Tag Archives: Healthy

Stress & Schizophrenia: How To Help Your Loved One & Yourself?

A common cause of relapse in schizophrenia is “difficulty managing high levels of stress,” according to Susan Gingerich, MSW, a psychotherapist who works with individuals with schizophrenia and their families.

Learning to manage stress isn’t just important for preventing relapse; it’s also important because stress is an inevitable part of facing new challenges and working to accomplish personal goals — “what recovery is all about,” write Gingerich and clinical psychologist Kim T. Mueser, Ph.D, in their book The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia.

Learning to navigate stress healthfully is key for family and friends, too. Having a loved one with schizophrenia can be stressful. Taking care of yourself enhances your well-being and daily functioning. And it means you’re in a better, healthier place to help your loved one.

In their comprehensive book, Mueser and Gingerich share excellent tips for helping your loved one and yourself cope with stress (along with valuable information on schizophrenia and how you can support your loved one).

Here are those suggestions and insights on managing and alleviating stress.

Recognizing Stress Signs

What one person finds enjoyable, another can find stressful. In the same way, how people respond to stress will differ. For instance, one person might exhibit changes in mood, such as becoming depressed and anxious, while another person will show physical signs, such as experiencing headaches and a heightened heart rate.

So it’s important to talk to your loved about their individual signs of stress. Talk about your personal signs, as well. Create separate lists for each of your reactions to stress.

Reducing Sources of Stress
The authors suggest thinking about what situations were stressful for your loved one in the past. Then try to avoid that situation or modify it. If your loved one had a tough time at Thanksgiving last year, it might help to shorten their stay or not go next year.

It’s also helpful to support your loved one in creating a stimulating environment with reasonable expectations. For instance, rather than attend a day program three times a week, one man preferred volunteering twice a week delivering meals to housebound seniors.

Plus, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Eat nutrient-rich foods, get enough sleep, participate in physical activities and engage in fun hobbies. Help your loved one identify what kinds of activities they’d like to do, too.

As the authors point out, because of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, individuals can have a hard time thinking of enjoyable activities. Talk with them about the activities they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Be sure to give yourself and your loved one credit. (Being self-critical just spikes your stress.)

Mueser and Gingerich note how one father acknowledges the positive things that happen on a daily basis: “I’m proud of how persistent my daughter has been in pursuing her art career in spite of the many difficulties she’s encountered. We both have a lot to learn about coping with this illness, but we’ve also come a long way.”

Learning to Cope with Stress

Emphasize the importance of your loved one communicating with others when they’re feeling stressed, since “these feelings can be an early warning sign of relapse,” according to the authors. Make sure you, too, are able to turn to individuals who understand your situation.

Have family meetings to talk openly about the stressor and brainstorm potential solutions. Learn to use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization (such as imagining a serene beach scene).

Self-defeating thoughts only bolster stress for both of you. Try to practice positive self-talk and teach your loved one to do the same.

Mueser and Gingerich share the example of a father helping his daughter reframe her hospitalization, which made her feel like a failure: “I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m proud of you for getting help when you needed it and for being so strong in dealing with this illness. You’re a survivor.”

Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Try to find the lighter side of a stressful situation, according to the authors. It’s not always – or usually – easy, but it helps with stress. Plus, you and your loved one can enjoy a funny film or sitcom to lessen stress.

For some people, religious services and prayer can be very helpful. For others being in nature may feel like a spiritual experience and shrink stress.

Again, regular exercise — around three times a week — that you enjoy is important for both of you. Journaling can provide a great source of stress relief. “Many people with schizophrenia say that writing down what they experience, think, and feel is an important outlet.”

See if your loved one is interested in listening to music or making music themselves, such as singing or taking lessons; visiting art exhibits or creating their own art; playing games with family and friends, and pursuing other hobbies.

As the authors emphasize, people with schizophrenia are “more sensitive to the effects of stress because it can trigger symptom relapses and rehospitalizations.” Helping your loved one deal with stress in a healthy way helps them pursue their personal goals and improves their life.

Plus, working together to develop healthy coping strategies can strengthen your relationship and gives you plenty of opportunities for savoring quality time.

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Choosing Your Friends Wisely

Take a moment and think of those people.

Who are they? How close are you to them? What do they do with their lives personally and professionally? Are they ambitious, successful, happy, optimistic, and enthusiastic? What are their core beliefs about work, money, life, family, health, spirituality, and their body?

