Time Management For People With Schizophrenia, Bipolar or Depression

Photo by Brooke Campbell On Unsplash

Hello Good Readers! (click here to see my books) I can’t tell you how pleased I am that my following has grown to over 1,050 people! For those of you who are interested, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) made a mini-documentary about me which you can view here: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2070031427555 If you are interested in seeing more, simply go to the cbc.ca website and do a search on me (Leif Gregersen) then you can read the article that went with the documentary.

I wanted to talk a little about something of a funny topic, time management for people with mental health issues. A lot of the time, people who are struggling with their mental health have too much time on their hands. But changing this, so a person is more busy (ie, gets more done each day) is also a type of time management.

First of all, I want to address sleep. One thing that is going to bother you throughout your life if you don’t find a way to handle it is that you will most likely sleep in almost every day. One of the reasons for this is, people with mental illnesses take medication to help them sleep and it carries over into their next day.

Sleeping medication by itself isn’t totally bad, but I have been told by my doctor that the healthiest sleep is the one you get without any medication, and I can vouch for this simply through my own experience with being on and off sleeping medication. I don’t know all the why’s and how’s, but I think it has something to do with dreaming and sleep quality.

The best way to sleep less and be able to sleep without medication is to get up and stay up, at a regular time, go to bed and stay in bed at a regular time, never changing your schedule, and also not taking naps during the day. One of the ways I have found to get up and stay up is to always take my morning medications at the same time, then get up, go for a walk, even a long walk and either grab a newspaper or walk to a mall in the North end of Edmonton and buy just one small bottle of water (It makes little sense to buy much more than that) and then use my subsidized bus pass to ride home. I have found when a get some exercise like this, I am much less likely to fall back asleep.

There are of course days when I have to get up and do something in the morning and on days like these, the night before I load up my briefcase with all the things I need, making sure to charge my phone and laptop. Then I board the bus and grab a few last winks of sleep as I ride to my destination. There are also situations where I use my bus time to prepare for the meeting or event I will be attending.

Now, I should talk a little about what you do to get through the day after you have woken up. I think getting out of the house first thing can be critical, getting exercise is also critical (whether you go for a walk or a jog or a bike ride or a swim, or even if needed ride an exercise bike for a little while). For those of you who want to go to a pool or a gym, I recommend 20-30 minutes of cardio each day and spending around an hour lifting weights 3 days a week if you are so inclined. There is nothing really wrong with doing more, and you don’t exactly have to go hard to meet these requirements, but it would be very beneficial if you can meet these minimums.

Just as one last piece of advice, if you don’t live in a great city like I do where the city allows people with disabilities to work out and swim for free, consider getting a discount membership at the YMCA or similar place.

Okay, now you are awake. What is there to do? I strongly suggest that people get up early, so even after you take your walk or swim there won’t be too many people up. Reading the paper (or online news) is a great way to get started. I used to go out each morning to pick up a free paper and then spend some time doing the Sudoku. If you read online news, why not do a couple of online puzzles? Most PC computers come with free games like solitaire or mahjong. The idea is to get your brain kickstarted.

For me, after I do these things I often find myself in demand and the day kind of falls into place, but I understand it isn’t that way for everyone. What I suggest to just about anyone with a disability is that they have a group of 5-6 people they can talk to at times when they may not feel their best. I suggest this number not only because some of your friends may not be available, but also because it isn’t a good idea to rely on any one or two people too much. Unburdening yourself may become difficult on just 1-2 people. I always try to have something positive to say when I call friends. I always say using comparisons and looking at the positive side of things can change any situation. If someone said I would die on Saturday, I would be delighted to know that I wouldn’t have to do laundry that Sunday like I had planned. (bad joke, but worth a try!)

