Epilepsy Talk

Breathing Your Stress Away… | May 10, 2020

A little while ago, when I went to my doc, I told him I felt like I was jumping out of my skin. I’m already maxed out on meds, so he suggested breathing exercises as a complimentary addition to my regimen.

I’ve started them and already, I feel better!

And, not surprisingly, I’m not the only one…

“In a survey of 177 patients, 58 per cent cited that seizures occurred more frequently when they were stressed. And most of us already know from experience that stress is the most frequent trigger of seizures, and can also cause sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Then, in a more recent survey of 89 patients, 64 per cent of people with epilepsy reported that they believed stress increased the frequency of their seizures. 32 per cent had tried stress reduction techniques, and of those who hadn’t, 53 per cent were willing to try.”  (Michelle Bellon, PhD)

That’s all fine and well…but where do you start?

Take a deep breath…

The basic concept is inhaling slowly and smoothly through your nostrils and then exhaling slowly through pursed lips (as if you were blowing out a candle).

Start by breathing in deeply. At first, use the same amount of time for both inhaling and exhaling — 4 counts as you inhale, 4 counts as you exhale. That should keep you from feeling weak or dizzy. (If you feel the least bit shaky, STOP!)

After practicing that for awhile, try to take a longer time exhaling than inhaling. For example: you could inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts and then slowly exhale to the count of 8.   

(Note: Make sure to exhale slowly. Rapid, consecutive inhaling and exhaling can cause hyperventilation, which could trigger a seizure!)

One inhalation and one exhalation make up one round of the breathing exercise. Shoot for at least 3 rounds, 2 times daily.

The beauty of this stress-buster is that it can be done any time, any place…

While you’re relaxing…doing chores…standing in line…waiting in the doctor’s office (that’s a good time for stress relief!)…before you go to sleep. Any time you have the time or need a little calm and comfort.

I know it works for me. Why not give it a try and let me know what you think?

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Sally Fletcher







  1. I think the hard part for me to start with was the timing of the deep breathing and exhaling (weird hey?) or it could have been the being still part? But over time I got the hang of it and I agree it DOES HELP!! However apparently before I have a seizure that’s exactly what I do (according to my husband, children and close friends). They say “I always try to get away and laydown on my stomach and take deep breath long breaths and stiffen my legs”. So for them whenever I do take deep longs breath’s now or even stiffen (to stretch) my legs they all become a bit un-nerved. Of course until I tell them “I’m just trying to actually stretch out or just breath deeply”. Thank you Phylis it just takes a bit of practice in order to get the hang of it, but it does work!! HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL MOMMIES (and secretly daddy’s and baby’s for loving and trusting them to be a “mommy”) 🙏🏼🦅💝😘

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — May 10, 2020 @ 8:52 PM

    • Happy belated Mother’s Day to you, too Kathy.

      I don’t think the stiffing of the legs is a good idea. Because it sends that stiffening message to your whole body. Try to relax, from the toes up.

      And when you exhale, blow out slowly, like you’re blowing the candles out on a cake.

      Otherwise, it sounds like you’ve got it down pat!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 11, 2020 @ 10:06 AM

      • HAPPY BELATED “MOTHERS DAY” AS WELL TO ALL THE MOMMIES 🙏🏼🦅💗😘. My grandma and old people used to tell me “BABIES WERE ANGELS” because the Parents and Caregivers “MOLDED and HELPED THEM TO BE WHO THEY ARE NOW” 🙏🏼🦅😇💝😘. I guess just because I’ve always been SO ACTIVE it just became “ROUTINE” for me to stiffen then relax my muscles and bones (kind of a form of stretching prior to being physically active or falling asleep).

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — May 12, 2020 @ 1:17 AM

      • As long as you’re stiffening THEN relaxing, it’s a good thing.

        The object is to try to relax and however you can get there, is fine.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 9:45 AM

      • Goodmorning Phylis 😊. Thank you and please be well and have a very good day today 😊🙏🏼🦅😇💕

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — May 12, 2020 @ 9:47 AM

  2. I agree, especially about the stress causing seizures. It happened to me back in January after we had to let go of our cat Lilac. She had End Stage Renal Disease and they said “the treatment might kill her” so we just did the right thing. I think Violet knew her buddy was sick because she didn’t seem too phased by Lilac’s passing. I had 2 Tonic-Clonic seizures after I didn’t get enough sleep for a couple nights. I was the main one that was there for her as they gave her the meds to make her sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — May 12, 2020 @ 2:29 AM

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about Lilac. I also had a cat die of end stage renal failure and it was painful.

