“Something in the air this morning made me feel like flying.” — Eileen Granfors
“Are you ready for spring?” my therapist asked. “The time change, longer days, warmer weather…?” I knew exactly where he was going with this question. Triggers. Mood triggers. Mania triggers.
For all my undiagnosed years, I never put two and two together. I didn’t get “spring fever”. I got “spring mania”. But sure enough, with the help of incredible therapists, I learned that for me, spring is delightful, energetic, inspiring, rejuvenating. And dangerous.
Most of us with Bipolar will have an upswing in our mood in the springtime. Do you have this seasonal pattern? If you’ve had Bipolar for many years, you are most likely aware that spring can often bring on hypomania or mania. But if you’re new to this diagnosis, take notice of changes in your mood or behavior. If you swing upwards too much, you’ll know it’s time to check in with your team of care providers. Some points to watch:
- Increased daylight hours. More sunlight means more serotonin, which means more happy time. It also means you probably feel like you need less sleep and have more energy. Once you start sleeping less, brain chemicals change, and the mood starts to elevate.
- Daylight savings time. If anyone tells you the time change can’t affect you, just ignore them. Some people aren’t affected by daylight savings, but so many more are, even if they don’t have Bipolar. Perhaps you’re lucky and it truly doesn’t phase you. But since keeping a very routine sleep schedule is so important to mental health, one hour and a change in daylight can throw you off balance. For the spring change, try to get to bed ten minutes earlier every few days for a week or two before the time changes. Don’t shortchange yourself on sleep.
- Warmer weather. Who isn’t excited to get outside in the great weather? Warmth! Sun! Vitamin D, serotonin and dopamine increase and up goes the mood. Should you stay inside then and never go out? Absolutely not. We were meant to spend time in the sun by nature, so it’s important to get outside. Just be aware that it can be one of the factors of elevated mood.
- Increased physical activity. With more time spent outside, there is additional physical activity. Walking, bike riding, gardening, hiking…the list is long, and fulfilling. If you find that you are greatly increasing your activity level, be aware that too much of it can actually be a bad thing for mental balance. It’s imperative to find the sweet spot. Every person is different. It may not be in the mental cards to run five miles every day, but brisk walking for 30 minutes daily may be just right for you.
These are just a few things that are part of “spring fever”. But they are incredibly influential on mood states. Remember to chart your moods daily, taking into account changes in your activity and behavior. And if your mood starts to elevate, or things feel “off”, talk with your providers. Friends and family: if you notice changes in your loved one, don’t forget to take note and follow through with your action plan.
Spring shouldn’t be feared; it should be embraced. And with a little foresight, we can all celebrate the beauty of the new season.