Springtime Rules—Managing Bipolar’s Seasonal Mania

Planning Is Everything—Seasonal Mania & You

This article in BP Magazine reminded me of nearly each and every year for the past 36 years. For me ,it seemed that my depression kicked in early December – and stayed through easter. Mothers Day was the first truely happy time. The fresh flowers and wonderful weather change from Bostons long winter. Hope it helps you.
By Carin Meyer 6 Apr 2020
‘While saying good-bye to the winter doldrums and welcoming a brighter spring is usually comforting, it also holds the potential for seasonal mood episodes. Add to that our current state of uncertainty and social isolation, and it can feed into increased anxiety and instability. The longer days of spring is generally a positive change, but for those living with bipolar, this can be a dangerous path to mania, says Dr. Christina Girgis, a Chicago-based psychiatrist. “For patients who have good insight, they want to be careful to try to prevent this from happening.” Of course, it doesn’t help when mania or hypomania feels like a refreshing reprieve from a winter season of depression, which makes preparation that much more critical. Especially because summer—with its longer days and extended bright light—has a reputation for sparking more frequent and high-risk manic episodes. While not everyone is vulnerable to mood episodes that coincide with the seasons, for the many who are, planning for the onset of spring starts weeks in advance. One way to get ready is to understand the correlation between the onset of symptoms and disruptions in circadian rhythm, which is affected by physical activity, sleep patterns, and eating habits.

“Most definitely, people with bipolar have trouble with change with regard to circadian rhythms—jet lag, changing seasons, change in routine of any kind,” says Anthony Levitt, MD.

All of these often happen during spring and summer, so the time to plan for trademark triggers is now. This means being on the lookout for your own signs of hypomania or mania.

Both consistency—getting out of bed at the same time every morning, for example—and limiting overexposure to light are paramount.

Knowing she will be battling her most “dangerous season,” bpHope blogger and Alaska resident Carin Meyer—who has to transition from a dormant winter to “persistent sunbeams” in the spring—makes preparations to lessen the impact with her self-imposed “springtime rules.” They include journaling to monitor her mood, and always having a baseball cap and sunglasses on hand.

She has come a long way since she was first diagnosed, when the “longer days brought so many weeks of extreme agitation that my cycles would blur together until I could no longer separate day from night.” 

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