Another thing you can do is volunteer. If you get to be good at your volunteer job, you may decide to look for part-time work within or without the organization that is paid. In Alberta I am lucky because I am allowed to earn just over $1,000.00 a month without penalty. If you are on disability you should check and make sure you know how much earnings will disqualify you. It is important to know because often if you are on supports and have a mental illness, your medications will be covered and they can get to be extremely expensive. But never stop taking medications because you want to go off supports, they can be critical.

Another great thing to do is to try and join a support group. Google for a list of different support groups in your area. I also recommend that people look into free or subsidized counselling. I recently got 10 sessions of counselling for free and I noticed big results right away. You might join a support group for family members of parents with Alzheimer’s or even a 12-step program, there are many, even for those who are affected by the addiction of another person that can help a lot.

Now, you have done quite a bit and the day is starting to wind down. Resist the urge to nap or to skip a meal. If you have symptoms of bipolar, make careful note of your mood as the day winds down. I find that if I’m not careful, I can get into sort of a ‘manic’ high and have a hard time sleeping, especially if I haven’t exercised much that day. Cook yourself a healthy meal (I would like to talk about the benefits of an apartment freezer and buying meat and frozen vegetables in bulk in a later post). Make it so 1/4 of your plate is protein, 1/4 is carbs (pasta will do, I often like to make egg noodles that aren’t made with yolks) and half of your plate should be green vegetables. There are so many ways to vary ingredients and change a plate of food set up like this. I often have either a pork chop or a chicken breast, some whole wheat pasta and then a combination of greens like peas and broccoli. Ever since I have been eating like this, I have been losing weight steadily.

So now supper is done, what comes next? I think a great thing to spend your evening doing would be to read, but reading isn’t for everybody. I just think that there are so many books on so many topics that could enrich a person’s life. I recall times when I couldn’t focus on the repetitive novels I normally read so I got myself a memoir of a rock star who had lived a life of extreme hedonism. It made for some truly interesting reading, I wasn’t bored for a minute and it was hard to put the book down.

Of course, you can also watch TV to pass the time. One of the problems with TV is that it can get your adrenalin going. Also, TV is known to help relax a person, but the relaxed effect goes away as soon as you turn off the TV. One of the things I did to keep my TV costs down was that I got cheap Internet (Telus Internet For Good for anyone who may be serviced by Telus, it is for the poor and disabled and only costs $10 per month) and then I got a subscription to a service called “River TV” which gives me most networks and some specialty channels like History (I just love watching ‘Pawn Stars’). The cost of both is only $27, which is cheaper than just about anyone charges for simple Internet. Since I was saving so much, I got a membership with Netflix and kept my membership with Prime TV. When you have such a wide choice of programming, it becomes easy to find interesting things to watch.

So, then you go to bed. There are many questions to be asked about going to bed. One of them is, “Should I use Melatonin?” I have found Melatonin to be helpful to get me to sleep, it is a natural sleep hormone, but I have also found that if I use too low a dose I get a strange, very powerful restlessness in my legs that keeps me from even staying in one place while trying to sleep. I also noticed that when I take Melatonin, I am often much more tired the next day. Sometimes I can even sleep the morning away as a result of taking melatonin. I was told it works best when you take it two hours before going to bed, though different doctors have told me different amounts of time.

So here you are, medicated, tired, not having napped and ready for bed. Clean sheets are a must, and also a fan or a space heater depending on the season. If you have an alarm clock, turn it away from you. Above all, try not to do any activities in bed like watching TV or other stuff. Beds are supposed to be only for sleeping and intimacy. Doing anything else like reading or the like just gets your mind off the idea that when you lay down you need to get your 8-10 hours.

Well Dear Readers, that is about all for today. I wish you all the best. I wanted to thank the person who may have read my blog for purchasing a copy of a couple of my books. If anyone else would like a copy, of course you can download “Alert and Oriented x3” from the main page (click on The Tower Bridge). But if you would like to purchase books, visit this page: Leif’s Books on Amazon and have a wonderful and safe Fall!

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