magic.

Even if I don’t want to admit this to myself, he’s right to worry. Between pushing myself past my comfort zone and then self-medicating to make it all possible, I end up crashing every year. Every year at Christmas, I overdo and I overspend. Depression follows my hypomanic Christmas elf-self like aftershocks follow an earthquake. When the Christmas magic settles, I’m exhausted, I’ve spent more money than I should have, and I’m combing through the past weeks to see what I could have done better. As the holiday depression settles, slow and soft like a blanket of snow around me, I fall deep into the cold and the biting truth that I may have run myself right into the ground, again.

So, this holiday season, I’m trying to plan head for the fact that hypomania may come no matter what I do. I can’t eliminate every trigger. I can't ban Christmas red and twinkle lights from my reality. So, what can I do to insulate myself from overdoing, overspending, and piling up an excess of regret?

How I Plan Ahead for Bipolar Moods

What I can do is plan ahead for my mental illness during the holiday season.

  • First, I can plan out my holiday budget and make decisions about what my family can actually afford before the hypomania sets in.
  • Next, I can plan my time. I can get real about how much time crafts, shopping, and cooking will take.
  • I can make certain we are not overbooked socially, allowing for desperately needed down time.
  • Finally, I can make sure I plan self-care: exercise, Hallmark Christmas movies (I admit it: they make me oh-so happy), a date night with my husband, coffee with friends, and play time with my kids.

My goal this holiday season is to navigate hypomania so that my family can not only have a magical Christmas, but a peaceful one. I’m using Ruth Soukup's free holiday planner at Living Well Spending Less, which is helping me keep all of this holiday magic organized in one place.

Mental illness or not, this can be the most beautiful holiday season yet. We get a brand new chance to do it differently this year. Alice Walker said,

Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.

How Mental Illness And The Holidays Affect Me

I dream of future holidays filled with peaceful, happy memories. That dream begins today.

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APA Reference
Arthur, T. (2015, November 11). Planning Ahead for Mental Illness During the Holiday Season, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Taylor Arthur

November, 16 2015 at 5:05 pm

Most people, bipolar or not, tend to get stressed out around the Christmas holidays and go overboard with gifts and what not and then collapse under the weight of it all shortly before or shortly afterwards
Here' a few of my suggestions to help cut down some of the stress which often precipitates episodes and find make time for yourself to really enjoy the "holidays"
Maybe write yourself a to do list early on and delegate items on that list to others whenever possible to lighten your load.
If you already know you get hypo/manic during the holiday season then why not talk to your pdoc and have your meds adjusted accordingly to even things out so you don't crash and burn afterward (the higher you go the harder you fall) or go on spending sprees that you can't afford. Try to live within your means. Live on cash instead of credit. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. My must people always try to live up to the Jones's. Is it really necessary. What are you teaching you're kids. Get the family involved in helping the disadvantaged by donating time at a shelter or soup kitchen
Why not buy your Christmas gifts throughout the year and wrap them as you go?. It's less stressful and easier on the budget if you can find things on sale at your leisure rather than rushing around weeks before Christmas when it can also be more difficult to find a particular item that may be sold out in most stores if you wait too long. Or why not try making gifts throughout the year if you are talented in that area. Handmade gifts usually mean more than store bought. Larger family's can't afford a lot of presents so why not try to cut down on gifts, for example, drawing names and buy for that person only. Most couples buy what they want or need throughout the year and therefore don't really need much for Christmas. It's more for kids anyway. Put more of the focus on them, but try not to spoil them too much. There's more to Christmas than just gifts
Anyone who takes medication or their health seriously shouldn't really be drinking (but I'm sure you already know that) Especially when there are an abundance of non alcoholic options.
Why not take turns each year going to someone else's place, like your in law's , sister, brother, parents, grandparents, (or even a nice restaurant) etc for Christmas dinner or offer to help out these family with the preparations instead of trying to do it all every year on your own
Also why not get your family to help with decorations, crafts and baking,
etc. Make it a real family affair. They might really enjoy it!

November, 11 2015 at 6:06 pm

Christmas can be depressing. It is a good time to leave money at the bell ringers. It is a good time to remember what life is about and even with depression and mental illnesses, life is still good. I have wasted so much time on depression and anxiety. This season I need to socialize more and give more away. Thanks for your perspective. Cheers!

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