Often, when we have a headache, we are told that it’s due to stress. Surprisingly, it is true in most cases, although people suggesting it may not know the scientific reason behind it. They may not even know what stress actually means.
What is stress?
Stress is commonly used to describe all kinds of negative moods, feelings and emotions. From mild worry to depression, we blame it all on stress. People perceive stress to be a psychological matter and, at times, even imaginary.
However, in reality, stress is a term which can be explained as a threat of possible harm in the near future. This harm can be instant like a near miss accident or the chronic condition of your loved one.
Stress is a very real thing but the causes of stress are different for everyone. For some, a change in weather can lead to nasal allergies and that is stress for them. However, for someone else on the other hand, cooler weather can be pleasant and nothing close to stressful.
Stress and headaches
The most common type of headaches are actually caused due to stress. Stress or tension headaches can lead to other types of headaches as well. A major life event like the birth of your baby may cause exhaustion but not headaches. Stress headaches are caused more due to daily irritants such as traffic jams, not being able to find your wallet, petty fights, etc.
Stress headaches cause a dull pain, tightness or pressure in your back, neck or forehead. They are called episodic if they happen 15 days per month and chronic if they occur more than 15 days in a month. There is no timeline for such headaches as they can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days. The pain caused by a headache is always there but it does not cause any vision or balance problems, hence, one can continue with his/her daily activities conveniently.
People respond to such headaches by tensing their muscles and stiffening their shoulders; both of which causes headaches to exacerbate. Stress headaches are so common in USA that it is believed that 80% of the population gets them now and then.
How to deal with Stress and Headaches
Stress headaches are definitely not healthy. Moreover, they are also annoying as they may happen due to even the pettiest of issues. Now the question is; what can be done to reduce or eliminate them from your life?
The simple answer would be to stop taking stress. However, that’s easier said than done, although that is the most logical and effective solution. Luckily, there are some other tips too that can help you keep stress and headaches at bay;
- Timely sleep
Importance of a proper sleep schedule for you and your body cannot be emphasized enough. Going to bed early and waking up after 7-8 hours keeps you energized and reduces the body’s stress response. In fact, proper sleep also prevents stress in the first place.
Hence, try to make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Follow a particular sleep pattern throughout the week.
- Stay fit
Exercising for as little as 20 minutes a day can keep stress hormones in check and boost your level of endorphins, otherwise known as ‘happy hormones’. Endorphins boost your mood and energy and immediately lowers stress levels.
Cardio, i.e. getting the heart rate up should be an important part of your exercise regimen too. Try to do cardio three times a week with some other forms of moderate exercises for the remaining days of the week.
- Healthy eating
They weren’t wrong when they said we are what we eat. A diet high in fat, carbs and processed foods will just make you feel bloated and lethargic. Alternatively, a diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and fibers will give you the daily required boost that will keep you lean and strong as well as boost your brain power.
As a rule of thumb, never miss breakfast. Albeit in a rush, always take something nutritious and filling for breakfast. Hunger often triggers headaches and you don’t want the start of your day with a missed meal and a subsequent headache.
Also, drink plenty water during the day and avoid high consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Dehydration can also cause headaches.
- Try relaxation techniques
With our tight schedules, we hardly get time to do some breathing exercises to relax ourselves. But if you find even that a daunting task, then the least you can do is simply breathe in the smell of early morning, or listen to the birds chirping or just think some positive thoughts.
Breathing deeply and calmly uplifts your mood and relaxes your entire body. Similarly, for some, yoga, meditation or even cooking can be great relaxing techniques.
- Call time-out
Is there too much going on in your life? Stressful job, a second baby or simply too much workload in the past few weeks? Well just take a time-out. Get a break from your strenuous schedule and go see a light movie in the cinema, or take a trip out-of-town for the weekend or perhaps take a 2-week vacation. Whatever your pocket and time allows, take the plunge to smooth out the ruffles in your tiring routine.
- Build relationships
Spending time with family and friends makes you feel happier and lowers stress. Similarly, spending time for community or volunteer work may make you feel happy from inside. It, undoubtedly, makes you feel good about yourself and uplifts your mood when you do something to positively affect the lives of even a handful of people.
- Good posture
A good posture helps relax the body. Hence, make sure not to slouch. Stand straight and keep the computer screen at your eye level when you use it.
- Adopt a positive attitude
If you stay happy and positive, factors which trigger stress headaches will not affect you as much as they usually do. For instance, an optimistic person might stop finding traffic jams irritating. He will instead start using this time to listen to songs on the radio, listen to an audio book or just observe his surroundings.
We agree that our busy lifestyle doesn’t allow us to conveniently incorporate positive changes in our life but remember nothing is more important than your well-being and health. Therefore, go little by little and take one thing at a time. You will soon start changing yourself for the better.
Remember that excessive worrying, feeling low continuously and staying under perpetual stress can cause serious illnesses such as dementia. However, if you feel that you or a loved one are going through stress, or are having difficulty concentrating, we suggest you take the online sage test via Brain Test to determine the quality of your mental health.