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Lower Daily Stress to Reduce Migraine Frequency

Consider these statistics:

  • Migraine pain and symptoms affect 29.5 million Americans, and approximately 75% of these people are women. Women report more painful and longer-lasting headaches and more symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Migraines are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 45, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
  • Stress is a trigger for migraines in almost 70% of people, reports the American Migraine Foundation. One study found that 50-70% of people “had a significant association between their daily stress level and their daily migraine activity.”

Women between the ages of 20 and 45 are more likely to be juggling a career, finances, children, elderly parents, and social obligations. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the constant stressors of daily life would provide numerous opportunities for a migraine-triggering event to occur.

While you might think major life stressors such as getting married, giving birth, or moving to a new home would cause migraine headaches, the American Migraine Foundation explains it’s the everyday stresses that cause the most headaches.

And what happens when the workweek or school week is over and a relaxing Saturday morning arrives? You might get hit with a “let-down” migraine as your stress levels lower abruptly.

Keeping Your Migraine Brain Stable

The migraine brain is complicated. Researchers have found “patients with migraine have brains that not only function differently but may actually look different structurally as well."

Migraine brains are very vulnerable to change, such as stress and erratic sleep habits. One of the best preventative measures people prone to migraines can take is to reduce daily stress as much as possible.

Cut Down On or Eliminate Recurring Stressors

Self-awareness and self-assertion can be very important components of a stress-reduction program. Try these steps:

1. Take a personal inventory to figure out what causes you to feel stressed. Be 100% honest with yourself. No one needs to see your list.  

  • Are you doing more than your share at work or home?
  • Is there anything getting in the way of your sleep routine?
  • Is the commute to work stressful when you’re behind the wheel?
  • Are you prone to over scheduling yourself?

2. Make your priorities clear. Write them down in two lists: “Life” and “Now.” What are the most important things on your list? What can you eliminate?

3. Based on what you’ve discovered in steps 1 and 2, make a commitment to scheduling your time defensively. Focus on the things you’ve listed as “now” priorities, and say “no, thank you” to invitations, obligations, and relationships that are lower on your list.

4. Schedule yourself into your own life. Block out an hour, or however long you need, every day for personal downtime, and protect that commitment to yourself. Treat it as if it were a medical or dental appointment.

Cope Effectively with Unavoidable Stress

After letting the nonessentials in your schedule go, adopt life-affirming strategies that will make it easier to cope with the stressors you can’t avoid.

1. Make eating healthy a daily priority. Blood sugar issues and a poor diet are set-ups for a migraine. The American Migraine Foundation suggests eating five small meals a day and always pairing a carbohydrate with a protein or a good fat to stay full longer. Avoid your common food and beverage triggers, such as coffee, alcohol, aged cheeses, and chocolate.

2. Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily. A brisk walk is doable and sufficient.

3. Consider implementing relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and biofeedback.

4. Get enough sleep. Research has shown that changes or disruptions in your sleep-wake circadian rhythm could be causing migraines. Adhere to a consistent bedtime and wake time, even on weekends. Educate yourself on the elements of good sleep hygiene.

Dealing with the stress of a migraine is enough. Start taking small steps right now to eliminate outside factors that add unnecessary stress to your daily life. At the same time, be more vigilant about adopting healthy lifestyle habits that fortify you against migraine attacks.

For more information on The Will Erwin Headache Research Center click here.

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