The Light Switch of Stress

I think something that isn’t that widely recognized is the effect of stress on symptoms of schizophrenia and mental illness.

It can be an almost immediate exacerbation, hence, why I refer to it as a light switch.

Stress has the amazing potential to worsen symptoms rapidly for people like me and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it in the moment besides meditate and/or practice breathing techniques.

Alternatively, there are always meds for anxiety and I count myself grateful for that option frequently.

How does stress exacerbate symptoms though?

One way is that it can activate anxiety which is followed pretty closely by eventual paranoia and delusional thinking.

It’ll be like something stressful will happen in our lives, maybe a friend or loved one will say something we perceive to be negative and that seed will lodge itself into our brain.

We’ll cultivate it by thinking endlessly on what they meant causing anxiety until we jump to a conclusion that serves neither us nor them (paranoia/delusions).

It’s almost frightening how something seemingly so small can have such a big impact.

We may lose sleep over it, we may ruminate on it and we may start to let that little word take control of how we see ourselves as a person.

These are all triggers to paranoia, delusions and a host of other mental illness symptoms.

Stress, essentially, seems to be just as bad for mental illness as it for heart health or diabetes.

There are things that help with stress in the moment that you can utilize though.

First, you can talk it out with someone objective to the situation. They’ll usually be able to reassure you that what you think is happening really doesn’t matter all that much. They can lessen the impact of what was said and free you up to move on to other things (that are probably more rooted in reality).

Another thing you can do if it’s still bothering you is put on some music, lay down and take a break by closing your eyes.

If you feel like it, you can meditate and focus on your breath, or you can think it through objectively by asking yourself what someone who isn’t involved would think.

Many times too, the music just acts a sort of salve for the pain of the thought. It can loosen it up so you’re able to dislodge it and let it go.

Finally, you can step back from yourself and notice that your thoughts are just thoughts. That is, they are just images or words that float across your mind like clouds.

You’ll notice that you’re grasping this particular one so hard and intently.

You can let it go though, you can say, “this is just a thought” and you’ll realize that it’s really no different from any of the other thoughts in your head, including the ones you don’t really pay any attention to.

Then you can just release it and it’ll float away too.

Suffice it to say that stress is not something that you would do well to pursue if you have a major mental illness.

Perhaps I’ve helped though, I don’t know.

These are things that work for me and there’s a good shot they’ll probably work for you too.

I want you to remember though, that you’re not the only one dealing with this stuff.

You definitely not alone.

You will get through it and you will feel better.

I know this.

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