SO November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and I know I have been unusually quiet, this blog will go some way to not only explaining why but also addressing a serious subject. Today I will be looking at Epilepsy and stress, there are so many triggers for seizures but for me, and many others, stress has always been a big one.
The reason I am addressing this is because since August stress has played a constant feature in my life and I knew I had to get it under control otherwise my seizures would become uncontrolled. My Dad has heart failure and in August he deteriorated which resulted in him spending time in hospital, we were told there were no treatment options left for him. He was stabilised and let home, just over a week later my Mum was admitted to hospital, she had Sepsis; this has resulted in two toes being amputated and part of the underside of her foot. She has been in hospital for almost 9 weeks with no sign of her coming home, whilst she has been in hospital Dad has had several appointments as well as being put forward for a trial for new medication, so I am having to attend appointments with him, I have launched a complaint against my Mums GP because of their lack of care for her prior to admission which is also causing me a headache. Last week Chris had surgery, so he has needed me and all of this has run alongside making sure Noah has normality and continuing to go to work (shout out to my boss for being super understanding the last few months!)
Stress and epilepsy
A Norwegian study has found that the most common seizure triggers are: sleep deprivation, tiredness and stress. It isn’t known just why stress may trigger a seizure, while there is no definite evidence that reducing stress help seizures, a recent study showed that nearly 9 in 10 people who actively managed their stress believed it reduced their risk of seizures.It’s hard to know exactly how often stress triggers seizures, since stress means something different to everyone. It’s also hard to judge how much of an effect stress has on a person.Stress comes in different forms and has a different meaning for everyone. It can come from a major life event or from more everyday activities that can potentially put us in a bad mood. Some studies have found that major life stressors, either good or bad, could affect seizures. Others have found that a build up of ‘daily hassles’ or stress seems to be more important. Since people are very different, it’s likely that stress can affect people in different ways at different times of their life.
How do I cope?
For me I realised that stress was becoming an issue at the Royal Parks Half marathon on the 8th October, I suffered seizures 4 miles into the run, this has never happened before and I have run countless half marathons and three marathons. It scared me, but with some hindsight I realised I was so stressed that the run was the final straw, putting that pressure on my body it decided it had had enough. From then on, I started looking after me, as much as the seizures scared me exercise has always been my best form of controlling seizures, they were at their best when I am training for marathons. I have made sure I have been exercising 3 or 4 times a week (Thank you Stuart for being my swimming partner), I find swimming such a release. My seizures have been under control since Royal Parks and I whole heatedly believe this is because I have had the chance to swim and go for the odd short run. I also find making lists really helps, it makes tasks I have to complete seem manageable and when I cross them off I have a sense of control when everything around me seems to be totally out of my control. I also try and take five minutes every day where I sit and do nothing, I refuse to think about anything and let it clear my mind. I am also a big fan of taking a nap when Noah does, sleep deprivation isn’t good for me it is a trigger but I have found that having a nap during the day is helping me. My concern is what happens once everything clams down, I have been through stressful situations before and was fine but once my stress levels are reduced my seizures increased, I have tried to combat this by contacting my epilepsy nurse to make him aware of what’s going on and look for his guidance going forward.
How do others cope?
I have spent a lot of time talking to others about how they manage stress so not to trigger seizures and I’ve compiled a list of methods other people use:
• Mindfulness: This is a popular one amongst many in the epilepsy group. You can find out more about mindfulness here: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx
• Use a diary and write down what’s likely to cause stress for you.
• Try to avoid stressful situations if it makes sense to do so, and if you can avoid it! If you can’t avoid it, can you let go of the worry it’s causing you?
• When a stressful situation is unavoidable, make sure you are doing your best to get enough sleep and take your seizure medications on time.
• Find ways to diffuse a situation. Avoid people who cause anger and anxiety if you can. Try to approach them differently – it may help calm down the stressful situation.
• Exercise regularly. Lots of research has shown the exercise helps lower stress. (Like myself others found this very helpful.)
• Do your best to relax. Try exercise, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, a massage, cat naps, or relaxation and controlled breathing techniques.
• Limit long naps during the day. Sleeping during the day will cause sleep problems at night and make people feel worse.
• On the other side of this, some said take short naps if you are tired, limit it to 30 – 45 minutes.
• Keep to a daily routine. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.
• Set priorities for what is important in your life and let the rest go.
• Listen to music, it’s a form of escape.
• Seek help. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or counselor. Let them know what’s bothering you.
o Make sure the epilepsy team knows that stress is affecting your seizures.
o Seek counseling or psychotherapy. If you think you may have anxiety or depression, talk to you doctor about treatment options.
o Join a support group or an online group to get support from others in similar situations.
If you need any further advice on dealing with stress please visit the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/understanding-stress.aspx
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fairyfaye1986/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Facebook support group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/739520702798749/
My names Faye, mostly known for being a tea addict and keen runner. I'm 31, married and I had my 1st child in June 2015, oh and I also happen to have epilepsy. This is my story of Pregnancy, Motherhood & Epilepsy.