Does stress cause migraines?
The short answer is NO.
First of all it is a common myth that migraines are caused by stress. Although a myth, this doesn’t mean that stress is not connected to your migraines though. According to research, rather than stress being the trigger of migraine headaches, it’s usually the let down of the stress that can trigger a migraine.
What does this mean? I’ll give you an example, if you have sensitivity to light during a migraine, what has actually happened? While the light hasn’t changed but the way that your brain perceives the light has. Similarly this same process happens with stress. Often the way that our brains processes and perceives stress changes during a migraine. That is why sometimes it may seem that stress affects you negatively but other times you may be fine while dealing with the same kind of stress.
So how can you deal with stress?
Here are a few suggestions:
- First try to stick to routines. Our migraine brains like routines especially when it comes to the basics like sleeping, eating and exercise.
- Try breathing exercises. Although this sounds cliché but controlled breathing can really help to relax yourself. Try a method called “box breathing”. Here’s a quick video showing how to do it.
- Take a look at your relationships. Are there relationships or situations that are toxic and need changing or avoiding?
- Give progressive relaxation a try. You can get a free audio here.
- Get out in nature. Reconnect with nature by going for a walk on the beach, in the woods, at a park, in the mountains, etc.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress and its effects on the body. Even though exercise can be tricky for migrainers finding a gentle form of exercise like stretching or even taking a walk can give you the same effects. Try to exercise 20-30 minutes a day.
- Get rid of toxins. Clean up your environment by removing toxins from your food, beauty and household products. Look for natural makeup and cleaning products. Try to eat organic and hormone-free as much as possible. Filter your water and avoid plastic containers.
- Try essential oils. Some may be sensitive to essential oils but many migrainers have found them to be very helpful in managing not only stress but their migraines as well. Here are a few oils known to help:
. Vetiver- Better Essentials Aromatherapy – Vetiver Essential Oil (Vetiveria
. Lavender- Better Essentials Aromatherapy – Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula
. Peppermint- Dr. Mercola Aromatherapy – Organic Peppermint Essential Oil – 1 fl. oz
. Frankincense- Via Nature Aromatherapy – Essential Oil Frankincense – 1 fl. oz (30
- Listen to calming music. Just relax, close your eyes, and listen! Binaural music can also be a great way to relax.
- Get a massage.
- Sit in a hot tub or visit a spa.
- Try acupuncture.
- Hot bath or shower can also be relaxing after a stressful event.
- Change your environment. If you are at work, take a break and get out of the office. If at home, go outside.
- Drink tea. Teas like chamomile, holy basil, lavender, and valerian root tea are all known to be very calming.
- Play with your pet.
- Give journaling a try. Keep a gratitude journal to help you remember your good days and how far you’ve come. In fact any writing can be a great way to relax.
- Connect with good friends or family. Try to just get away from your illness and connect with others and the world around you. Have some fun!
- Educate yourself. The more you know about your condition, the less anxiety it will cause. It will give you more confidence and a feeling of control over your illness. Check out these two great resources: The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) and Heal Your Body.
- Start a hobby or make time for one. We are all busy but even a short period of doing something you love regularly can be a big relief to stress.
- Try an app like Calm or Headspace.
Have you tried any of these ideas? What helps you deal with stress? How has it helped your migraines? Get your list of stress-busting ideas
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