By Rick Qualls

As a child every Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday I would become sick.

Don’t misunderstand. Mine was a “Leave It To Beaver” childhood. It was an idyllic 1950’s childhood where I was cared for and loved.

I would get so excited I couldn’t contain myself.

There were long trips to visit grandparents we didn’t see often. Sears and Wards offered additional catalogs with large children’s sections of fascinating toys. Wish books we called them. I studied them and marked the pages, so mom and dad wouldn’t miss my favorite requests. And I was an ardent believer in Santa Claus…even after I learned it was Santa Qualls that brought the gifts.

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year.

Today, as an adult with bipolar, I can still get sick during the holidays.

By the time I became an adult the ugly face of depression cycled into my life. The winter and holidays can now trigger a bipolar-depressive relapse. As the days get shorter and grayer, my spirits began to fall.

Fortunately, recent years have been better because of bipolar life hacks I have discovered. Here are a few:

  • Winter days and holidays are better when I keep my routine. I stay on my medicine. Not taking my medicine regularly will trigger a depressive relapse.
  • Sometimes adjustments are made in my meds as the season starts. I just had a session with my doctor in which an adjustment was made.
  • I have found that sleep difficulties can set off my depression. It does not take many sleep deprived nights to cause major setbacks. I have learned that I function best with nine hours of sleep. Everyone is different, but it is important to know what your sleep cycle needs to be.
  • I trim the Christmas tree but also trim my schedule. Some time ago I learned what is called the Pareto Principle which states that 80% of your reward comes from 20% of your effort. While the percentages may be argued I have learned that about 20% of what I do bring 80% of my satisfaction.
  • So I trim the schedule to make sure things of ultimate importance are done. It allows me to say, “No” to things that take energy I do not have. That helps me to keep my energy balanced.
  • These days my muscles and joints are not flexible, but my attitude is. If one of my grown kids can’t be at home on Christmas or Thanksgiving, I can let that go. I just make a point of enjoying them when they can. This flexibility makes life easier for them from the stress of trying to please other family members.
  • Accepting other family members as they are and not expecting someone’s personality to change makes things smoother. Over-expecting creates pressure for me and everyone else. Everyone needs their emotional space, including me!
  • What about the gray, dreary days? I turn on the sunlight. In my experience, a sunlamp used for Seasonal Affective Disorder helps my bipolar. So if the sun is hiding, the light comes on.
  • I also have learned that the light is best used early in the day. I discovered when using it in the evening it will prevent sleep, even overcoming my sleep meds.

What are your mental health life hacks?

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

“Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. “Eph 4:29

What are your mental health life hacks? Share them in the comments. It may make a big difference for someone.


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