Working Well with Bipolar as the Seasons Change
I don’t do so well with bipolar disorder and seasonal changes, especially moving into fall and winter. Yet October is one of my favorite months. I love any and everything to do with Halloween, breaking out my boots that have sat neglected in the closet all summer, and anything with the words pumpkin spice on the label. But one thing I don’t love is how the seasonal daylight changes affect my mood, which has a direct impact on the way I work while living with bipolar disorder.
Working with Bipolar Through Seasonal Changes is Hard
Seasonal changes make bipolar disorder more difficult to live with. Bipolar disorder already makes sticking to a consistent work schedule difficult for me, and the shorter days and longer nights make it harder to stay on track. It’s not that the lack of daylight makes me depressed — in fact, I’m quite fond of the long, chilly, cozy nights that come with autumn and winter — it’s that the earlier onset of darkness makes it harder for me to keep track of time.
I have a harder time remembering when to start and stop working on a task. As a result, my eating, sleeping, and housekeeping routines get thrown off, leaving me vulnerable to mood episodes which can damage my work performance even further. While it’s common for people with bipolar disorder to report feeling depressed during the fall and winter months, I find the opposite is true for me: as the daylight hours wane, there is a sense of urgency that propels me to « go, go, go » and cram in as many tasks as I can for the day, drink too much caffeine, and forgo an adequate amount of sleeping hours. In short, a perfect storm to push me head-first into a manic episode.
The irony is that, at the end of the day, the mania does not make me more productive. It sends me into a whirlwind where my brain doesn’t turn off, it’s impossible to concentrate on anything, and I become as irritable and agitated as if I were walking on broken glass. Which is less than ideal for trying to work with bipolar disorder as the seasons change.
Coping (and Working) with Seasonal Shifts in Bipolar Moods
I don’t have one specific strategy for working with bipolar during seasonal shifts. I utilize my digital calendar and a handheld planner to keep myself on track as best as possible, but even then I sometimes find it hard to concentrate (or, in some cases, break my concentration).
Right now, I’m keeping myself grounded by keeping my workspace clean and inviting with pretty crystals, an air plant, and an apple-scented seasonal candle. When I feel like my thoughts are beginning to race or when I catch myself starting to fidget, I pause to go make tea or do some quick yoga stretches. I’ve also found that giving myself incentives, like extra time to play with my pets or watch a movie with my partner at the end of the day, helps to keep me on schedule.
Working with bipolar is hard at the best of times, and it’s even tougher when seasonal changes threaten to throw your mood off balance. This disease is exhausting to live with, and it’s hard not to get frustrated knowing that I have to work twice as hard as the average neurotypical person to make progress in my career or maintain a normal daily routine. But it is what it is, and I’m determined to not let bipolar rob me of all the joys that autumn and winter have to offer.
Do you find that seasonal changes can trigger bipolar mood episodes for you? How do you cope with it and stay on top of your work and your daily obligations? Drop a line in the comments.