Stress is a leading cause in tension-type headaches and is inevitable in our daily lives. Although some stress can be positive, too much can cause a negative physical impact on our bodies as well as our brains.
Stress is one of the most common triggers of and is often associated with tension headache. Symptoms of a tension headache include contracting muscles between the neck and the head, a tightening band-like sensation around the neck and/or head which is a “vice-like” ache, and pain in the forehead, temples or the back on head and/or neck. Chronic stress can trigger daily tension-type headaches. According to NHF statistics, approximately 78% of adults experience a tension-type headache at some point in their lives.
But stress is not limited to causing tension headaches. Because migraineurs are considered to be highly responsive to emotions, they react quickly to emotional stress. During these events of emotional stress, chemicals are released in the brain to generate the vascular changes that cause migraines. Considered to be more than “just a bad headache,” migraines inhibit the lives of approximately 29.5 million Americans.
Although it cannot be completely avoided, there are ways to cope with stress and avoid tension headaches. The National Headache Foundation offers the following advice to help relief stress and avoid headaches:
- Prepare for the morning the evening before. Set the breakfast table, make lunches, put out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.
- Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up the laundry, when library books are due, etc. (“The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.” -– Old Chinese Proverb)
- Eliminate (or restrict) the amount of caffeine in your diet.
- Get enough sleep. If necessary, use an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.
- Create order out of chaos. Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are. Put things away where they belong and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things.
- Every day, do something you really enjoy.
- Try the following yoga technique whenever you feel the need to relax. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then, with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth to the count of 16, or for as long as you can. Concentrate on the long sighing sound and feel the tension dissolve. Repeat 10 times.
- Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
- Have an optimistic view of the world. Believe that most people are doing the best they can.