Bruce Shiell, Wellbeing Worker at Epilepsy Scotland looks at ways to reduce stress and anxiety, which for some people may be a seizure trigger.
When we experience stress, we also can become anxious. For some people stress and anxiety may be a seizure trigger.
By lowering your stress levels, you may be able to reduce the number of seizures you experience.
There are different things you can to do reduce stress and anxiety.
Most people will experience stress at some point in their lives. It can appear in a variety of different ways.
Being aware of the possible symptoms can help you identify if you feel stressed or anxious. These can include:
- Poor sleep
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Lack of appetite
- Depression or feeling low
- Feeling tired or having excess energy
Stress and epilepsy
There are a variety of ways in which stress can affect epilepsy. Feeling stressed can make you more forgetful. This may make it more difficult to remember to take your anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).
If you don’t take your AEDs at the right time you may be more likely to have seizures. Using pills boxes and alarms can help.
Stress causes chemical changes in the brain. This can affect how the brain works.
For some people these chemical changes can increase the likelihood of having a seizure. Also, for some people reducing stress can also reduce the number of seizures they experience.
Some people may become anxious or afraid of having a seizure, which itself causes stress.
This can become a vicious circle with the seizures causing stress and the stress resulting in more seizures.
If you are feeling stressed, you may have trouble sleeping. This can cause you to feel more tired during the day. For some people being tired can be a seizure trigger.
Coping with stress
There are a variety of different things you can try to help relieve stress. For some people reducing stress levels can improve seizure control.
Be more active
Exercise unwinds the mind. It can make you feel more positive and less anxious.
Exercise can help you clear your thoughts and deal with problems more calmly. Also, it can alter the chemical balance in the brain to help counter the effects of stress.
You could try walking, jogging or going to the gym. Check out our Leisure Guide for more ideas.
Learn relaxation techniques
Learning to relax can help reduce stress. This could involve listening to music, going for a walk, playing the guitar or going fishing, ie any activity that you enjoy doing.
You could try mediation, breathing exercises or yoga. There are also apps that can teach you to relax.
If your seizures occur during sleep or when you are deeply relaxed, relaxation techniques may be a seizure trigger. Contact our helpline for more information on this.
Connect with people
For many people talking about their anxieties can help relieve them. You could talk to family and friends. Why not go for a walk with someone, go to the cinema, or join an epilepsy support group?
Some areas have support groups that meet regularly. There are also on-line support groups and forums such as our own closed Facebook support group. Our helpline has more information on support in your area.
Speaking to someone with specialist knowledge about epilepsy may also help. This could be an Epilepsy Specialist Nurse, an Epilepsy Fieldworker or the Epilepsy Scotland helpline.
Avoid certain habits
Cutting down on drinks containing caffeine can help some people. These include coffee, tea, some fizzy drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks.
You can check if the ingredients on the label include caffeine. Watching how much alcohol you drink can also reduce stress.
We have a separate factsheet on Epilepsy and Alcohol. Smoking can sometimes make stress worse. Giving up smoking is not easy and, in the short term may cause you to feel more stressed or annoyed, but it will help in the long term.
The NHS Smoking Helpline can offer you advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking.
If you feel anxious or stressed the first step is to admit this to yourself. Our epilepsy and stress factsheet have more information, or if you would like to talk to someone please call our helpline on 0808 800 2200.