Have you actively taken on board some resolutions, or have you seamlessly surfed the wave from 2018 into 2019?
Regardless of whether the New Year has fostered a sense of novelty and excitement or has left you blissfully still writing the date ‘2018,’ the new year often brings with it some form of change. Changes can be overwhelming or insignificant, self-directed or a product of circumstance, but with the right approach, most change can be made manageable and positive. This article will identify some common types of and reactions to change, the impact it can have on seizures and provide some practical and adaptable strategies for enduring and embracing your new situation.
Our response to change
The relationship between change and our response is often defined by how we perceive the situation. For instance, when we choose to make changes in our own life, we have made a conscious decision to alter the status quo in some shape or form, and thus are more likely to embrace it. When change is forced upon us, we still have the option to embrace it, but are more likely to resist the change or take the wait-and-see approach while we form an opinion.
Regardless of why the change occurs, an emotional and/or physical adaptation must occur. There is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ response. You may disregard or not even care that the change or its consequences exist. Or you may feel angry or frustrated, sad or depressed, or overcome with a sense of relief or happiness. Your feelings about the change will likely shift, occasionally doubling-back as you familiarise yourself with the practical implications and more minute consequences of difference in your world. At some stage, you may even become curious and explore the nature of the change. Ideally, at some point, you come to accept the new status quo, or find a way to modify it again.
The nature of the change we face also influences our response and the practical measures we take to adjust. Some types of change are inherently more stressful than others and can take longer to adjust to. Change on a more general scale, as result of moving houses, changing jobs, or schools, for example, requires different types of emotional and practical adaptation in comparison to more specific changes to your diet, your fitness regime or your circle of friends. Responses to change are multi-layered and specific to you reflecting the scope of variation that you are faced with.
Change and epilepsy
Change can be especially relevant in the context of epilepsy as it can impact your seizures and vice versa.
Seizure activity can pose a range of secondary challenges, often related to memory, thinking and learning, or mental health that can add to the difficulties associated with adapting to change. Being mindful of the influence of a new situation can help minimise the chances of change impacting on your epilepsy or sense of wellbeing;
What you can do
- Maintain or improve your sleeping pattern: lack of sleep can be a seizure trigger for some people, so trying to maintain or improve your sleeping schedule during periods of transition can be extremely important for ongoing seizure management.
- Identifying sources of physical or emotional stress: change can be hard, and some level of stress is often unavoidable, but identifying sources of stress and actively seeking ways to reduce their impact can be beneficial for your overall mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as for seizure reduction.
- Alcohol and drug use: new situations, friends or environments may present different opportunities for drug and alcohol use, but these can have negative interactions with epilepsy medications. While some people can tolerate a reasonable amount of alcohol (usually no more than a couple of standard drinks is advised), it is important to note the influence these can have on seizure activity.
- Being consistent with medication and health precautions: keeping to your medication schedule and maintaining any other precautionary steps you have in place is beneficial not just for reducing the likelihood and impact of seizures, but also for providing a sense of normalcy and comfort in the face of change, which can be reassuring regardless of whether you have epilepsy or not.
- Be aware of seizure triggers: if you have been diagnosed long enough to recognise your triggers, then you already have a leg up. If, however, you are still identifying what your seizure triggers are, introducing change can provide you with the challenge and opportunity to familiarise yourself with potential risks you were previously unaware of. The danger lies in not knowing whether something is a trigger until you are faced with it, so especially if you find yourself in a new setting or tackling dramatically different circumstances to your norm, keep an eye out for known triggers or anything that prompts any unusual or seizure-related feelings.
- Check out the EpiDiary app for help tracking your seizure activity, triggers, sleeping and medication schedules
Some other helpful strategies when it comes to managing change and your health, regardless of whether you have epilepsy include;
- Being mindful of your mental state: You can best tackle challenging or novel situations when you are aware and attentive. Irrational thinking and emotional challenges presented by depression or anxiety can greatly impact on your ability to cope with change. Having epilepsy or any chronic illness can significantly increase your risk of anxiety or depression, and it is especially important to be conscious of where you are at mentally and emotionally. If you are not feeling like you are in the right state of mind to cope with change, then if you can, maybe put it off until you are more able to cope.
- Listen to your body: Whether your body is sore from a new workout, conveying a hormonal change or warning of fatigue, listen and respond to your body and its needs to maximise your mental and physical adjustment to new stimuli.
- Reframe your thoughts: If you are struggling to embrace change, try looking at it from a different perspective. Look for the positive aspects of the change, re-assess how severe the negative implications really are, consider if there is a way you can make it work for you, and put it in perspective. For instance, if you’ve ended up with a new boss at work, challenge yourself to identify anything positive they bring to the table – a more inclusive management style or a flexible perspective of your job description. If you’re not enjoying the new boss, ask yourself why and how bad the situation really is – are the new team meetings really that dreadful, or was your previous boss just so great that it’s hard to let go? Can you find a way for the change to benefit you – could you use the opportunity to develop a better working relationship with upper management, or is there something you can learn from this person? Lastly, consider just how much of an impact the change has on your overall existence – is this a person you must interact with for more than a few hours out of every week? Are they dramatically changing anything else in your workplace?
Of course, facing change head on can be challenging, and sometimes a little bit of help can go a long way in facilitating your adjustment. Talking to your friends or family may provide you the valuable insight and support you need. Some other tools that may help include
- E-quip – a service for teenagers and young adults aimed at helping you along in the chaotic world of dating, depression, studying, working and so much more
- Neuro Wellbeing via the eCentreClinic – for brief courses that provide information on and teach practical skills for managing some of the cognitive and emotional challenges presented by epilepsy and other neurological conditions
- MyEpilepsyTeam – an online platform that puts you in touch with a wider community of people with Epilepsy who can relate to the unique challenges you face, provide support and practical insight for managing whatever change life throws your way
Have a look at 7 Tips for Dealing with Change here.