Do You Struggle With Stress Headaches?

Has this ever happened to you? You get worried about something, life takes you by surprise, stress builds up, and you can feel it in your temples or behind your eyes. The tension in your head builds up to a headache that may even take you our of commission for a while.

What do you do? You can implement lifestyle changes to lower your stress level (more on that later!) but sometimes you just need help in the moment, and that’s what these ideas are all about!

Give it some good press

• With a firm, circular motion, massage the web of skin between the base of your thumb and your forefinger. Continue massaging for several minutes, then switch hands and repeat until the pain resolves. Acupressure experts call this fleshy area trigger point LIG4 and maintain that it is linked to areas of the brain where headaches originate.

Heat up and cool down

• Believe it or not, soaking your feet in hot water will help your head feel better. By drawing blood to your feet, the hot-water footbath will ease pressure on the blood vessels in your head. For a really bad headache, add a bit of hot mustard powder to the water.

• For a tension headache, place a hot compress on your forehead or the back on your neck. The heat will help relax knotted-up muscles in this area.

• It might sound contradictory, but you can follow up the heat treatment (or substitute it) by applying a cold compress to your forehead. (Put a couple of ice cubes in a washcloth or use a bag of frozen vegetables.) Cold constricts blood vessels, and when they shrink, they stop pressing on sensitive nerves. Since headache pain sometimes originates in nerves in back of your neck, try moving the compress to the muscles at the base of your skull.

• Here’s an alternative to a cold compress: Soak your hands in ice water for as long as you can stand it. While your hands are submerged, repeatedly open and close your fists. This works on the same principle as an ice pack on your head’the cold narrows your dilated blood vessels.

Try the caffeine cure

• Have a cup of strong coffee. Caffeine reduces blood-vessel swelling, and thus can help relieve a headache. This is  why caffeine is an ingredient in some extra-strength painkillers like Excedrin. However, if you are already a heavy coffee drinker, skip this. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, creating a vicious cycle.

Do something constrictive

• Tie a bandanna, scarf, or necktie around your forehead, then tighten it just to the point where you can feel pressure all around your head. By reducing the flow of blood to your scalp, this can help relieve the pain caused by swollen blood vessels. You might try soaking the bandanna in vinegar, a traditional headache remedy.
– via Best Health Magazine Canada

The Best Cure Is A Little Prevention

Once you get your stress headache calmed down with the techniques above, it’s time to look at lifestyle changes to curb your stress coping mechanisms so hopefully these tension headaches don’t take you down so often.

  • Simplify your life. Rather than looking for ways to squeeze more activities or chores into the day, leave some things out. Ask yourself what really needs to be done, what can wait and what you need not do. It’s OK to say no.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a proven way to prevent — and sometimes treat — headaches. Exercise also provides a break from the stress of daily life. Be careful to warm up slowly. Sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.
  • Eat smart. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can give you more energy and help keep stress under control.
  • Get adequate sleep. Stress can interfere with sleep, but lack of sleep can hamper your ability to cope with stress. Lack of sleep puts your body under stress and may trigger the release of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Seek support. Talking things out with family or friends or allowing them to help you through a difficult time can help you manage stress. Talking to a therapist might help, as well.
  • Manage your time wisely. Update your to-do list every day — both at work and at home. Delegate what you can and break large projects into manageable chunks. Tackle the rest, one task at a time.
  • Be prepared. Organize your day. Anticipate challenges. Try to keep your plan flexible, in case a headache strikes and you need to change course.
  • Let go. Try not to worry about things you can’t control.
  • Adjust your attitude. If you find yourself thinking, “This can’t be done,” stop yourself. Think instead, “This will be tough. But I can make it work.” Putting a positive spin on negative thoughts can help you work through stressful situations. If you need help with this process, consider cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, take some time to clear your mind. A few slow stretches or a brisk walk may renew your energy for the task at hand. Or take a mental vacation by imagining yourself in a calm, relaxing place.
  • Laugh. Humor is a great way to relieve stress. Laughter releases endorphins, natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude. Don’t know what to laugh about? Try watching funny movies or reading a funny book.
  • Change the pace. Break away from your routine and try something new. A vacation or weekend getaway may help you develop a new outlook.
  • Break bad habits. If you smoke, quit. Cut down on caffeine and, if you drink alcohol, don’t overdo.

– via www.mayoclinic.org

Do you struggle with stress headaches? What’s the best cure you’ve found so far?