How can I help myself?
Many people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are able to live normal and happy lives, even if they continue experiencing symptoms.
“My recovery has been gradual and in stages… No matter how bad I feel, I can now manage my worst days until I get to a better place mentally.”
Below are some suggestions for self-help techniques that you might find useful.
Look after your physical health
- Getting enough sleep can make you feel calmer and more able to cope. If you feel tired, you are more likely to feel stressed or worried and find it difficult to manage your symptoms
- Following a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help your wellbeing, and also help avoid psychosis brought on by changes to blood sugar levels
Be involved in your treatment
If you have a mental health problem, being involved in your treatment can help you stay well. Some ways you can do this are by:
- Finding out more about your diagnosis and the different treatments available
- Asking your doctor to be involved in decisions about your treatment
- Making sure you understand any treatment or medication you are prescribed
You have the right to be given information that you can understand. If this is not happening or is proving difficult, an advocate might be helpful.
Manage your medication
If you are on medication, it is important to learn to manage your medication in a way that works for you. For example, if your medication makes you feel drowsy, you may want to ask your doctor if you could take it in the evening, or you may avoid alcohol and certain foods.
If you experience side effects because of your medication, you should discuss this with your family doctor or psychiatrist. They can help you decide whether to continue taking the medication or change your current medication to something else. They should also be able to give you advice about how to manage your side effects.
If you want to come off medication, make sure you know all the pros and cons of doing so and how best to do it. Get as much information and support as possible.
Talk to your employer
If you have a job, you may want to talk to your employer about your mental health problem and ways you can be supported when you do your job, such as working shorter hours, or being able to work in a more flexible way. Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate an employee or a potential employee on the grounds of their disability.
Try to minimise stress
Too much stress can make symptoms of schizophrenia worse and increase the chances of you becoming unwell. You may need to reduce the number of responsibilities you have. Alternatively, you may find it helpful to learn a mindfulness technique to help you be more aware of when things are getting too much for you so you can ask for help. You may also find it helpful to learn a relaxation technique to help you cope with stress.
Do something you enjoy
Staying involved in the things you enjoy is important. They can improve your confidence and help you stay well, whether it is cooking, seeing your friends or doing DIY. Some people find that doing something creative, such as drama, drawing or sewing, helps them to express themselves and deal with difficult emotions in a positive way.
Use peer support
Talking to people who have had a similar experience or share similar feelings can be a massive support. Self-help groups provide this opportunity, and ways of coping and campaigning for better services. For details of organisations that can help you find self-help groups in your area, see ‘Useful contacts’.
Maintain your social life
Feeling connected to other people is an important part of staying well. It can help you to feel valued, confident, and more able to face difficult times. Think about the interactions you have every day with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spending time on relationships you are interested in can really give you a boost. In return, if you are caring and supportive to other people, you are more likely to get a positive response from them.
“I’ve found the thing that helps me is being around other people, no matter how tiring it is. It forces me to interact and interpret the unpredictability of others in the flesh, instead of listening to people’s thoughts.”
If you do not have the social contact you feel you need, or experience feelings of loneliness for whatever reason, this can also have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.
Learn some mindfulness techniques
Some people also find mindfulness techniques helpful to manage unwanted or intrusive thoughts and reduce anxiety. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga.
Plan for a crisis
You may want to make a crisis plan to tell people what you want to happen if you are in crisis. This may entail making an Advance Statement, a statement in which you indicate, when well, the form of health care that you would like to have at a future time when you may be severely unwell. This can help reduce stress and address any worries you have about what will happen to you or your family if you become ill.
Complementary and alternative therapies
Some people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia find that complementary therapies help them keep on top of their problems. These might include homeopathy and acupuncture. Tai chi, yoga and relaxation techniques can also be beneficial, although it might be a good idea to discuss the possibilities beforehand with a qualified teacher.