I started to show signs of Schizophrenia 26 years ago and since then I’ve tried numerous diets, treatments, medications, exercise routines, desperately looking for some form of relief from my symptoms. It’s taken many years and many failed attempts at finding what works best for me. Below are some tips and tricks I have found helpful in my journey.
My first tip: diet. I have tried fad diets, eliminated food groups, added foods and supplements to no avail. I was sick of feeling restricted, Schizophrenia is hard enough without making life even more difficult. So, I started taking note of what made me feel good, energized, and did not make me feel nauseous. From here I noticed that junk food, my favorite of all the food groups, had a negative effect on me. I increased my vegetable content by adding them to smoothies, which is great when avolition has taken over and I can barely function. It’s all about taking notice of what makes your body and brain feel good and that is different for everyone. It is trial and error.
Tip number two: exercise. I know this is a cliché and as a sufferer I’m constantly told that exercise is a cure-all. It doesn’t cure but it gives me the strength to keep battling and keeps my body healthy. I walk daily with my dog and yoga helps to keep me flexible, so I don’t creak when I stand up. Classes are great if you need some motivation to exercise and for some social interaction and there are some amazing videos on YouTube for routine’s and you can do as much or as little as you want to, depending on how you feel on that particular day.
Tip number three: meditation. I know this one is hard; hallucinating is brutal but people telling you to quiet your mind when chaos is surrounding you is no easy task. The beauty in mediation is not silencing the mind, it’s about sitting with the chaos and allowing it to wave over and away from you. It’s about being present and feeling the emotions your body brings up. It takes practice and is uncomfortable, but the benefits outweigh the uncomfortable feelings you experience at the beginning.
Tip number four: hobbies. It’s hard, I get it. The negative symptoms of Schizophrenia made any effect to start and continue with something so difficult. Pre covid I started a pottery class that is free to those with mental health issues. It’s always worth finding local adult learning centers to see if they offer any free classes to those with mental health disorders. During the numerous lockdowns these classes moved online, we would zoom call and make pottery while chatting and drinking tea. It has honestly saved my sanity just by talking in a small group and being creative. Even when I had to drag myself to turn on my laptop to join, I always felt the benefits afterward.
Tip number five: self-care. This is the most important one of all. If you have the flu, you take the best care of yourself to ensure a fast recovery. Do we do the same when we have a mental health crisis? Not always, maybe never. We need to start treating ourselves like we have the flu when our mental health starts struggling. Nurture ourselves, feed ourselves with good food, be kind to our bodies, and most importantly we must treat ourselves with the utmost tender loving care and realize that we are delicate beings who need more care than most.
These tips are five of what helps me maintain my stability. They won’t cure but used alongside traditional treatments like medication and therapy, they enable me to live a rich and fulfilling life. They are tools for Schizophrenia sufferers.