Understanding how you can stay well is an important part of actively managing life with schizophrenia, which is generally considered as a lifelong or ‘chronic’ condition.
If you are living with schizophrenia it is likely that you will have periods when you will feel well, and periods when you will start to experience symptoms again; this is known as a relapse. Relapses can be very frightening but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of them happening and, if they do, make them a little bit easier to manage.
Medication is an important part of reducing the risk of relapse - and it is very important that you follow any instructions given to you by your healthcare team regarding your therapy even if you are feeling well. If you do start to feel unwell then it is probably time to go and see your doctor for some advice.
You might also want to try additional things that could help you keep well. For example, looking after your general health, doing something you enjoy, and talking to people who can help you develop other strategies to actively manage your schizophrenia. Your healthcare team will be there to help you find people who are experts in developing techniques that support you to stay well for longer. Be sure to involve your family and friends in exploring options to stay well.
When experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be hard to focus on looking after yourself. Everybody, whether they have schizophrenia or not, should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle and take regular exercise. Exercise is beneficial for your heart and lungs, helps build muscle and strengthens your bones. Being overweight is a health risk and exercise is a good way to lose weight and/or minimise weight gain. With schizophrenia, this can be particularly important as weight gain is a possible side-effect of antipsychotic medication.
In addition to the physical benefits, it has been shown that exercise can lead to improved mood and concentration; it can reduce anxiety and stress; and it can help raise self-esteem and motivation.
Exercising in a group, such as an aerobics class or a game of football, enables you to meet new people and improve your social skills. Exercise should be manageable and fun and you should start slowly and gently. It is important that you consult your healthcare team before starting a new exercise programme.
Schizophrenia often develops between the ages of 18 and 35, which are critical years for education and making career choices. The degree to which your thinking skills (sometimes referred to as ‘cognitive functions,’ for example, concentration, memory, thoughts, planning skills and ability to solve problems), may be impaired can affect your chances of continuing your education or being able to stay working.
With the help of medications and psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions your symptoms may be managed to a level that enables you to continue with, or return to education or employment. There are many people who have accomplished a great deal in spite of their schizophrenia and who have gone on to have happy, fulfilled lives.