Preparing for a Shift in Seasons
Fall has arrived! I don’t know about you but I’m ready to throw on my biggest grandma sweater and snuggle up on the couch with a hot cup of chai, my fur babies, and a good old fashioned Hallmark movie. October is officially among us and I’m into it! Despite my basic white girl mentality this time of year, I’m faced with additional stress revolving around my Bipolar and the very real consequences of my actions. What is it about the leaves changing colour and all of summers beauty fading away that we find ourselves battling such an intense mental shift? Can anyone else relate to the immense power struggle with your mind during a change in seasons? Over the years I’ve developed many coping strategies to assist me during my cycles. Being self aware allows me to prepare as best as I possibly can to avoid spiraling into a full blown manic break down.
We’ve had enough cold weather and gloomy days here in Vancouver to last us a lifetime. The January blues has overstayed its welcome and we are anxiously anticipating some vitamin D! Sunny days begin to creep up ever so slowly and our mood becomes elevated with the thought of summer fast approaching. For some of us we may experience hypomania. Hypomania is a more mild version of mania that typically lasts a few days rather than a few months. We may become excited, irritable, and energetic. These symptoms are prevalent in those diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 although anyone with Bipolar Type 1 can experience the same feelings prior to a manic episode. One can only imagine the obstacles that may surface if we let our imbalance get the best of us.
Personally I find myself throwing my finances to the wayside in the spring simply due to the fact that my birthday falls in March. I’ve made it another year and I’m ready to celebrate with good food, shopping sprees, and quality time with friends and family. So what’s wrong with spending a little extra money on yourself if the occasion only arises once a year? Typically my increase in spending doesn’t stop there. I have quite the track record of living luxuriously from March to September. That’s 6 months worth of income wasted on things outside of my basic necessities! I don’t know about you but this poses to be a very serious setback in terms of gaining personal financial freedom.
First things first I make sure to ALWAYS track my spending. Whether it’s a $3 tea or a $200 grocery bill, I hold on to everything. In the past I’ve found it helpful to break out my months into separate envelopes with all of the corresponding receipts. At the end of the month I highlight any excessive spending and adjust my budget accordingly. Perhaps this means saying no to a night out or cooking dinner from home despite craving delivery. Whatever the case may be, I make sure I am fully aware and in control of what I am choosing to spend my money on. If this method isn’t working for me and I’m struggling with day to day temptations, I will leave my credit card at home to prevent overspending.
I know I’ve touched on the importance of Yoga in previous posts and I can’t stress enough how restorative and grounding it can be during such critical times of the year! Mania isn’t something we are typically aware of until all hell has broken loose and we’ve royally messed up our life to the point of no return. Despite my mother’s attempts over the years I still struggle to accept when my behaviour is shifting and this is something I am consciously working on. By making time for yoga class once or twice a week (depending on what I feel my body needs) I am able to slow down my brain and channel my excess energy internally. I stopped focusing on perfecting the poses years ago and began to reap the emotional and psychological rewards of tuning into my body and mind to achieve overall balance and serenity.
For most people the arrival of summer means sunny beach days, late night campfires, and endless pitchers of sangria amongst friends. While I will admit to taking advantage of the beautiful weather and casually sipping on an ice cold G&T, I’ve come to realize that the warmer months can be extremely dangerous if I fail to adequately prepare myself. Festival season increases millennials desire to party and let loose. This is a thing. Unfortunately I have yet to conform to this trend despite my best efforts. I did however perform at a small scale music festival last summer that allowed me to confirm my preconceived notions towards electronic music festivals as a whole. Let’s just say I’d rather spend my free time sober with access to a fully functioning washroom! With that being said I choose to focus my energy on two major areas of my life between June and August.
It’s no secret that the number of parties and events drastically increases during the summer. We want to get out and enjoy everything this magical city has to offer! Whether we spend our days at Wreck beach or our nights on the Granville strip, we are constantly embarking on a new adventure in a city that never sleeps. Before we realize it we are waking up at noon on our friends pull out couch with a killer hangover and a very vague recollection of last night’s events. I know you feel me. So how can we prevent ourselves from getting caught up in the neverending thrill of boat parties and late night shenanigans? By saying no. By choosing self awareness and our health before anything else. This proves to be especially true if you’ve ever experienced issues with substance abuse and addictive behaviour. Sure one drink is ok every now and then but very rarely do we often have just one drink and call it a night. One thing I found particularly helpful this summer was not keeping alcohol in my house. If I wanted to have a drink I would either go out for dinner or purchase a single for a specific occasion. By limiting my access to alcohol I was able to control my impulses and prevent impaired decisions.
Reckless behaviour is another red flag for me during the warmer months. With what feels like an unlimited supply of serotonin pulsing through my veins I often wind up in some pretty alarming situations. From car accidents to being roofied there is never a shortage of life altering events headed my way. To say I engage in certain activities I know to be harmful would be false. The problem is I’m in such a state of euphoria I am incapable of sensing dangerous situations even if they are so blatantly obvious! It can be overwhelming and extremely frustrating to accept that I allow myself to be taken advantage of. By learning to openly communicate with my partner and my mom I have been able to avoid situations that ultimately put myself and my safety at risk. If I plan on going out for the night I make sure to arrange a DD. I no longer perform in nightclubs to minimize my exposure of intoxicated individuals with ill intentions. Communicating my plans with the people closest to me means I am more likely to avoid detrimental setbacks while still engaging in social activities.