    And I have to say, all the breathing in the world couldn’t calm my stress and sorrow.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 9:42 AM

    • Yeah, I had another cat, who used to be a stray, but developed kidney problems from eating the antifreeze when he was a stray. We got Lilac and Violet from a rescue. Furbabies always are so special.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by trekkie80sgirl — May 13, 2020 @ 3:25 AM

      • Good for you, taking in a stray. And adopting shelter cats.

        But eating antifreeze? How sad.

        Mourning furbabies is wrenching.

        They’re so special and each works its way right into your heart forever.

        (I have the ashes of all three cats in special wood boxes on a bookshelf.

        The “girls” live eternally in my heart.)


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 13, 2020 @ 9:44 AM

  4. In today’s (Tuesday, May 12) online Washington Post is an article about problems people with autism may experience wearing masks.

    It includes remarks about epilepsy and seizure disorders and masks.

    Sorry this tablet doesn’t like providing addresses, but it’s easy enough to find.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — May 12, 2020 @ 1:45 PM

  5. It’s OK, I don’t think you can read it if you don’t subscribe to The Washington Post.

    But, thanks for the heads-up, HoDo!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 1:53 PM

  6. I’ll try to copy out the relevant parts for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — May 12, 2020 @ 2:33 PM

  7. THANK YOU!!!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 2:46 PM

    • Ok, here goes. The author, Shannon Des Roches Rosa, is a writer on autism. The article is about how people with autism have trouble wearing masks because covering the face causes anxiety, and there are sensory processing issues of touch and the odor of one’s own breath.

      “A significant percentage of autistic children have seizure disorders. Not being able to see an epileptic child’s face can be a safety risk if they have distinctive pre-seizure facial expressions. Masks with clear sections over the mouth, developed to aid deaf people, may be an option.”

      Today’s Washington Post, I forgot to get the actual date of the article. The writer can be found at ThinkingAutismGuide.com and at Twitter ar @shannonrosa.

      If I may add a personal note, I find myself breathing shallowly through my mouth while wearing a mask.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — May 12, 2020 @ 3:15 PM

  8. I’d be interested in seeing the article, Hodo. I don’t know if they mention those who are HOH, but that’s been a real challenge for me. Hard enough wearing hearing aids, but now, trying to understand people talking behind a mask, wow! May try learning ASL, again!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9 — May 12, 2020 @ 3:00 PM

    • I know, Skolly, I wear hearing aids, too, and those over-the-ear loops just will not do.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — May 12, 2020 @ 3:17 PM

  9. Tell me about it Hodo. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve taken my mask off inside, to find a hearing aid dangling from the mask loop. Gotta be very careful there! Incidentally, the article was very interesting but even more so, were the “comments” afterward, where readers show how ignorant and cruel they are towards people with autism. wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9 — May 12, 2020 @ 5:51 PM

    • My nephew has autism and is only three. It’s already a struggle, socially.

      I shudder to think what it will be like for him when he’s in school.

      People (especially children) can be so cruel.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 6:00 PM

  10. Phylis, hopefully your nephew will get enrolled in a good special educ program through his school district, or privately. It will make all the difference in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9 — May 12, 2020 @ 6:30 PM

  11. There’s a trick one of my teachers uses in addition to breathing, one which I use a lot. Before that first breath, feel your feet in your shoes – or, weather permitting, your bare feet on the floor or dirt.

    There have been times of great stress when no way could I inhale to a count of 10 or even to a count of 3. Starting with feet was like a door being opened.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — May 12, 2020 @ 6:39 PM

  12. Brilliant! Bare feet = freedom to me.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 12, 2020 @ 7:45 PM

  13. New book by James Nestor entitled “Breath”. Good related article today, May 28, on NPR.org.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — May 28, 2020 @ 11:48 AM

  14. Thanks, HoDo, my favorite font of knowledge! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2020 @ 1:07 PM

  15. Here’s the interesting article that HoDo was referring to:

    How The ‘Lost Art’ Of Breathing Can Impact Sleep And Resilience



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2020 @ 1:18 PM

    • Thanks for the link – this tablet doesn’t do links very well, or at all, mostly.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — May 28, 2020 @ 2:05 PM

      • Happily I was able to download the entire article. I even printed it for others to read. It’s fascinating!


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2020 @ 2:09 PM

      • The relationships among breathing, digestion, the vagus nerve, depression, anxiety, and seizures make for good reading, though few answers.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by HoDo — May 28, 2020 @ 2:37 PM

  16. Well, I thought the suggestions were good. Like the benefits of breathing through your nose.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 28, 2020 @ 2:41 PM

  17. Jane Brody has a really good column on breathing while wearing a mask in the science section of today’s (June 16, 2020) New York Times.

    Sorry, still no link.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — June 16, 2020 @ 11:58 AM

  18. Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 16, 2020 @ 12:12 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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