Tag Archives: Heightened

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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Why Is ‘Break Up’ So Painful?

Falling passionately in love with someone is one of the most exhilarating feelings, as if you had wings and you are flying high in the sky, feeling the wind romantically blowing through your hair. And usually, when love ends, it feels as if you’ve been dropped like a rock in mid-air. You scramble to grab a hold of something … anything, as you witness your body falling at great speeds, and then shattering on the earth below.

Whether we’re talking about breakups, or facing the reality of a one-sided romance, it is painful. So much so that it disrupts our normal flow of experiences, causing us to not function normally.

With so much emotion invested and our identities tied in with these experiences, it’s no wonder that this is the number one topic requested by readers. Over the past year, I have regularly received email from readers sharing their own takes on painful breakups; tales of guilt, of fear, of regret, and of resentment. Although the stories were different, the underlying message was universal and one in the same, “I am in so much pain from not being with this person – what can I do?”

Sometimes, the pain of lost love is so intense that it can shake our beliefs about romance and relationships. When these emotional bruises are not understood and have not healed properly, they become invisible baggage that drag with us into the next relationship. This article focuses on the healing process from “love lost”.

The Origins of Love and Pain:

I believe that love is a universal energy infused in all forms of life. It is something that lies within the core of every one of us. When we are in a state of conscious awareness, the intense feeling of love and connection is clear and undeniable. When we are in this state of clarity and inner peace, our thoughts and actions are based in love and truth.

Within the depths of our souls, we are all connected by this unifying and essential energy of life – love. We occasionally experience glimpses of this deep connection through various and accidental happenstances, such as:

  • A gratifying and intimate conversation with another person. Sharing and expressing your thoughts honestly and openly.
  • Creative expressions such as playing music, writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, designing or even computer programming.
  • Meditation, prayers or communing with your chosen religious group.
  • Communing with nature during a hike, a walk or while sitting by the bed of a river flowing beautifully in front of you.
  • During sexual orgasm.

When we fall in love with another person, we are essentially experiencing the love that was within us all along. The person is merely acting like a mirror reflecting our soul back at us. Technically, we can’t “fall” in love, because we are already made of love. The other person, much like a musical instrument, is the catalyst allowing us to recognize the beauty that’s already within us.

Because of our lack of understanding that love resides within us, and that we actually have the power to invoke it on our own, we credit it to the other person for giving love to us. This feeling is so strong and extraordinary, that we become addictive and possessive. We want to capture it and keep it fixed, so that we can – at last – keep this heightened feeling forever.

The desire and dependency to keep this form fixed, becomes a source of self identification that artificially justifies who we are as physical beings. We become attached to the fixed idea of how our relationship should go and our ego quickly becomes the main investor in this fund of a relationship.

The truth is that, everyone and everything is in a constant flow of change. The changes in us and in our external circumstances are inevitable and undeniable. When we change, the dynamics of our relationships change – not just romantic ones, but also friendships, family ties, and our relationships with co-workers.

Over time, some relationships strengthen and some grow apart. When people grow apart, it doesn’t mean that either one of them was a bad person, but rather that they’ve learned all that they needed to from the other person, and that it’s time to move on.

When it’s time to move on, we hold onto this invisible box that contains an idealized and fixated form of how things should be. We unconsciously and instinctively fall into the false believe that we must stop the love when we are no longer romantically involved.

Because we attribute love as being ‘to’ this other person external to us, pain happens when we forcefully try to kill the love, which is actually within us.

Let’s repeat: Pain happens when we forcefully kill the love that’s within us.

When we forcefully try to kill the love within us, it physically feels as if someone has stabbed a knife into our heart, and a sharp pain surfaces in our chest area. In reality, we are that someone doing the stabbing, because we are trying to sever our innate connection to love and our soul is now bleeding. Our soul is crying for help, asking us to stop the stabbing, to stop the pain.

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