December is a busy time of year. For some, the holidays are a time for gathering with family and friends, gift giving, festive parties, shopping sprees, cookie exchanges, caroling, and more. For others, the holidays are a lonely time evidenced perhaps by the lack of all the joy experienced by others. For most though, the holidays are a time, good or bad, which can be filled with stress.
Here are some tips to help you get through the season unscathed.
The Family Gathering
The family gathering tends to be high on the stress list. Should you attend the family dinner? Whose side of the family "gets you" and for what date(s)? Are your traditions being honored? Will family members you don't get along with be at the gathering?
All of these factors play into your enjoyment of the traditional family gathering. If this is a particularly difficult time for you, let your host know. Explain that you may need to arrive late or leave a little early. Ask to be seated next to people with whom you get along and feel most comfortable. If there are grievances, set them aside, the holiday gathering is not the time to air them.
Be realistic about your expectations. As families change, new members join, so do the traditions. If yours is not honored, suggest to your host that you'd like to share it with the group or, set aside another gathering to do so.
Take some time for yourself. Go for a 15 minute walk, sit on the porch, find something that helps you reduce stress.
The Gift List
Where does your gift giving list end? Do you include only immediate family and best friends, or does yours extend to the mailman, hairdresser, and 3 rd cousins twice removed? What about all the gift exchanges, the office party, and pleas to help the underprivileged? Will you feel guilty if your gardener gives you a poinsettia but you've nothing to give to him? Planning ahead can help.
Set a budget and stick to it. Let family know if you're unable to give everyone a present. Suggest choosing a name and only buying for that one person. Set a dollar amount. Your gift doesn't have to come from a store. Perhaps give something you make; your famous fudge or knitted shawl. Consider giving to a charity in the person's name (no one knows the amount you spend except you & the charity!).
The Parties
Family, friends, co-workers, neighbors....the party invitations may be endless or non-existent. If you are feeling lonely, why not look into community or religious events? Volunteering your time with those less fortunate will help boost your mood.
If the stream of invitations is plentiful, learn to say no. You know your limit, your sleep schedule, and your budget. Decide in advance which parties work for you.
Don't abandon your healthy habits. Over-indulgence will leave you feeling guilty. Eat a piece of fruit before going to the party. Once there, start with a glass of sparkling water or tomato juice. Remember to get plenty of sleep and stick with your exercise routine.
Seek Professional Help
Despite your best efforts, you may still feel sad, lonely or isolated. Acknowledge your feelings. It's OK to cry, feel angry or sad. You can't force yourself to feel happy just because it's the holiday season. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional, call on the support of your trusted friends, or seek spiritual counseling.

Recognizing your triggers and taking control, will help you get through the season. Try each day to find one thing to be grateful for and you may find some joy as well.

Warm wishes for a happy, healthy and safe holiday season,
Muffy Walker
Featured Articles
Best Health Blog Contest

Remember to keep voting!  You can vote once per day until December 12. 

(If the website was not working for you before, it has been updated and is now much easier to use.)

Please take a minute to vote for us:
  1. Go to  
  2. Scroll down the page and search: International Bipolar Foundation (if you don't see any nominees listed, refresh the page)
  3. Type in your email address and click VOTE
  4. The 1st time you vote - click to have a confirmation email sent to you. You must click on the confirmation email for your vote to count.
  5. Share the link on your social media and ask your friends to vote for us!

Thank you for voting!
Featured Blogs
Sign Up to Watch Our Next Live Webinar
Combatting the Culture of Fear and Silence Through Storytelling and Community Conversations

Wednesday, December 7 at 9am Pacific Time
Register here  (time zone converter at link)

In this webinar, our board member Randi Silverman will discuss some of the  issues around parenting a young child with bipolar disorder, including:
  • How our culture of fear, blame, shame and silence contribute to lack of knowledge and delays in treatment
  • Why it's so important to understand that mental health, like physical health, lies on a continuum
  • How storytelling and community conversations can create culture change
  • How her film, No Letting Go, has resonated with families and clinicians alike
This webinar will be recorded and posted here the following week. 
See the rest of our upcoming webinars here
Watch Our Latest Recorded Webinar
Bipolar is about family, says Kevin. Within his talk, he shares an in-depth and insightful look at the challenges and lessons he and his family of doctors have learned through multiple arrests, eleven stays in psychiatric lockdown for mania, multiple hospitalizations for depression, a twenty-year career at the pinnacle of his sport, and raising and loving a family of his own, and surviving cancer twice. He shares an open-heart, open book approach as he discusses the interplay of the three things he believes have contributed most to his life so far: Behavior, Growth, and Authenticity

Tell us what you think! After you've watched the webinar, please take our  follow-up survey.

The information contained in or made available through this webinar cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any specific treatment, drug, food or supplement. International Bipolar Foundation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or received from International Bipolar Foundation.
See the rest of our recorded webinars here.
Mental Health Awareness Patch

Mattise Pickett is one Girl Scout who recently earned our Mental Health Awareness Patch. 

Matisse was presented the patch by  Representative Kenny Walker Kenneth Walker of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Mississippi Family As Allies Executive Director, Dr. Joy Hogge.

She answered some questions for us about her experience earning the patch. Read the interview here

Learn more about our Mental Health Awareness Patch here.
Can anything be done to reduce the chances of developing bipolar disorder?

Each month, an expert from our Scientific Advisory Board will answer your questions about bipolar disorder research and treatment. 

This month's expert:  Michael Berk, PhD

Question: Can anything be done to reduce the chances of developing bipolar disorder?
Answer: There are a number of things that can be done to reduce risk of developing the disorder and of recurrence if one has the disorder. Perhaps the simplest is close adherence to lifestyle guidelines. These include regular physical activity, which does not have to be more than moderate, consuming a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and avoiding all drugs of abuse including cigarettes. Moderate alcohol use does not appear to be a problem though. Sleep is important and maintaining regular sleep/wake rhythms really helps. In particular, going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time appears key. Shift work is generally a problem for many people at risk. Maintaining good and rich social networks and supports is strongly protective. These include working to enrich not only family supports, but networks of friends. Having a rewarding career or job that is meaningful appears protective.

About Dr. Berk: 
Professor Michael Berk's research interests are in the discovery and implementation of novel therapies, and risk factors and prevention of psychiatric disorders. He is currently a NHMRC Senior Principal research Fellow, and is Alfred Deakin Chair of Psychiatry at Deakin University and Barwon Health, where he heads the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre. Read his full biography   here

For more answers from our experts, visit our Sharecare page.
Research Updates
(United States)

Learn more about the latest studies in bipolar research here.
Mental Health Books

If you shop on Amazon, use AmazonSmile to have a percentage of your purchases donated to IBPF. 
Get started  here

PayPal Giving Fund

When you donate using  PayPal Giving Fund, there are no fees and we receive 100% of your  donation. Donate here.  

eBay sellers can also donate a percentage of their sales to IBPF through eBay for Charity, more details here

About International Bipolar Foundation

International Bipolar Foundation is a not for profit organization based in San Diego whose mission  is to improve understanding and treatment of bipolar disorder through research; to promote care and support resources for individuals and caregivers; and to erase stigma through education. 

International Bipolar Foundation is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or received from International Bipolar Foundation.

Visit us online for more information:

Support our mission with a tax deductible donation

See if your employer will match your donation by checking here