by Esther Young, D.O., Beaumont neurologist
The holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxed, so why do so many people complain of increased headaches? Although the actual holidays can be joyous, preparing for them can take a toll on a lot of people. The planning and organizing, shopping and buying, cleaning and preparing, can take a lot out of you.
The stress can cause an increase in muscle tension. Headaches have many triggers. Some of the most common can be lack of sleep and increased stress. All headache types can trigger each other. It is not uncommon for increased neck muscle tension to trigger a migraine. If we realize these simple triggers and can better prepare for them, we may be able to prevent the headaches in the first place.
Since preparing for the holidays takes time, being one step ahead of the game may eliminate some the tension. Try these tips to avoid holiday-associated headaches:
- Plan on shopping and doing some of the errands well in advance. Try not to leave everything until the last minute.
- If there are ways to eliminate some of the stressors, do it!
- Remember to take time out for yourself.
- At the end of a stressful day, use heat to your neck and soak your aching muscles.
- Try to stick with consistent sleep patterns. Regular sleep patterns and exercise are great stress relievers and will help to eliminate muscle tension.
- Exercise and let some of the aggression out before it builds in knots in your neck and back.
- Make sure that you are eating regular meals.
- Continue with your regular medicines, especially medicines that you may take to prevent headaches. Monitor if you are taking too many over the counter pain relievers or migraine medications. (Ideally you should only be taking these meds less than once a week to abort a headache. Overuse of these medicines can trigger rebound headaches.)
- When standing in line too long at a store, remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Monitor the amount of caffeine that you are taking in. Make sure that it isn’t in excess.
- Monitor your alcohol intake since this can be a common trigger for migraines.
The holiday season is short and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t expect too much of yourself or others. Set realistic goals for what you expect out of the holidays. Life isn’t perfect and be willing to adjust to the situation.
Remember the true meaning of holidays and what is important is being with others and celebrating. Don’t sweat the small stuff and the tension won’t mount up and leave you with increasing headaches. Happy headache-free holidays to everyone!