Seizure Triggers can be different for everyone, yet stress as a seizure trigger is quite common for epileptic seizures. Everybody’s ability to handle stress varies. When you have epilepsy, actively taking steps to minimise stress isn’t something that can be ignored. If we continuously push ourselves past our stress-threshold, the likelihood of a seizure increases with each passing moment.
It can be hard to accept that your body can’t quite cope with what you have planned sometimes. I’m still working on this and more often than not my body forces me to slow down. There have been plenty of occasions where I’m aware that I’m pushing myself past my limits. The problem is that I’m often so focussed on achieving a goal, that I ignore this feeling. But I can only ignore it so long, because if I don’t slow down, I can bet money on the fact that I’ll have a seizure sometime soon.
Over the past 8 years of living with epilepsy, I’ve learnt the hard way how important it is to manage stress as a seizure trigger. If I don’t have ways to reduce my stress levels, it’s highly likely I’ll have another tonic-clonic seizure. The year 2020 has been quite stressful for many people, myself included. It isn’t even the end of the year yet and my seizures have more than doubled. Although there are varying reasons for this increase, it has been a stark reminder of how crucial stress management is.
10 Ways to Manage Stress as a Trigger for Epileptic Seizures
After such a drastic increase in seizures, I’m sharing with you how I’m currently managing stress as a seizure trigger. These ways often change as I change as a person. But for now, I have 10 ways that are successfully managing my stress since I started to implement them again.
1. Talk to other people who have epilepsy
It wasn’t until I started The Happy Sista blog that I began to speak to others with epilepsy. I set up the Instagram account @thehappysista and as I began to share my story, people started to message me. I’ve had so many beautiful and supportive conversations where the highs and lows of epilepsy and seizures have been discussed. The simple act of talking to someone who whole-heartedly understands what you’re going through is invaluable. Not forgetting that the more you talk to others, the less alone you feel which, no doubt, will lower your stress levels.
Talking is a powerful tool and sometimes it’s just what you need. In my experience a vent to someone who truly empathises with you can wonders for your stress levels. Especially after you’ve had a seizure because otherwise, it can be very easy to be caught up in what I like to call epilepsy-anxiety.
Whilst we’re on the topic of talking, therapy is an amazing way to manage stress as a seizure trigger. There is a huge difference between speaking to a peer and a licensed professional. Therapists and counsellors have been trained in a way that supports your mental health for the long run. They are more than just a shoulder to cry on, because they offer a safe space and tools to get you through and enjoy life. You don’t have to feel stressed to go to a therapy session. I’ve had plenty of sessions where I felt I didn’t need it, only to feel like I’m walking on air at the end of it.
That feeling is just amazing and it feels like stress doesn’t even exist in your life. I really can’t think of a better feeling when it comes to managing stress as a seizure trigger
Doing something you love is important no matter who you are or what your health is like. We all need to enjoy things in life, especially if it lowers the chances of stress triggering a seizure.
I tried to carry on with my life without doing what I love (horse riding) for about 3 years. I have been horse riding pretty much since I could walk, so I yearned to get back to it. Luckily, circumstances changed and now I have a horse to ride again. It really does bring an extra bit of happiness into my life. Nothing quite lowers my stress levels like spending time around horses in the fresh air. My stress levels drop so far below my threshold, that I’m not sure stress can even be considered as a seizure trigger when I’m with the horses.
While I wasn’t horse riding, I picked up a few other hobbies that you might enjoy if horse riding isn’t for you. I started salsa-dancing, yoga, picked reading back up again and recently started some soap making. I tend to dip in and out of these hobbies so it gives a nice balance.
Clutter can make anyone feel stressed. Although the clutter itself might not trigger a seizure, if you’re already feeling stressed it won’t help at all. I’m not just talking nonsense, de-cluttering has multiple benefits including building self-confidence and lowering anxiety, according to Psychology Today.
I started de-cluttering after watching “Marie Kondo: Tidying Up” on Netflix. I’m no Marie Kondo, but I do find it stress releasing to get rid of stuff I haven’t touched in a long time. I struggle to see a con to de-cluttering – what’s so bad about freeing up space and making a bit of extra money if you can sell any of that clutter. Just think how much you’ll be able to lower stress as a seizure trigger with all the extra space and extra money…
5. Share your story
Starting The Happy Sista blog has been one of the most therapeutic things I’ve done in 2020. Taking the first step was scary, but it has been liberating to share my story. I’ve connected with so many people all over the world who have epilepsy or are caring for someone with epilepsy. Many of these people have reached out and shared with me how my blog is helping to support their own journey. Getting messages like this is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve experienced in 2020.
