The holidays can be a time of great joy, but they can also be a time of stress and chaos for some. Those coping with a mental health issue like bipolar disorder may find this time to be especially challenging. Studies show that over half of those who are bipolar have struggled with alcohol or drug addiction at some point in their lives. The holidays can certainly trigger some temptation in this area, especially when stress levels are high.
If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, here are 5 ways you can cope with stress or other related issues this holiday season so that you are less likely to suffer a relapse.
1. Be True to Your Feelings
During the holidays you may experience financial distress, mixed emotions about seeing certain family members, loneliness and a host of other feelings. Know that it is perfectly fine to identify your true feelings and take responsibility for them. If you suppress them or act out in negative ways, you may experience triggers that can lead you to reach for drugs or alcohol. Instead, admit that you are feeling a certain way and try to discover the root of that feeling. Maybe you feel lonely because your ex left you around the holidays. It’s okay to feel lonely, but you don’t have to cope by drinking. Accept the situation, take responsibility for it and then use positive coping skills to work through it.
2. Stay Connected to Your Support Network
Do your best to stay connected to your friends, family, sponsor, counselor or any other people in your support network. By connecting and sharing your feelings when needed, you will alleviate stress and loneliness. If you attend recovery meetings, be sure that you get to as many meetings as possible in order to keep sobriety first and foremost in your life. Also, make time to hang out with friends and family during the holidays.
3. Use Stress Reduction Techniques
Learn some stress reduction techniques to help manage the busyness of the holiday season. Try deep breathing exercises, meditation/prayer, visualization, exercise and other methods to keep your stress levels down. Also, don’t forget to do things that you enjoy. Tending to your own needs and desires is important for good mental health.
4. Attend Support Groups
If you are a recovering addict, it’s important that you attend 12-Step meetings in order to grow during your sobriety. Meetings give you the opportunity to share your feelings, encourage others and be around like-minded people. Take some time to work on the steps and get together with a sponsor to discuss them.
5. Spend Time Doing Hobbies
Take up a new hobby or get back into an old hobby this holiday season. Maybe you enjoy doing crafts or tinkering with your car in the garage. Or maybe you like to ski and haven’t gone in ages. You can also try new activities to see if you can find a new interest. Take a cooking lesson or join a fitness class. Grab a friend and go to a painting class. There are plenty of activities to try in the community or at home.
Bipolar disorder is manageable, so move forward with these tips in mind and have yourself a great holiday this year. If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, feel free to visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.