When you have seasonal bipolar disorder, you may find yourself wondering how you can handle it. You might feel frustrated as you try to cope with seasonal relapses or episodes. You may also have questions about treatment, managing your stress, or taking care of your health overall. There are steps you can take to manage your disorder. For example, you can try establishing a treatment plan and coping with bipolar episodes. You can then work on building a support team, taking care of your overall health, and managing your stress.
Establish and Maintain a Treatment Plan
Stick to your treatment plan. The most important thing you can do to handle seasonal bipolar disorder is to establish and maintain a treatment plan. This will give you the resources and support you need to manage your disorder. If you don’t already have one set up, talk with your primary care provider about establishing one. If you do have one established, then continue your therapy doing the things you do to manage your disorder.
If you have a treatment plan, but feel it isn’t working, contact your health care professional and let them know. You could say, “I don’t think my current plan is working. Can we make some adjustments?”
If therapy isn’t currently part of your treatment plan, consider adding it in. Talking to a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional can help you handle your seasonal bipolar disorder in several ways. Therapy, in general, has a strong evidence base in terms of managing bipolar disorder, especially when used with medication management. Your therapist can also offer you tips and strategies for handling your disorder as well as provide you with encouragement and other support.
Ask your primary care provider for a reference to an effective therapist.
If you’re already attending therapy, you may want to consider increasing your number of sessions during the seasons that your bipolar disorder is most challenging.
Coping with a Manic or Depressive Episode
Learn the triggers for your disorder. Although your bipolar disorder may be seasonal, there may still be certain things that lead to you having a manic or depressive episode. Being aware of the situations, people, and places that cause you a lot of stress can help you recognize what may trigger an episode. Once you know the things that stress you, you can work to avoid them.
Triggers are events, places, people, or situations that may make it likely that you will have a bipolar episode. For example, very stressful situations like starting or ending a new school or job may trigger a bipolar episode.
Pay attention to the things that are going on during the season that you usually have the most trouble with your bipolar disorder. For example, is it all of the extra activity but less structure of the summer that causes you problems?
Recognize your signs of a bipolar episode.
There are several indicators that you may have that a depressive or manic episode is coming. Some of the signs are common for people with bipolar disorder, while some signs of an episode will be specific to you. Handle seasonal bipolar disorder by paying attention to thoughts, feelings, and actions that suggest an episode may be starting.
Keep in mind that you may experience more manic episodes during the warm months and more depressive episodes during colder months.
For example, many people feel irritable, restless, and unfocused at the onset of a manic episode.
On the other hand, feeling fatigued, hopeless, and withdrawing may be signs of a depressive episode.
Use your journal or another log to keep track of your feelings, emotions, and actions so that you can identify patterns in your behavior and signs of an episode.
Seek help immediately.
Although you may already have a treatment plan established, if you are experiencing a bipolar episode you should contact your mental health professional or primary care provider. Your treatment team can provide you with the resources and support you need to work through your episode, as well as handle seasonal bipolar disorder.
As soon as you feel you may be experiencing a bipolar episode, you should tell your treatment team, “I need to come in immediately because I think I’m having an episode.”
If possible, ask someone close to you to intervene if you’re acting irrationally. For example, you might tell your sibling, “If I start taking stupid risks, please let my treatment team know I might be having a bipolar episode.”
Building a Support Team/Join a support group
Building a network of people to help you handle your seasonal bipolar disorder is a good idea for a number of reasons. For example, joining a support group can provide you encouragement, friendship, and new coping strategies. In addition, spending time with other people who have seasonal bipolar disorder can help you relieve tension by giving you a safe space to share what you’re going through.
Consider joining an online support group or forum if you can’t attend an in-person support group.
Rely on your family and friends.
The people that care about you can do a lot to help you manage your seasonal bipolar disorder. They can encourage you and help you manage your treatment plan. They can also help you handle any stress you’re going through as a result of your disorder.
Tell the people close to you that you might need their support. For example, you might say, “This is around the time of year that my bipolar disorder gets really crazy. Could you help support me while I go through this?”
Remember that it’s okay to ask someone to just come be with you if you’re feeling a little down.