I’m pretty sure I would lose my basic white girl status if I wasn’t obsessed with all things fall! Pumpkin, chunky knit sweaters, and homemade soup is enough to kick start my annual hibernation period as early as humanly possible. There’s just one problem I continue to struggle with no matter how hard I try and prepare myself. My depression. It is quite common for someone with BP to experience an intense decline in their moods this time of year. Colder weather lack of sunlight can affect even the most stable of individuals and unfortunately we are more susceptible to these environmental shifts. Luckily I’ve acquired a few ways in which to cope with this ongoing dilemma and stabilize my mind despite the internal chaos I am forced to accept year after year.
Our immune system plays an extremely important role in our overall wellness and is something we do not always pay close enough attention to unless it is compromised. There is nothing worse than an unhealthy mind trapped inside of a sick body. We’ve all heard September referred to as “cold and flu season” and with good reason. Notice that everyone around you seems to be coming down with some type of bug? Between temperature changes and back to school, the amount of germs and bacteria going around are enough to permeate even the strongest immune system. We need to ensure we are being especially mindful of our self-care routine to avoid additional stress brought on by illness. A few of my favourite remedies this time of year include my immune oil from Saje Natural Wellness and a Costco sized case of Emergen-C! Consuming adequate fluids and catching a few extra hours of sleep each night are also great ways to prevent our immune system from collapsing as we approach the winter months.
As far as keeping ourselves busy (and somewhat distracted) as a means to prevent a major episode, I highly recommend shifting your focus towards family and festivities. Thanksgiving is my all time favourite holiday and something I can look forward to if I’m going through a bit of a rough time. Getting together with relatives and friends reminds us that we have SO much to be grateful for despite the challenges we face each and every day. I try to make it home for the holidays as often as I can, although that has proven to be more difficult since moving to Vancouver. If your family lives close by I strongly advise you to take the opportunity and make the time to visit them, even if it’s just for a turkey dinner! Being surrounded by people who love and cherish you can be just as beneficial as time alone to wind down and recharge. Connect, relax, and most importantly, embrace your support system!
By now we’ve come to the end of our cycle. Our darkest hour greeting us as we brace ourselves in preparation for the madness soon to unfold. Lacking in energy and motivation it’s as if dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment in itself! I don’t know about you but I’ve already wholeheartedly decided to hibernate and avoid my responsibilities at all costs. Ever heard of SAD? Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression brought on by a change in seasons. It is not unusual for people to experience symptoms similar to that of someone diagnosed with depression. Count your lucky stars if you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid these feelings during the colder months! Now imagine this feeling amplified by a million. Compulsive thoughts consume any rational thinking you may have as your mind and body become numb and lifeless. Where has my usual, happy self disappeared to and how can I get her back?
First of all, I am very aware of how strenuous it can be to force yourself out of bed when you are at an all time low. It is hard enough to find the energy to get to work on time let alone manage anything outside of your daily routine. Hear me out. Finding a way to get your body moving will in fact begin to shift your moods and increase positive thinking. Boosting your endorphins is one of the most effective ways to cope with a lack of serotonin being produced during a depressive episode! One workout is all it takes to reap the benefits of mood enhancing hormones. How crazy is it to think that by hitting the gym when our brain is working against us, we are able to regain control of our thoughts and emotions? This concept blows my mind! To some the gym may seem like an insignificant step towards achieving emotional wellness. I encourage everyone to try it at least once before jumping to conclusions. The only way to truly understand how powerful this tool can be is through experiencing it for yourself.
So let’s talk about sleep shall we? Of course it is important to make sure we are getting enough rest to avoid making impaired decisions stemming from sleep deprivation. But what about oversleeping? Is there such thing as too much sleep? The answer is yes. I myself am guilty of trying to justify my increased need for sleep during the winter. I’ll tell myself everything from “It’s cold outside and I have no energy” to “I’ve been working really hard and I’m tired”. There is never a shortage of excuses as to why I’m in bed avoiding my obligations. Over the years I’ve began to acknowledge this pattern and actively strive to increase my productivity from November to February. When we sleep for longer periods of time than our body actually needs, we can end up experiencing severe exhaustion during the day despite the fact that we’ve been resting for an extended period of time. What is the point of sleeping is we we wake up tired anyways? The key is making sure we are getting the RIGHT amount of sleep. This will vary depending on the person however I’ve found the best way to gauge your sleep requirements is by going to bed when you are tired and waking up naturally. Your body knows when you’ve had enough rest and your circadian clock will ensure you’re getting exactly the right amount!
Self awareness is hands down the most effective way in which we can prevent our Bipolar from getting the best of us. Tuning in to our basic necessities and discovering what it is we need during certain times of the year will only assist in supporting us on a deeper and more emotional level. You know yourself better than anyone else. Trust your intuition and never be afraid to say no to the people and situations that no longer serve you! Make time for yourself. Nurture your body AND your mind. Your future self will thank you. I promise.