Stress, schizophrenia and strategies that work

The more we learn about schizophrenia, the more we realise how simple, everyday tasks can become a challenge for a person living with the disorder. Take stress for example. Stress may not be a mental disorder, yet the effect it has on the brain causes additional strain on a person living with schizophrenia.[1]

Schizophrenia develops between the ages of 16 – 30[1], right at the peak of a person's life, when life, career and societal pressures are at their highest. Recent studies by the Campbell Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that identifying sources of stress and building resilience to these sources may help a person to function without complicating the onset of schizophrenia.[1]

As part of an ongoing effort to assist people living with mental disorders, here are some strategies to better manage daily routines and to avoid stress.[2]

Organise your time

By organising your time effectively, you can reduce stressful triggers. Make to-do lists for your daily activities, include healthy activities on your list such as a walk or exercise routine. On this list include time for travelling and getting to your appointments on time.

Understand your stress

While you may not have control over unexpected hurdles in your routine, you do have control over planning. By planning your schedule, you're able to make practical changes to your life. Remember, stress management is not just about learning to live with stress, it's also learning to avoid unnecessary and unhealthy stress.

“Me Time” is your friend

Sometimes, life gets overwhelming and you could do with some time to yourself. One way to achieve this is to set aside a day just for yourself. It could be a Sunday where you avoid strenuous activities or busy social interactions and just chill. Be sure to speak to your friends and family and let them know that it's your day, and to refrain from creating pressure.

Be assertive and learn to say “no”

When you're asked to help a loved one out, it may be difficult to say “no”, yet it could be something you need in your life to prevent taking on excessive responsibilities. Being a 'people-pleaser' may impact your mental health, leading to resentment and ultimately, stress. Remember, when saying “no”, try doing so politely without causing offense.

Maintain a healthy sleeping routine

Erratic, broken sleep causes stress before the next day even begins as you worry about being tired at work and unable to function effectively. Aim to get a healthy 6 - 8 hours of sleep per night and keep the daylight hours for being active and social.

Exercise keeps your body and mind healthy

Dedicate regular time to work out. This not only keeps your body healthy, but the effect of exercise on the brain has numerous mental benefits, such as reducing stress, improving the quality of relaxation and sleeping, which all lead to an improved mood. These changes come from the increased endorphins released by the brain, which improve psychological factors. Try making your work out sociable by joining a class to further improve your ability to communicate and avoid isolation.

By implementing these simple tips in your life, you will notice an improvement in your mental state along with reduced stress. Because schizophrenia is a group of varied disorders, it is important to manage stress and take your medication as prescribed (whether daily or monthly injectables) to live a fulfilling life.

For more information on schizophrenia along with various other mental disorders, be sure to visit Our Mental Health and explore treatment options available to you or loved ones.

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References

National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Psychosis and schizophrenia in adults: prevention and management. 2014. CG178.
APA Clinical Guidelines. American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guidelines for the treatment of patients with schizophrenia. 2004.
Hasan et al. World J Biol Psychiatry 2012; 13: 318─378.
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