Epilepsy Talk

Some Stress and Anxiety Solutions… | July 14, 2018

Sometimes my hands shake so much, I look like I’m leading a symphony. (Without a baton.) Legs too, I have to sit down.

Maybe you panic before a test, the very fear of having a seizure, social rejection, job anxieties, debt, fear of failure, an anticipated argument, holidays, fear of flying.

There are probably as many kinds of stress and panic attacks as there are those of us who suffer from them.

And behaviors: trembling, sweating, hyperventilating, breathlessness, feeling faint or light-headed, a sense of disorientation, cramping, nausea, your heart pounding like it’s going to explode from your chest, a fear of dying.

Or you’re just plain scared.

I could go on forever. And I’m sure you could, too.

It might be because your serotonin level is low, you’re feeling a sense of “fight or flight.”

But anxiety is actually related to epilepsy in more specific ways.

It can occur not only as a reaction, but also as a symptom and in some cases, as a side-effect of seizure medicines.

In some cases, stress and panic attacks have been misdiagnosed as epilepsy, and epilepsy has even been misdiagnosed as panic attacks!

For example, hyperventilation caused by anxiety can trigger a convulsion, which can further complicate the diagnosis.

A person can have a panic attack which may eventually turn to a seizure, or that seizure may be the result of stress.

The worst part is that neither just “goes away.”

But happily, there are some solutions…

1. Deep breathing. I breath in through my nostrils with pursed lips from the diaphragm. (Note: ribs rise as opposed to tummy.) Then exhale twice as long as inhaling. Ten times in a row is best. Or you can try more if you’re feeling really tense. If you’re having trouble relaxing before you go to bed, try 3-5 times. I try to make it a habit. The beauty of this is that you can do it any time, any where, and as long as you need to, until that nasty panic goes away.

2. Visualization. I think of a particular happy experience (or two) and sort of let it take over my body. Like watching the waves crash. Or eating a lobster roll in Maine.

3. Music. I take 30 minutes that’s just mine, get in a comfy chair, put on headphones and forget about the rest of the stuff. It’s so relaxing, that sometimes I feel like I’m transported to another place. Away from my fears.

4. Walking a few miles or so, taking in my surroundings. Sometimes it’s the trees, a bird flying by, a beautiful sunset. Or maybe watching other people (I admit it, I’m an incurable people watcher), cloud formations. Whatever presents itself before me. Being in the moment.

5. I do run an epilepsy support group. (You could join one or start your own.) It’s helpful to hear other people’s fears and concerns and try to help each other. There’s a feeling of accomplishment, community, sharing and of course, making new friends. After all, aren’t we all in this together?

6. I try to do something new that’s creative. (Obviously, after 30+ years, it’s not writing.) Right now, I’m trying to learn more about my camera, so I can take some real pictures, other than just of my cat.

7. There’s meds (yup, that too) and cognitive therapy (which has done a world of good for me).

I’d love to be able to meditate, but I just don’t have the attention span. Try deep muscle relaxation, but who has the time?

Or finally, confront my fears and think of what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Maybe some day. Soon.


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  1. Thanks for posting this. I have some of these. When I have the building problems, the police, etc., automatically diagnose it as a panic attack. They tell the EMTs this. I go to the hospital. Instead of being concerned about the seizure danger – especially in the past – they would just give me an Ativan. NOT the right solution! I am finally getting a better response, now that I am using a lot of these techniques, have been seizure free, etc. But the symptoms and fear never completely go away. I have used art and have started photography with the jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by megambon2164 — July 14, 2018 @ 5:25 PM

  2. If it’s broke, just put a band aide on it.

    That’s what I think of ERs. (Sometimes, they just send you home without the band aide, as many will attest.)

    I’m thrilled that YOU are now taking charge of your life.

    And even though the fear is a constant, I’m proud that you are using your creative talents to battle it.

    Hats off to you Mary Ellen!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 14, 2018 @ 5:53 PM

  3. This was very helpful!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mary Lee Parker — July 14, 2018 @ 9:16 PM

  4. “your heart pounding like it’s going to explode from your chest, a fear of dying.”

    This once happened to me, and my solution was your number 1 solution, which was deep breathing. I sat down and totally relaxed and started breathing excersices. It worked and i’ve never had it since. Knock on wood. It was scary, like what the hell, am i going to have a heart attack. But it subsided and i was relived

    Great solutions you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Zolt — July 14, 2018 @ 9:54 PM

    • Actually, I do deep breathing regularly. It’s supposed to provide more serotonin to the brain.

      “Serotonin Helps Control Body Temperature and Breathing. … Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that mediates many complex processes in the brain. It’s perhaps best known for its role in regulating mood. It’s also thought to help regulate several life-sustaining functions, such as breathing.” — National Institute of Health



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 14, 2018 @ 10:17 PM

      • Same here, being a smoker, i also try and do it regularly, normally right before i go to sleep.


        Comment by Zolt — July 15, 2018 @ 3:12 AM

  5. According to the kit ,and every cat who ever owned me, pets (especially felines) are therapeutic. While I can’t speak for everybody, for many, there is something calming about that little–or big–bundle of fur that looks up into your face with an expression that relays complete, unconditional love That, even if the next meal is late, and you are grouchy. Who couldn’t smile for a minute? I find I can see, just a little, where the light in my world might be.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by catsissie — July 15, 2018 @ 2:03 AM

  6. That’s the kittens…my device, like Chy and Muffin, has a mind of its own. Mol.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by catsissie — July 15, 2018 @ 2:05 AM

  7. Phyliss,

    I always appreciate your posts and helpful tips on living with epilepsy. You are a blessing to those living with this neurological condition. Thank you for what you do you help make life better for us!

    All the Best, Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Elizabeth Niedringhaus — July 18, 2018 @ 11:55 AM

  8. Phylis Feiner Johnson, if stress was the only aggravating factor for seizures, do you personally think that people with Epilepsy could reduce dependency on medications in favor of natural means? If yes, why? If not, why not?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — July 25, 2018 @ 8:54 AM

  9. I think that stress is not the only reason or cause for seizures. There are many others.

    Therefore, I don’t think there’s a blanket solution for natural means.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 25, 2018 @ 9:13 AM

  10. Phylis Feiner Johnson, I know that. Assuming that stress was the biggest factor only for someone to have a seizure, do you think medication dependency would be more limited?


    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — July 25, 2018 @ 4:43 PM

  11. Phylis Feiner Johnson, I worded that one comment inadequately. What I meant was that if stress was the only real aggravating factor for seizures, would medication still be a necessity otherwise? Here is an example of what I mean: Average Joe has Epilepsy, however, his situation is aggravated by stress and nothing else. If said person had a lifestyle that has little, if any, stress attached, could medication dependency be reduced, perhaps eliminated in favor of natural means?


    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — July 25, 2018 @ 8:18 PM

  12. Phylis Feiner Johnson, that is the million dollar question.


    Comment by Jeffrey Liakos — August 18, 2018 @ 5:15 PM

  13. Excellent. I truly think many of my “auras” aren’t simple partial seizures at all but simply anxiety. The less I worry, the less I have them.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Sandy — November 18, 2018 @ 4:44 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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