Most of us have had the same friends, or group of friends for a long time. Perhaps, we’ve known them since birth or were childhood friends. Or perhaps you have made new friends as adults, but they have become your community or new family.

The reality is that we are a direct representation of those who surround us. It’s inevitable that whoever we surround ourselves with, we eventually become like. For some, this is fantastic because you have surrounded yourself with authentic people who push and encourage you. For others, its detrimental to their growth.

Most of us surround ourselves with toxic people. Now I’m not talking about people who are malicious, rude, mean or hateful (although perhaps). I am defining toxic as people who are unmotivated, uninspired, zap your energy or discourage you, encourage you to stay stagnant, hold limiting, fear-based beliefs, or simply don’t ever push themselves to become their best self.

If you are on a path of growth, change and ultimate healing of your body, mind or soul – you ‘have’ to look at your friendships. This is one of the hardest things you will ever be faced with doing. I know that none of us like to rock the boat, and no one wants to appear better than someone else. But this is a MUST!

If you don’t rid yourself of unhealthy friendship, you cannot live as your best self. You will be stunted in your growth, and ultimately participate in self-sabotage.

People have a hard time with this lesson, and be in relationships all their life that does not serve their highest good. They serve them, and have some heart breaking, and devastating experience with this that results in a period of deep loneliness and grief, which is never healthier in life! Change is rapid and growth is abundant.

Choosing Your Friends Wisely:

  • Make a list of people that you need to reduce time with in your list of 5 people. Have the conversation if you need to, or slowly create some healthy distance. This takes time and emotional processing.
  • Make a new list of people that you want to be friends with. Don’t know anyone yet? List out what the attributes of the person would be. Are there people you know, but have never met? Write down the names of those people.
  • Find Your People. Seek out groups, clubs, activities where those people would hang out. Attend conferences those people would attend. Read the blogs your friends would read. Project and it will come.
  • Date New Friends. When you’ve lost a support network, you may feel desperate for friends. Date new potential friends. Find out from the beginning if they are takers, drainers or destroyers. Ask the right questions from the beginning and see what motivates them.
  • Cultivate Authenticity from the Beginning. In order for you to not slip back into your old patterns, you have to be authentic from the get go. Share your real self from the beginning. Share your path of growth and change; share your excitement and passion. Don’t edit, be YOU.
  • Be Open. Your new friends may not look, dress or talk like your old friends. Be open to finding your soul sisters and brothers in new places and faces.

Change is necessary for growth. Don’t shy away from this. You are not a mean, selfish person if you need to lose or ‘dump’ some friends. Remember that those people have been great for the time you have spent with them, but they are no longer resonating with the truth in your heart and certainly not helping you shine bright.

It’s time for you to shine bright! Surround yourself with people that inspire you! Your environment impacts every decision you make. Choose those friends who leave you feeling alive, grateful and inspired.

You deserve to be with people and in environments that support your BEST self!

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Are Your Friends A Good Influence?

Friendships can benefit you in lifting your self-esteem, encouraging you to live healthier, or even just elevating the quality of your life. Your friends should lift you up and help you to be the best person you can be. Here are a few tips on deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence.

You Feel Good After Spending Time With Them

One way to determine if your friends are having a positive effect on you is to gage your mood after you’ve been with them. Do you leave feeling energized and happy? If so, chances are your friends are a good influence to your mind and body.

By contrast, if you spend an entire day with your friends and feel out-of-sorts or guilty afterwards, your pals may not be as positive as they could be. Your friends don’t necessarily need to encourage you to run marathons or help you brainstorm ideas for the next great American novel, but they do need to give you an all-around good feeling.

Negative Behavior That Can Bring You Down

When deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence, it’s important to look at the overall big picture. Your friends don’t need to be perfect (because none of us are), but they should encourage you. A friend who is a negative influence may want you to:

• Gossip.
• Gamble or spend money you don’t have.
• Make choices that will hurt you or your family.
• Engage in illegal activities.
• Shun your other friends.

For example, your pals should encourage a healthy lifestyle (since it’s something we all should adhere to), but the reality is that you might just splurge on your diet once in a while or skip your exercise class in favor of a movie. It’s not the day-to-day activities you look at when determining if someone is good for you. Rather, it’s the overall effect someone has on your life.

Finding More Positive Friends

Before you look for new friends, take a look at your friend groups to see if there is perhaps one person that encourages the rest of you to be negative. If that’s the case, stand up to them by doing things like: refusing to gossip, bowing out of activities that are dangerous or illegal, and making better choices despite that your friends might encourage you otherwise.

