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What can I do to manage stress?

Managing stress is critical to your mental and physical health. It contributes to your feelings of wellbeing, improves your social relationships, increases your productivity, and lifts your mood.

A recent study reported that people with epilepsy who use some form of stress management techniques to manage their seizures felt these tools helped. Managing stress is also important for family and caregivers so they can stay healthy and be emotionally ready to support their loved one with seizures.

While stress management is unique to each person, there are some coping strategies that have been proven to be effective for most people.

Assess Your Stress

  • Study your life stressors. Begin by tracking your stress. When do you notice it? How often do you experience the signs of stress? What do you do when you feel stressed? How do you usually cope with stress?
  • Keep a journal. Process what may be going on in your life. If you are feeling angry, anxious,or depressed about people or situations in your life, writing about them may help you understand these feelings. You may gain insight and find better ways to cope.
  • Track your mood and stress in My Seizure Diary. This can help you see patterns with seizures.

Use Cognitive Strategies

  • Steer clear. Avoid people or situations that you know will trigger stress in your life. If unavoidable, consider changing your approach and your reactions. This may calm the situation and how you feel.
  • Relax. Find ways to relax by engaging in meditation or mindfulness. Use relaxation breathing techniques to drain the stress from your body.
  • Breathe. Yes, counting to 10 and taking a “time out” does help! The time can give you a chance to think more objectively and not overreact.
  • Manage your time. A daily routine can help you manage the many demands on your time. Set priorities, pace yourself, and avoid procrastination so you’re not rushed. Find time to do the things you enjoy, too – not just the "must do" things.
  • Use positive thinking techniques. Is your life glass half full or half empty? Practice flipping the stress hourglass and see if this gives you a different perspective. Find the "silver lining" in stressful circumstances. For example, some negative situations can help you learn or improve.
  • Learn. Read or watch videos on stress management and discover new ways of coping.
  • Congratulate yourself. Find ways to see your progress. It takes effort to change old habits, but as you do, take a minute to measure your success and give yourself a compliment.

Use Physical Strategies

  • Exercise. Build physical activity into your everyday life. Find a routine that suits you such as walking, sports, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, or gardening. Exercise has proven health benefits not only for your stress level, but also your mood, sleep, and overall health.
  • Sleep. Your body needs to re-energize daily. It recovers from all the demands on your time and energy through sleep. Both quality sleep and enough sleep are important. Check out strategies for improving your sleep.
  • Eat healthy foods. Nutritious foods will give you energy. Too much sugar, alcohol, or processed foods aren’t good for you. Find ways to build n more nutritious foods to your diet.
  • Listen to music. This can be soothing or lively and distracting!
  • Take a long bath or shower. If taken before bedtime, it can help you sleep. Please view these bathroom safety tips before taking this step – people with uncontrolled seizures should take showers instead of baths.
  • Make some art. Skill level doesn’t matter! Sketching, painting, pottery, crafts, or even coloring benefit all ages. Consider taking an art class or participate in Studio E: The Epilepsy Art Therapy Program.
  • Get regular massages. These can relax the tension stored in your body.
  • Go outside. Take a break from the indoors and get some sunshine! Connecting with nature has proven benefits to feeling happier and calmer. Being outside and activities like bird watching may help.

Use Emotional Strategies

  • Smile. Even if you don’t feel happy, you will find that smiling is relaxing and can lead to positive responses from those around you.
  • Manage your anger. Take classes or read about anger management and conflict resolution. Consider professional help if your anger is interfering with your relationships.
  • Engage in pleasurable and calming activities. Make a list of things you enjoy that help you to de-stress and try to do these regularly.
  • Find support. Going to a family member, friend, or colleague for support can be helpful and reassuring. They may have helpful suggestions that are new to you.

Seek More Help

  • Talk about it. Talk about how you feel and how the unpredictability of seizures affects your day-to-day life.
  • Seek help. Counseling from a mental health therapist can educate and teach you about stress management. A counselor can help you work on things that may be causing you stress, such as marital difficulties or concerns about your child or work.
  • Get the best seizure control possible. Work closely with your health care team. Seek help from an epilepsy center to explore all treatment options.
  • Connect. Find people who share your interests and who bring out the best in you.
  • Join the epilepsy community. Reach out to your local Epilepsy Foundation. Join the forums and chat on or social media. You will find people who understand and care about your wellbeing.
  • Join a support group. Consider joining a support group for stress management, parenting, therapy, or other interests.

Can seizure self-management programs help me?

Yes. Self-management skills can help people take control of their health and cope with day-to-day challenges. Self-management requires an active partnership between a person with epilepsy, their family or friends, and the health care provider. Each one plays an important role in epilepsy self-management. Learn about seizure self-management programs.


  1. Privitera M, Walters M, Lee I, et al. Characteristics of people with self-reported stress-precipitated seizures. Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Dec; 41: 74-77.
  2. Cox DTC, Shanahan DF, Hudson HL, et al. Dose of neighborhood nature: The benefits of mental health of living with nature. BioScience. 2017 Jan; 67(2): 147-155.
Authored By: 
Susan Vosburgh MSW, LCSW-C, and Jenny LaBaw
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
David Taplinger MD
Tuesday, August 15, 2017