Most of us are in a desperate need of a holiday, especially after such a particular 2020. But as much as we’d like to relax, enjoy and recharge our batteries, sometimes spending time at home with our loved ones can also be stressful and trigger a terrible headache that just won’t go away. A change in our regular daily routine, staying up late, eating and drinking too much and even adapting to the needs and wants of others disrupt our routine and can have effects on our health, especially in midlife.
CrunchyTales put together some tips by experts on how to avoid a holiday headache and get through the festivities merrily and healthily.
Why do we get headaches?
“Hеаdасhеѕ can bе triggered by vаriеtу оf factors. Thе mоѕt common cause оf headaches iѕ prolonged tеnѕiоn оr ѕtrеѕѕ. Thеѕе are саllеd tеnѕiоn hеаdасhеѕ оr muѕсlе-соntrасtiоn headaches”, writes Anass Ahmed Ali in his book ‘Headache Cure: Heal your Headaches and Migraines with Proven Treatments and cures’. Headaches can be a result of a simple cold or other more severe illnesses, stress, too much alcohol, bad posture, eyesight and dental issues, dehydration as well as low blood sugar, only to mention a few. The Mayo Clinic lists five different types of primary headaches that are caused by lifestyle factors and can in most cases be cured by rather simple changes in our daily routine and a pain-killer. Secondary headaches, instead, are symptoms of a host of diseases that activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.
How to reduce headaches
Headaches happen. The good news is there are several simple things you can do to ease the pain without a trip to the doctor. The following tips can ease the pain of primary headaches that are typical of a stressful period such as the holidays.
Maintain a regular sleeping schedule
The US National Headache Foundation recommends not altering your sleep routine, but rather getting enough sleep, even during the holiday period. The necessary amount of sleep can be very different for each individual: some of us manage with 6-7 hours where others need a full 9-10 hours to be able to function properly. A general rule is to avoid pulling all-nighters and watching movies or playing games until dawn. At New Year’s Eve, make sure you can sleep in in the morning. Equip yourself with earplugs and a sleeping mask for your eyes if you have problems with excess light or sounds during the night or in the morning.
Eat well and don’t overdo alcohol
It is important to keep our blood sugar levels constant and make sure we get enough fibres that help regulate the levels to avoid both highs and lows. Eating huge, sumptuous meals and then skipping the following ones because of poor digestion is going to make your level bounce up and down. So make sure to follow your regular eating rhythm with three main meals and a few healthy snacks such as nuts and fruits per day. According to The Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute, tyramine-rich foods such as ripened cheese, chocolate, and processed meats can trigger headaches and should be eaten with moderation. It is also useful to monitor your caffeine intake by limiting the total amount of colas, coffee, and tea. Alcohol naturally affects brain chemistry, which plays a huge role in headaches. If you are headache-prone, avoid beers because of the yeast and other ingredients that might be activators.
Drink enough water
Inadequate hydration can cause severe headaches. The human body needs lots of water for many of its regular functions, especially when we eat salty foods and drink alcoholic beverages. So make sure to drink plenty of plain water and remember that you can hydrate your body also with water-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables – cucumber, celery, tomatoes and cabbage to name a few – as well as broths.
Go out for a brisk walk
If your head feels heavy, head out for a brisk walk. Getting some fresh air, moving your legs and your arms – try some walking poles, if possible – will get your blood circulation going again and often that can be enough to make a headache go away. If you are an active person, your body will need the physical stimulus even during the holidays. Take your furry friends for a long walk and if you don’t have a dog of your own, offer to take your neighbour’s pet – they will most likely be delighted!
Do a gentle neck massage
You can attempt to ease possible tension in your neck area massaging gently your neck as well as your temples and jaw. This can be done with very subtle, soft movements, using some aromatic oil. If you suffer from migraines or other more severe and regular headaches, you should be very careful about massages and only accept them from professionals.
Dim the lights, turn down the volume and watch those perfumes
Headaches often accentuate all of our senses and we tend to taste, smell, hear and see everything more intensely. Strong and bright lights disturb and worsen the pain, so it is better to dim the lamps. The same can happen with loud sounds as well as strong perfumes. If possible, avoid all sensory stimulus that can trigger a holiday headache.
Update your glasses
Using outdated glasses or not wearing them at all when necessary can tire your eyes and cause a headache. If your eyes feel tired or you need to strain them to be able to read or work on the computer, go to the optics for a check. Wearing new glasses can also initially cause a mild headache, but it should pass in a few days, according to neurologist Juha-Pekka Erälinna. If it doesn’t we should return to the eye-doctor who prescribed them.
Ask Santa for a new, better cushion
Another important factor to avoid headaches could be the type of cushion we use while sleeping. Our head, shoulders and spine should be perfectly aligned which means the cushion should not be too high. If you tend to sleep on your side rather than your back, the cushion should be slightly higher. Asking Santa for a new, adapt cushion can turn out to the best holiday idea ever!
Meditate and chill out
Stress headaches naturally ease if and when we manage to relax totally. So this holiday period, do your best to avoid stressing over stupid details. Enjoy the time with your loved ones without picking fights and try inserting a meditation cycle into your daily routine: it can do wonders!