Schizophrenia: How to Take Care of Your Health

From the WebMD Archives

While you get treated for schizophrenia, you’ll also want to take good care of yourself for a fuller, more satisfying life. 

"You can increase your confidence and energy, reduce disorganized thoughts, and even become more involved in social activities," says Jacqueline Simon Gunn, PsyD, a New York City psychologist.

These tips will help you.

Set a Daily Routine

Take a shower, brush your teeth, and dress appropriately every morning.

Good hygiene starts your day off right. It helps you feel good about your day-to-day living and creates order.

It can also make you more comfortable around other people, Gunn says.

Eat Well

Eating well is good for your body and mind. It can boost your mood and energy, and improve your daily life.

Choose foods such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Lean meats and poultry
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

"Avoid sugary snacks and drinks like soda and Gatorade. Try to drink more water and healthy foods instead," says Rebecca Gladding, MD, co-author of You Are Not Your Brain.  And try not to overeat.

Plan your mealtimes for the same time every day. It will make your days feel more predictable and stable.

Exercise

People with schizophrenia are more likely to get diabetes or heart disease, and to gain weight. But you can make that less likely by being active.

"Get out and exercise every day," Gladding says. "Even 15 minutes of walking is good for you."

Experts recommend 2 1/2hours of aerobic exercise every week. It's OK to break it up into small chunks. You may feel best if you're active most days. For example, aerobic exercise can be walking, running, swimming or tennis.

Stop Smoking

People with schizophrenia are three times more likely than others to be addicted to nicotine.

If you smoke, try to quit. It’s so much better for your health, and you might need less antipsychotic medication, Gladding says. That's because smoking might make antipsychotic drugs less effective.

If you decide to quit, talk to your doctor so she can keep an eye on your symptoms. Your doctor might recommend nicotine replacement methods as an easier way to do it.

Continued

Sleep Well

Get a good night's sleep. It helps keep your mental health on track and can improve your mood and thinking.

"Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night," Gladding says.

But don't go too far. Oversleeping can be a problem too, because it keeps you from getting out and being active. Try not to sleep more than 12 hours a day.

Manage Stress

Stress can stir up confused thinking and may lead to or worsen psychotic episodes -- times when your hallucinations or delusions are worse. Try to avoid it.

"Be careful of environments that are overstimulating, such as crowded places," says Ross Ellenhorn, PhD, director of the Prakash Ellenhorn treatment center in Boston. If you get into a stressful situation, try to stay calm.

"Unplugging from electronics and spending time in a calm, low-stimulation environment is helpful," Ellenhorn says. Exercise, meditation, and doing something creative are good stress relievers, too.

Make Connections

One of the best things you can do is build a strong social support network. Being with other people who listen in a nonjudgmental way can help you feel better, Ellenhorn says.

Try not to isolate yourself. Reach out to supportive people. Do things that help you feel connected and are enjoyable. For instance, go out to eat, attend a community group activity, or go to a movie.

Avoid Alcohol and Illegal Drugs

Stay away from drugs and alcohol. They can interfere with your treatment and make your condition worse, says A.R. Mohammad, MD, a psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist in Malibu, CA.

If you use illegal drugs, go to a trained  addiction medicine specialist to help you quit.

Even if you're clean and sober, it's hard to keep it up when you're around people who aren't.

"Stay away from people who are using drugs. And don't go to bars or parties where drugs are available," Mohammad says.

Keep Your Doctor in the Loop

Say what's really going on, even if you think she won't like it. "It's the best way to help you and make sure we're giving you the right medications in the right doses," Gladding says.

Tell your doctor whether you take your meds regularly, talk about any side effects you’ve noticed, and share any changes that you’ve noticed or anything that concerns you.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 11, 2014

Sources

Jacqueline Simon Gunn, PsyD, psychologist.

Rebecca Gladding, psychiatrist, co-author, You Are Not Your Brain, Avery Trade, 2012.

Ross Ellenhorn, PhD, director, Prakash Ellenhorn treatment center, Boston.

A.R. Mohammad, MD, psychiatrist, addiction medicine specialist, Malibu, CA.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Hearts and Minds."

Holmberg, S.K. Psychiatric Services, June 1999.

CDC: "Physical Activity."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Schizophrenia."

Medline Plus: "Aerobic exercise."

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