Reducing Stress

Surveys have shown that more than 50 percent of people with epilepsy believe that acute or chronic stress makes them more likely to have a seizure. With funding from the Charles L. Shor Foundation, the UC Epilepsy Center is conducting research to better understand the links between stress and seizures.

Whether or not stress does trigger seizures, most clinicians agree that reducing stress is desirable for most people. With the exception of high-octane individuals who thrive on stress, most people benefit when stress is reduced.

Here are three important ways to reduce stress:

1) Take a simple screening test for anxiety and depression. The UC Epilepsy Center offers the 7-question screen for anxiety and the 6-question screen for depression to all patients at every visit. Treatment for anxiety or depression could help reduce unwanted stress.

2) Integrate an exercise regimen into your life. Moderate exercise such as walking, yoga and Tai Chi can relieve stress and increase fitness. If you are not already exercising, consult your primary care physician or epilepsy specialist prior to starting your program.

3) Assess your sleep habits. Do you practice good sleep hygiene? Jennifer Molano, MD, a neurologist and sleep specialist with the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, outlines the basics of good sleep hygiene:

  • establish a routine of going to bed at the same time every night and rising at the same time every morning, even on the weekends
  • eliminate caffeinated beverages in the afternoon
  • eliminate afternoon naps; if you must have a nap, limit it to less than 30 minutes a day
  • switch to relaxing activities one hour before bedtime; these can include taking a warm bath or listening to music
  • create a calm, quiet space for sleep
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