When you do this, pay close attention to see if someone else in the group is influenced by your behavior. Your change may inspire others in the group to resist the negativity as well. Peer pressure like this affects many different friend groups, including adults.

If you do need to find new friends, take it slow and be choosy about whom you spend your time with. If you are desperate for friends, you’ll probably end up with more of the negative types of friends you just left behind. Instead, hold out for positive friends who will encourage you to be yourself. Figure out the things you like to do, and build friendships around those goals and activities. You’ll naturally meet people through hobbies and events you enjoy, and the bonus is that your new friends will probably like doing them as well.

Standing Up to Negative Friends

Sometimes when you leave negative friends behind, they turn the tables and make it your problem. They might hold parties and not invite you, call you up to complain that you’re never around or even spread gossip or lies about you. Be strong with your commitment to live a fuller life that includes more positive friends.

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How To Ignore Pain And Feelings?

Pain and emotions are just thoughts triggered in your head that seem too strong to overcome. When confronted with these senses or thoughts, one usually has little control over his or her action in the following sequences. Many can suppress emotions and try to hide pain, but with a controlled thought and strong will, both can be ignored completely up to a certain level. It doesn’t make you invulnerable, but it makes you more durable or less fearful. The feeling is a cold one and shouldn’t be taken on by those with a weak mind, body, or soul.

  1. Know the pros. Everybody has natural (and necessary) mechanisms for ignoring pain and negative feelings. The harder thing to do is to let yourself feel the feelings fully, when you are ready, and deal with them. However, at times it can be important to ignore them for some time. For example, when they are too powerful for you to deal with, and you are not ready, when they interfere with a strong need, such as the need for survival, to work for money, to negotiate a tough situation with people who cannot support you with your feelings, or to protect yourself from temporary hazards.
  2. Know the cons. Read the warnings below. Hiding your feelings can delay your progress, can inhibit healthy communication and trust.
  3. Control your anger. Before anything else, the key is anger. As anger builds in you, it can be used to help block off thinking. Try to concentrate to be angry and to push it down.
  4. Stop feeling whatever it is If you wish to live with no sorrow, after you can control your anger well enough, begin to talk yourself out of sadness; to just not care. This is the next step in learning – to not lose yourself in emotions and feelings. Try to stop caring and say “I control my life.” Be bold, be strong. Try push it out of your head. Things wont bother you if you wont let them.
  5. Distract yourself. Just don’t sit alone thinking about it! Know that whatever you are feeling is silly compared to other things.
  6. Block out mental stresses and pain for physical pain. This system is a bit different because now you must endure before you can truly leave behind physical pain. This doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself. You just have to accept the feeling of pain when you’re hurt. Find a sparring partner, a close friend perhaps, preferably someone bigger.
  7. Focus. Now you must realize a truth in life. It’s a truth that you will need to focus on. All your feelings come from thoughts and impulses in your head that tell you something is wrong or right, like a burn or a tickle. What you must do is realize that with enough pushing and controlled thought, you can change wrong to right, sorrow into happiness, etc. With pain, all you do is tell yourself it doesn’t hurt. It seems simple, but is harder than one can truly imagine.
  8. Find help from inspirational quotes. Try to look up inspiring quotes on Google. Try listening to songs that have strong lyrics.
  9. Know that you won’t always be hurting. Sooner or later, you’ll find light at the end of the tunnel.

Tips:

  • Also, for the first and second steps, it might seem as though there isn’t a lot of description to it. That is because only your own mind and way of thinking can judge how long it takes and how you must go about following those steps.
  • Don’t be overconfident. Don’t try to breeze through such a drastic change in your life. Be safe about how you do this – no cutting, stabbing, or poking yourself intentionally. Life is full of pain and all you need to do is wait for it.
  • Remember: it’s only temporary. It will be over soon, as emotions don’t stick with you for your whole life.
  • Think of something great in your life. Like a lover or a great accomplishment. Feel the emotion you feel through such times and forget about the bad.

Warnings:

  • Your emotions will still be there, and will still affect you but in strange and unconscious ways, making it difficult for you to do anything about them. The psychological term for this is dissociation, and the consequences are serious. Read up on dissociation disorders before you even consider this.
  • Do not think only about yourself; think about the other people you will hurt, such as your loved ones.
  • Whatever you are suffering, whoever you are, there are people who care and who can help you, whether it is someone you know or a stranger at a crisis center. Reaching out to them for help and dealing with your problems will make you so much stronger than trying to ignore your pain.

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