By Guardian Angel Joanne & Angel Asia


There was an article in the February 24th issue of  Newsweek that talks about how living with fear affects the mind and damages the body. The article is about the stress we are all under because of the uncertain weak economy and the fear of war and terrorist attacks.

While reading the article I realized that every mom and dad with an epi-pup is also living with fear...the fear of seizures. There is also the anxiety when a seizure happens and in the article it says; "Even at low levels, anxiety causes muscle tension: aches, pains and twitching eyes."

One of my PhD's is in physiology and endocrinology. I understand how the body reacts to stress and the changes it makes to metabolism's. In my private practice I work with clients on stress reduction and rebalancing their metabolism's. Maybe I can share with you some of the things than can reduce your stress.

To quote from the article in Newsweek:

  "Acute fear is not the only kind that can hurt you. Constant, low-grade adrenaline baths may subtly damage the heart, raising the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease. (Who of us has not had an adrenaline rush with hands shaking when a seizure happens) Continuous exposure to cortisone (adrenaline) can dampen the immune system, leaving stressed people more vulnerable to infections and possibly even cancer. Stress hormones can harm the brain, too, severing connections among neurons.  Even when it doesn't wreck the heart or the brain, prolonged stress can have countless subtler effects. "People are reporting headaches, insomnia, back pain, neck pain and disorientation. Such complaints are common among worried people, and you don't have to be a hypochondriac to experience them.
  Stress almost always comes out in a bodily symptom" says Afton Hassett, an expert in psychosomatic illness. Even at low levels, she says, anxiety causes muscle tension which leads in turn to aches, pains and twitching eyes.
  "Coping with anxiety?" Newsweek asks. "Science shows that meditation, yoga and even laughter can change bad habits in the brain."

So, we all realize that we are under a certain amount of stress with the fear of seizures and then anxiety when they happen. Who has not woken up in the middle of the night panicked when you hear a thumping noise? And, how many times do you panic when you see your pup lying very still in a strange place they don't normally lie? How many times a day to you get an "adrenaline bath" when they "look strange."

We love our pups dearly and we give up a lot to care for them. Medications, blood tests and vet's visits are all very expensive. How about the worry of paying for all these things? That is a stress also. The bond between a mom and dad of an epi is the exact same bond that happens with parents of a sick child. You worry about getting their medications on time along with hundreds of other concerns for their well being. All you have to do with a normal dog is put their food down, play with them and let them run. Maybe once a year take them to a vet. None of your friends or relatives are telling you to put a normal dog to sleep. That is another stress you have. An epi is like caring for a baby. The responsibility can be overwhelming and we need to look at that and cushion it where you can.

I will share some of the things I feel will help with reducing stress. We work so hard to reduce seizures, now how about reducing the stress that comes with caring for an epi.

First of all BREATHE. This is the most important thing to reduce stress. So many times you will find your self not breathing or holding your breath. Your lungs deliver needed oxygen to every cell and organ in your body. Those organs need a constant source of oxygen. (you know what happens with bloat when the stomach is cut off from oxygen. The cells die and so can the pup) If you hold your breath or breathe shallowly, you deprive every cell in
every organ of vital oxygen.

So BREATHE. When you are under stress, frightened, anxious or fearful, breathe deeply for 5 breaths and then count your breaths to make sure you take in deep breaths. Fill your lungs with oxygen so that all your vital organs remain pink and healthy. Take a deep breath right now... Yes, I mean now... Take a deep breath....a slow... long... deep breath. Breathe all the way in as much as you can..big breath...and then let it all the way out...all the way out...every last little air in your lungs. Take another breath...a big...long...deep one...all the way in... feel the relaxation go all over your body. Doesn't that feel good? Slowly...let the air all the way out and feel all the stagnant air going out of your lungs. Yes, stagnant. If you don't take deep breaths occasionally, the air in your lungs gets stale. OK, one more time.... take a deep... long... leisurely breath... take all the air you can in your lungs... all the way in.... and now gently... blow it all the way out until there is no more air in your lungs.

Once more now... a long... deep... big breath... take all the air in you can in your lungs right up to the tip of your lung in your shoulder. Now.... gently... let it all out.... all the way out. Now, didn't that feel good??? You have just reduced the stress from reading the quotes from the Newsweek article. You may be a little light headed but that is because your brain if full of oxygen.... but you did great!!! I'm very proud of you.

Now that you have oxygen in your body, the next is laughter. Do everything you can to amuse yourself so you laugh. The harder the better. Watch movies that you know are funny and laugh as loud as you can. Watch your pup, they will make you laugh. Find funny situations to laugh at and don't care what anyone says even if they look at you funny. Laugh at them for not seeing the humor in something. Laugh at them for being so serious. Not everything in life is earth shattering. Find the funny things. Watch Animal Planet's Funniest Video's. They will make you laugh for sure. I deliberately watch them every night at 11 PM before I go to bed and I always laugh at the funny antics of dogs.

Now comes the treats. Every day you should have a treat. Just like a good pup, you are a good mom or dad and you should have treats to reward you for caring for a helpless epi. So you should do something nice for yourself EVERY day. Some kind of a special treat. It could be a bubble bath, a forbidden little piece of chocolate, a small dish of ice cream, an extra hour with your favorite book or what ever you consider a treat. These are your rewards and they are IMPORTANT. Share with the list the kinds of treats that you like the best and maybe you will give someone a great idea they didn't think about. Title it simply "Treats."

Walking is a great stress reducer especially if you have your pup with you. Breathe the air, look at the flowers (in spring), look up at the sky and see the birds. Walk leisurely so that you don't miss any of the beauty in nature. Wave at people, say hi, be friendly. You will be amazed at how good that feels when they smile back. Those that frown are doomed to a life of frowns. Ignore them. They don't know how to enjoy life.

There are lots of stress reducers. There is yoga, there is meditation (counting your breaths), there is watching a sunset, there is cuddling, a glass of wine with dinner, there are phone calls to friends, a great sale, a hug from one of your kids or friends, a hobby you enjoy, some exercise, read a book or even dancing by yourself to your favorite music. That is great fun.... There are a hundred ways to reduce stress. Each one of you knows what feels best to you. My belief is that it if feels good, do it, as long as it is not harmful to yourself or others. Doing things that feel good puts positive chemicals in your body that negate the "adrenaline bath" that seizures cause which is harmful. This is important information to tuck away and remember.

I always want to be helpful. That is my nature. I have been a "rescue worker" since I dragged my first stray pupper home when I was 3. Just typing this out and sharing my experience and knowledge has made me feel better.

Oh, by the way, didn't deep breathing feel good? Well, to remind yourself to breathe, why not put a post-it up on your computer or around the house that says BREATHE. It will be a good daily reminder and you will feel so much better.