Everyone experiences stress at some point, and we all have different coping mechanisms to deal with it. Our bodies react to stress with biological processes that have been handed down from millions of years of evolution. Although we’re no longer battling saber-toothed tigers, the source of modern stresses can still create that primal fight or flight response and leave us feeling tense.
One of the most common signs of stress is stress tremors. If you already have a movement disorder like essential tremor, stress can cause tremors to worsen in severity or frequency. Below, we’ll explore the relationship between essential tremors and stress. We’ll also discuss coping mechanisms that can reduce the effects of stress so you feel calmer and in control. Keep reading for a comprehensive overview or use the links below to navigate directly to the section you’d like to learn more about.
What is Stress?
Stress is how your brain and body respond to a demand or challenge. Life changes, trauma, or situations where you must perform can be stressful. But not all stress is bad — in a dangerous situation, stress tells your body to face the threat or flee. Your pulse rises, your respiratory rate increases, your muscles tense up, and your brain becomes more active. All of your senses and muscles are primed to respond to the danger.
In situations that aren’t dangerous, stress can motivate you to perform like when you’re interviewing for a new job or taking an exam.
Acute Stress versus Chronic Stress
Stress can be acute or chronic. Acute stress occurs when a temporary situation causes emotional duress like running late to an important business meeting or confronting an obstinate colleague. Getting back to a calmer state after an acute stress event is typically much easier compared to managing and overcoming chronic stressors.
Chronic stress, which can be caused by situations like knowing your job will be dissolved in a month or experiencing money issues, is a trickier subject. Long-term stress manifests because the source of the stress is ongoing and isn’t nearly as easy to resolve. Chronic stress means that your body’s stress response is activated over the long-term, which can disturb your sleep, immune system, cardiovascular system, and reproductive system. You might experience sadness, anger, grumpiness, or digestive issues as a result of long-term stress if it goes unmanaged.
What is the Interaction Between Stress and Essential Tremor?
Stress can exacerbate essential tremor symptoms but doesn’t cause it outright. Essential tremor is the most common movement disorder that results from the miscommunication between certain areas of the brain. Experts estimate that around 10 million Americans have ET. For many, the tremors are so mild that they don’t see a specialist until the tremor impacts daily activities.
According to the Ninds.nih.gov, symptoms of essential tremor might include:
- Trouble holding utensils and small tools
- Difficulty with writing or drawing
- A shaky voice
- Rhythmic, involuntary shaking in the hands, arms, legs, head, or torso
ET is usually progressive, although the frequency and intensity of tremor may not change for decades in some patients. The severity of tremors can also be impacted by lifestyle and behavior as noted by cedars.sinai.org. If you’re stressed, tremors may become considerably worse because of the rush of adrenaline through the body, which intensifies existing shakiness and trembling.
For some ET patients, essential tremor is the main stressor or the initial stress event that causes the cascade of bodily responses. Tremors can be frustrating or embarrassing in public situations. If you’re feeling stressed about your hand tremors, for example, the anxiety and stress of reading a speech while holding a piece of paper might actually increase the shakiness you experience. Since a tremor can grow worse due to stress, it can create a positive feedback loop.
Although it’s not possible to avoid stress completely, you can develop stress management skills to limit its effect on your tremor intensity and frequency. It’s critical for essential tremor patients to tune into the causes and warning signs of stress. Mindfulness can help you appropriately anticipate and manage any potentially stressful events.
Stress Causes & Warning Signs
Stress can be caused by almost anything that forces you to adapt and change in your environmental situation. As a result of these environmental shifts, your body goes through different mental, emotional, and physical responses.
Causes of stress might include:
- Death of a friend or family member
- Legal issues
- Fights, arguments, and confrontations
- Marital or relationship problems
- New job or the loss of a job
- Financial difficulties like debt or low pay
- Medical or health problems like illness
The source of your stress might not be as obvious as the events or situations above, it could also be an unconscious stress that impacts you and influences your physical and emotional well-being. You may feel sad, moody, worried, angry, or experience the inability to concentrate. Or, you might turn to unhealthy emotional coping mechanisms like overreacting, using alcohol, using drugs, withdrawing from relationships, and changing jobs often.
You might also manifest stress physically in the form of a stooped posture, excessive sweating, shaking, weight loss or gain, reproductive system issues, and chronic fatigue.
How to Cope with Stress
If you have essential tremor, it’s critical to learn how to minimize stress and appropriately manage it when it does arise. Here are some ways you can attempt to better manage your stress.
Because everyone reacts to stress differently, it can sometimes be hard to realize that you’re stressed. Learn to recognize your personal symptoms of stress, like worsening stress tremors or sleep issues.There are a number of digital applications available to help you with mindfulness.
If you feel like your stress is out of control, talking with a therapist can help you overcome your stress or start to cope with it. Talk therapy is a great way to learn coping mechanisms like grounding techniques to keep you calm.
Ask Others for Help
In some cases, stress occurs because we take on too much. It’s important to know when to delegate tasks and ask for help. Learn how to appropriately prioritize your to-do list and know when to say, “no” if a deadline isn’t reasonable.
Create a Strong Support System
Keep in touch with friends and family. Open up to your trusted friends about your stresses and emotions. Your support system can be a helpful way to stay connected and emotionally healthier.
Even just thirty minutes of exercise a day can improve your mood and your overall health. Gentle exercises like walking, biking, hiking, or swimming are all great choices.
Try to Relax
Instead of turning to alcohol or letting stress fester, consider adopting a relaxing self-care routine. Your routine can incorporate meditation, breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation. Practice your relaxation routine regularly.
How Cala Trio Can Help: Essential Tremor
If you have essential tremor, it’s a natural response to be stressed because of it. It’s understandable to worry about the progression of your disorder when it impacts your daily life. With that said, it’s important to consult with your physician if you’re concerned about tremors and your stress so you and your doctor can discuss an appropriate treatment plan. Although surgery and pharmaceuticals are both options to treat essential tremor, many patients experience relief with Cala Trio, an FDA-cleared, physician-prescribed wristband.
Sixty four percent of patients reported using this medical device and experiencing relief from tremor for up to 94 minutes on average. Get started by talking to your doctor about Cala Trio and your essential tremor treatment today.