Having schizophrenia doesn't mean your life has to revolve around it. In fact, many schizophrenics actually go on to live normal, productive lives. But to achieve this, there are certain lifestyle changes you need to implement to help manage your condition easier and improve your quality of life.
Adjusting Your Diet: The First Crucial Step to Living With Schizophrenia
The first lifestyle change you should implement is reducing your sugar intake, which includes refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and starches from grains and potatoes (which convert to sugar in your body).
Sugar plays a harmful role in your brain's health by reducing its ability to produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a compound important for creating new neurons. Not only does sugar negatively affect your brain, but it can also lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.
Instead of sugar, consume foods rich in omega-3 fats to boost your brain health.1 Omega-3 has been found to decrease symptoms of schizophrenia and improve the quality of life over time among schizophrenics. Omega-3 has also been linked to improved heart health and regulated levels of cholesterol, among other benefits.
The best sources of omega-3 are fatty fish, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies or sardines. If these sources aren't available to you, a high-quality krill oil supplement is a good alternative.
Exercise Not Only Helps Your Brain, but the Rest of Your Body, Too
Apart from omega-3 fats, a study published in Psychiatry Research concluded that exercise may also help increase your BDNF.2
The study involved 24 patients that engaged in a combination of aerobic and resistance exercises for 12 weeks. By the end of the program, the researchers noted that the patients' BDNF levels had "significant" growth.
Aside from boosting your mental health, exercise has long been known for improving your body. It helps maintain your weight and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Try to fit in a daily exercise routine, even if it's short. Research has shown that even 15 minutes of exercise a day can already improve your health.
Learn to Address Your Stress
Stress may exacerbate your symptoms and may even trigger relapses due to the excess production of cortisol in your brain, significantly derailing your treatment.
There many ways of relieving your stress, such as doing yoga or meditation. Even a simple walk outdoors with a friend may help. You can also talk regularly with your family and close friends to help you cope. The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) may also help you fight against negative thoughts and emotions.
Anticipate the Signs of a Schizophrenic Attack Early
Schizophrenia can attack unexpectedly, which is why it's important to learn the symptoms of your condition early on. Doing so will allow you to manage your illness better and signal for help right away when needed.
Should a schizophrenia attack take place, having a written care plan in your bag or pocket can help tremendously. It can guide family members and friends who are not familiar with your condition on how to manage an attack.
Don't Isolate Yourself — Join a Support Group
Support groups are good way to relate with those who are going through the same journey as you. They help create a safe environment where you can be yourself and share your experience. In return, other members can offer encouraging words to you.
You can join support groups hosted by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Some local NAMI chapters not only provide support for schizophrenics, but also provide "Family-To-Family" programs that help family members assist, cope and understand loved ones with schizophrenia.3