If you are going through your own journey with epilepsy, I urge you to share your story. Putting myself out there and telling the world I have epilepsy was a huge stress relief. I was no longer keeping my health a secret. Sharing your story doesn’t have to be something big, simply talking to a friend about your health can be just as freeing.
The power of breathwork is something I’ve known about for a while, but often struggled to incorporate into my daily life. This was partly due to the daily struggle of epilepsy and memory, and partly due to always being in a rush. But when I read The Little Book of Inner Peace: Less Angst, More Calm I came across the ancient 4-7-8 ancient breathwork practice. It quickly relaxes your body and mind, and takes minimal time.
The 4-7-8 breathwork practice is based on the ancient yogic technique pranayama. It’s incredibly simple to do and I incorporate it into my morning and evening routines. I might not do the practice perfectly, but here’s how I run through it:
- Take 2-3 deep breaths
- Breathe in through your nose and count to 4
- Hold your breath as you count to 7
- Open your mouth slightly as if you were to whistle, and breathe out for a count of 8
- Repeat for 3-4 rounds
Since using this technique daily, my stress and anxiety levels have dropped significantly. I love this technique and highly recommend it.
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7. Take a bath
Taking a bath is so underrated when it comes to managing stress. If it suits your personality, what can be more relaxing than a nice warm bath with a bath bomb, some candles and your favourite book.
It’s important to note here that you shouldn’t take a bath if you are home alone. Even if the risk of having a seizure while you’re in the bath is low, the risk of downing because of this just isn’t worth it. There are plenty of other ways to manage stress as a seizure trigger, so you can always skip this one!
8. Remember what you’re grateful for
If you follow @thehappysista on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently started writing in a gratitude journal. It takes a few minutes morning and night to write down 1 or 2 sentences about what you’re grateful for today. It really helps to put things into perspective and to remember all the positives in your life.
Practising gratitude has many benefits, but especially for stress management. When you’re living life with a chronic illness like epilepsy, it can be easy to get caught up in all the negatives. Taking a small step back to remember what you’re grateful for, can actually make a huge difference to your stress levels. Remember to always be grateful for each and every seizure-free day!
9. Show yourself some compassion
Learning to show myself some compassion around my epilepsy didn’t come easy. Seizures can be devastating enough, the last thing we need is to be beating ourselves up for it too.
It took me a while to realise this is perfectly okay if I don’t want to get out of bed if I’m still recovering physically and mentally from a seizure. Seizures can be traumatic and sometimes your body may recover quicker than your mind. Allow yourself the extra time for your mental health and don’t rush to get back to normal. The world isn’t going anywhere, and the right opportunities will wait for you if they’re meant to be.
Remembering to show yourself some compassion could be key to managing your stress as a seizure trigger. Try to remember to be kind to yourself and see what difference it makes.
10. Try to practice acceptance
I love to talk about practising acceptance because it’s a powerful tool. It takes practice because implementing acceptance isn’t easy when things are going wrong. I try and practice acceptance at difficult times, but I usually only remember to try and accept situations after I’ve already worried about them. The important thing is I’m still trying to implement acceptance into my life. A book by Michael A Singer called The Surrender Experiment explains acceptance a lot better than I can. The book is a true story about how the author devoted his life to acceptance. Some crazy things happened to him and I can’t recommend this read enough.
Acceptance is all about managing your emotions and, according to Psychology Today, is one of the best stress reducers out there. If you think about it, it isn’t the situation you’re in that’s stressing you out, it’s your reaction. If we can accept that sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, it’s a relatively easy way to manage stress as a seizure trigger.
Stress as a seizure trigger can be perfectly manageable
We can’t eliminate stress from our lives, because in some ways we do need it. It’s only when stress becomes out-of-hand that it’s a problem. As long as we take active steps and adjust our life accordingly to make time for stress relieving activities, we can manage at least one seizure trigger pretty well. Hopefully some of the ideas mentioned will help you to control stress as a seizure trigger and help you to stay seizure free as long as possible!
Until next time,