Coping with Facial Paralysis: Seven Strategies For Emotional Survival
By Kate Boswell, MFT
If you are dealing with the physical effects of facial paralysis, you may, understandably, be struggling to cope emotionally as well.
The seven strategies offered here came from my own struggles with facial paralysis due to an acoustic neuroma, as well as from my work as a psychotherapist.
Strategy One: Get Information, But Not Too Much
An informed patient is an empowered patient. However, information overload can be overwhelming and confusing.
Your first step should always be to visit a qualified physician for an accurate diagnosis of your condition, and to obtain a course of treatment.
After this, you may want to further research suggested treatments through the internet, talk to others with similar conditions, and get second opinions from medical providers. But realize that while information can be empowering, too much can lead to confusion and indecision.
Strategy Two: Accept your Feelings without Interpreting or Judging Them
It is natural to have a wide range of feelings throughout your journey with facial paralysis, including sadness, anger, fear, frustration and loneliness. Try letting them run their course, as they come and go, without feeding them more fuel or trying not to have them.
Strategy Three: Change your Thoughts to Change your Moods
We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to interpret it and respond to it. We can change our mental habits through conscious effort. Learn how through self help books on Cognitive Behavioral strategies, such as The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burnes. These techniques can often be useful in dealing with anxiety and depression.
Strategy Four: Take Care of Your Physical Health
Your physical health affects your mental and emotional health in many ways. Exercise, especially walking, is a proven strategy for lifting moods. Diets high in junk food and low in nutrition are a recipe for feeling lousy, so focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle during this time.
Strategy Five: Practice Relaxation Exercises
Relaxation practices give the brain and body a much needed break from stress. A few simple practices include breathing exercises, walking, yoga, and meditation.
Strategy Six: Reach out For Social Support
Don’t be afraid to ask for extra emotional support from friends, family and loved ones during this time. Support groups, such as those through the Facial Paralysis & Bell’s Palsy Foundation, the Acoustic Neuroma Association, or other online groups, can help you connect with others who share many of the same experiences that you are going through.
Strategy Seven: Get Professional Help
If you need help beyond self help or support groups, then do not hesitate to seek out a qualified therapist. Seeing a trained therapist during a time of great challenge can provide you with a sounding board for the many emotions and decisions that you are facing.
Find more of Kate’s tips on coping with facial paralysis at her acoustic neuroma website, www.aneuromacope.com. Find more of her tips on coping with anxiety and depression, and articles on cognitive behavioral and relaxation techniques, at www.2bstressfree.com.
Kate Boswell MFT is a therapist in Marina del Rey, Ca. She helps people through depression, anxiety, and stressful life challenges. She has had personal experience with facial paralysis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (310) 658-3158.