For people with bipolar disorder, "spring fever" comes with a different meaning. According to the Psychiatric Times, the regularity of circadian events affects individuals with bipolar disorder due to the rapid increase of spring sunlight, leading to an increased risk of manic episodes. Without proper treatment and self-management strategies, springtime happiness can quickly evolve into a full-blown manic episode. As a result, it's important to be mindful of your bipolar symptoms during seasonal changes.
Here's how to take care of your mental health and enjoy the spring season.
Recognize your triggers and warning signs
When you're living with bipolar disorder, navigating uncertainty (rather than seasonal changes themselves) can be the biggest cause of stress. Hypomania, a less severe form of mania, can be especially hard to predict. With warmer temperatures and sun-filled days, it's natural to feel upbeat and optimistic, but it's important to recognize when your mood shifts into hypomania.
Recognizing your triggers and warning signs can help ease anxiety by signaling that you're headed toward mania. In turn, you'll be able to practice self-management strategies, reach out for professional help, and prevent a full-blown manic episode.
Some common warning signs of mania include:
- Insomnia. You might wake up before your alarm clock with your mind full of thoughts, or you might feel a decreased need for sleep even if you haven't slept in a while.
- Inability to listen to others. When you're manic, you might seek out more social interactions. However, when you're with friends and family members, you might find yourself talking over them.
- Ignoring self-care. You might jump from one project to another without stopping to take care of yourself. During mania, some people ignore their sleep schedules, stop taking antidepressants, or skip therapy appointments.
- Obsessing over things. During a manic episode, your passion feels amplified. You might spend hours researching everything you're interested in without any idea how much time has passed.
- Feeling overly confident. In your mind, you might see a completely different version of yourself than you see during daily life. Grandiosity can also coincide with impulsive decisions, like unsafe sex or spending money you don't have.
Don't forget about your physical health
Your physical health is just as important as your mental health. It's easier to handle stressful situations when your body feels good, and a self-care action plan can be a valuable source of guidance when you start noticing warning signs as the winter season ends and springtime arrives.
Eating a balanced diet, making time for regular physical activity (or activity that is accessible to you), and getting enough sleep can help you build resilience, giving your mind and body the strength they need to cope with stress. If you're taking antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or another bipolar disorder medication, try setting alarms on your phone to remind yourself to take them each day.
Remember that help is available
Living with bipolar disorder can be incredibly exhausting, and spring mania can leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed. Whether you're experiencing intense manic episodes, frequent mood swings, or rapid cycling between depression and hypomania, psychotherapy is the first step toward feeling better.
Psychotherapy can help you develop coping skills, improve relationships, reframe negative thoughts, and effectively manage mood swings during seasonal changes and beyond. If you're struggling with spring mania, psychotherapy can also help you develop solid routines for each day, avoid overstimulation, and identify the warning signs of manic episodes.
Bipolar disorder is different for everyone, and it's important to work with your therapist to create a personalized treatment plan. If you're not sure where to start, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) can be extremely beneficial for adolescents and young adults, especially those navigating mental health crises.
At Charlie Health, we provide high-quality mental health care for adolescents, young adults, and their family members. Our virtual intensive outpatient program provides a safe, supportive environment for teens with bipolar disorder, with individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and access to psychiatric support (if needed) to create a comprehensive treatment plan.