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Understand Seizure Triggers

Some people may find that seizures occur in a pattern or are more likely to occur in certain situations. Sometimes these connections are just by chance, but other times it’s not. Keeping track of any factors that may come before a seizure can help you recognize when a seizure may be coming. You can then be prepared and learn how to lessen the chance that a seizure may occur at this time. Some people will notice one or two triggers very easily. For example, their seizures may occur only during sleep or when waking up. Other people may notice that some triggers bother them only during a times of stress or when they are sick. Other factors rely on some environmental changes or physical conditions in which can be avoided with the right preventative measures.  

Common Triggers

  • Specific time of day or night

  • Sleep deprivation – overtired, not sleeping well, not getting enough sleep, disrupted sleep

  • Illness

  • Flashing bright lights or patterns

  • Alcohol use or alcohol withdrawal

  • Drug use 

  • Stress

  • Menstrual cycle or other hormonal changes

  • Not eating well, long times without eating, dehydration, not enough fluids, low blood sugar, vitamins and mineral deficiencies

  • Specific foods, excess caffeine or other products that may aggravate seizures

  • Use of certain medications

  • Missed medications


We do understand that there are circumstances that will inevitably cause stress, frustration or even greif. However, there are ways to manage and prevent excessive or frequent complications with some of your triggers. Not all modes of management are for everyone, but it is always worth it to try! 

Study 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?

  • 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.

  • Track your mood and stress in a Seizure Diary. This can help you see patterns with seizures and help you understand potential triggers.​

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.

  • 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.

  • Learn. Read or watch videos on stress management and discover new ways of coping.

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!

  • Go outside. Take a break from the indoors and get some sunshine! Connecting with nature has proven benefits to feeling happier and calmer.

Emotional Care

  • 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. Consider joining our support group!​

Self -Management & Support

  • 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.

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