Learning to manage stress is important for a person with psychosis. Not only does the psychosis itself create considerable stress but this stress can in turn provoke symptoms and result in a relapse.
We all have stress within our environments – some of which we can control and some things we can't. When we have little control over the stress, we can change how we respond to it.
Managing stress starts with learning to recognize stress.
Stress symptoms include many mental, social and physical changes. Common symptoms of stress include feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, irritability or anxiety, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, headaches and/or muscle tension in the back and neck. Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs may also be a sign of poor coping. Each person's response to stress is unique. By anticipating stress, a person can prepare for it and work out how to control it when it happens.
Developing skills in relaxation, problem-solving, goal-setting and leading a healthy lifestyle all help to combat stress in our life.
What is a stress for one person is not for another because each person views the same situation differently. The way a person views an event or situation is critical in determining whether that event becomes a major or a minor stress. So, adopting a realistic but positive attitude and being reasonable about things is perhaps the greatest stress management tool of all.
These are just a few suggestions for activities that can relax a person.
Deep relaxation activities:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
- Music Focus
- Guided Imagery
- Breath Focus
Active relaxation activities:
- Tai Chi
"There are many guided forms of "Progressive Muscle Relaxation" and "Creative Visualization" that one can find on the Internet or on YouTube. There are also CDs or books available through booksellers.
Physical exercise is great at reducing stress especially if it occurs regularly. A daily half-hour walk does wonders to relax people.
A safe secure living environment, a predictable schedule, and supportive people are also a good basis for reducing stress.
Unresolved problems can cause quite a bit of stress. Breaking down and looking closely at problems, one can see that changes need to happen in order for the problem to go away. Decisions need to be made, trying to weigh out which decision is best can be very difficult to do. Taking the time to look closely at a problem, work through it in a structured manner can sometimes make it easier to know where to begin and what to do about it. Often working through it with someone else is the best way (e.g., a friend, family members, your clinician, etc.)
One way of managing stress and taking greater control of one's life is to set specific goals. Setting goals helps us to accomplish smaller tasks in our daily lives, and it also helps us attain our ambitions and improve the quality of our lives.
Learn how to Make Changes:
- Make changes in small steps
- Change one thing at a time
- Have clear, concrete, specific goals
- Be aware of how you are when you begin
- Offer rewards
- Find a support person
- Expect failures and relapses
Healthy lifestyle habits are an essential part of maintaining good mental health. Good lifestyle choices will improve physical and mental health, decrease stress levels and help to get more out of life.
Some ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle include participating in recreational activities, maintaining a good balance of diet and exercise, getting adequate sleep every night and feeling secure about sexuality.
- Spend time and communicate with friends and loved one
Nutrition and diet
- Eat a balanced diet
- Decrease amount of caffeine and sugar in diet
Help yourself get a good night's sleep
- Get up at the same every morning
- Go to bed only when you feel sleepy
- Avoid naps
- Have a cool, quiet dark bedroom
- Keep regular rituals & routines before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, & tobacco in the evening
- Exercise moderately in the late afternoon or early evening
- Have a light snack or warm milk in the evening
- Do not oversleep
- Unwind long before bed
- Save your bedroom for sex and sleep
Staying Well and Relapse Prevention
Many of the treatments offered are important to help prevent a reoccurrence of psychosis (called a "relapse"). Taking medication as prescribed, living well physically and socially, education and learning how to manage stress will all help prevent relapse.
In addition, becoming educated about the early warning signs of relapse and developing a plan of action if these occur, can help thwart or reduce the severity of relapse
Staying well requires active participation, practice and a willingness to listen to others. Some strategies for staying well include:
- being aware of your ability to cope with stress and being able to monitor your own well-being
- setting achievable goals, including specific strategies for coping with change, staying social and having a trusted support network
- maintaining regular medical check-ups
- participating in positive social, recreational and work activities
- seeking the help of a therapist and/or participating in group therapy or a self-help group
- celebrating achievements and setting plans for the future