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Essential Tremor and Stress Management

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on September 29, 2021

Everyone experiences stress. When stress persists, however, the body begins to break down and problems like essential tremor can occur or become worse. Coping with stress requires identifying stressors in your life and learning ways to reduce them.

What Is Stress?

Stress is your reaction to any change that requires you to adjust or respond. It is important to remember that you can control stress, because stress comes from how you respond to certain situations.

What Causes Stress?

Stress can be caused by anything that requires you to adjust to a change in your environment. Your body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. We all have our own ways of coping with change, so the causes of stress can be different for each person.

Common causes of stress include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Confrontations
  • Marital difficulties/divorce
  • Deadlines
  • Legal problems
  • Job loss/new job
  • Retirement
  • Money problems
  • Illnesses

What Are the Warning Signs of Stress?

When you are not sure of the exact cause of your stress, it may help to know the warning signs of stress. Once you can identify these signs, you can learn how your body responds to stress and can take steps to reduce it. Your body sends out physical, emotional, and behavioral warning signs of stress.

Emotional Warning Signs of Stress

  • Anger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Excessive worry
  • Sadness
  • Frequent mood swings

Physical Warning Signs of Stress

  • Stooped posture
  • Sweaty palms
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Shaking

Behavioral Warning Signs of Stress

  • Overreacting
  • Acting on impulse
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Changing jobs often

How Can I Cope With Stress?

  • Lower your expectations; accept that there are events beyond your control.
  • Ask others to help you, delegate.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Engage in problem solving.
  • Express distressing emotions; be assertive instead of aggressive.
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships and emotional composure.
  • Avoid sources of stress.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Eat and drink sensibly.
  • Stop smoking or other bad habits.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Relaxation Tips for Those With Essential Tremor

Find a quiet location that is free of distractions. Make sure you’re in a comfortable body position and a good state of mind. Try to block out worries and distracting thoughts.

  • Rhythmic breathing. If your breathing is short and hurried, slow it down by taking long, slow breaths. Inhale slowly and exhale slowly. Count slowly to five as you inhale, and then count slowly to five as you exhale. As you exhale slowly, pay attention to how your body naturally relaxes. Recognizing this change will help you to relax even more.
  • Deep breathing. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let the air out like you are deflating a balloon. With every long, slow exhale, you should feel more relaxed.
  • Visualized breathing. Find a comfortable place where you can close your eyes and combine slowed breathing with your imagination. Picture relaxation entering your body and tension leaving your body. Breathe deeply, but in a natural rhythm. Visualize your breath coming into your nostrils, going into your lungs and expanding your chest and abdomen. Then, visualize your breath going out the same way. Continue breathing, but each time you inhale, imagine that you are breathing in more relaxation. Each time you exhale, imagine that you are getting rid of a little more tension.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped. Loosen up these areas. Let go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a circular motion once or twice, but be sure to stop any movements that cause pain. Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all of your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and exhale slowly.
  • Relaxation and music. Combine relaxation exercises with your favorite music in the background. Select the type of music that lifts your mood or that you find soothing or calming. Some people find it easier to relax while listening to specially designed relaxation audio tapes, which provide music and relaxation instructions.
  • Mental imagery relaxation. Mental imagery relaxation, or guided imagery, is a proven form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. Guided imagery coaches you in creating calm, peaceful images in your mind -- a "mental escape." Practice making positive statements about yourself. One example of a positive statement would be: "I am healthy, vital, and strong."

When Should I Seek Help for Stress?

You should seek help in dealing with your stress when you experience any of the following:

  • Marked decline in work/school performance
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to cope with demands of daily life
  • Irrational fears
  • Significant change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Persistent physical ailments and complaints
  • Suicidal thoughts or urge to hurt others
  • Self-mutilation or other self-destructive behavior
  • Sustained withdrawn mood or behavior

Where Do I Go to Get Help for Stress?

Your personal doctor can determine if your stress is due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional, if necessary. If the situation is an emergency, call a crisis hotline or go to the nearest emergency room.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

WeMove: "Essential Tremor."

International Essential Tremor Foundation: "Coping Tips," "Support Group Leader Training Guide."

Tremor Action Network.

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Essential Tremor."

Pal, P. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, July 2011.

Medscape: "Essential Tremor: A Clinical Review: Approaches to Treatment."

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