It’s no secret that migraines can seriously affect your day-to-day life. They reduce productivity levels, affect your social calendar, and get in the way of precious time spent with family and friends. So it’s important to know that there are many parts of your lifestyle that play a significant role in preventing the recurrence and seriousness of headaches, regardless of whether it’s a cluster headache, a tension headache, or a migraine.
In addition to the medication and treatment you might be receiving for your condition, it could certainly pay to take on board these lifestyle tips to keep your headaches at bay:
Many foods and drinks, such as chocolate, alcohol, and aged cheese, can act as triggers for a headache or migraine. Take note of what these foods are and try to avoid them (a food journal will help here), while also consuming plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. Your body is better equipped to combat this condition when it’s fuelled correctly.
And it’s not just about what you eat either. Having regularly timed, nutritious meals is important, as skipping meals increases the risk of a migraine attack.
For the average non-migraine sufferer, sleep is absolutely integral to staying as healthy as possible. So for someone that regularly experiences headaches or migraines, it’s even more important to help avert or minimize an oncoming attack. Poor sleep tendencies, sleep deprivation, or excessive sleeping can cause a tension headache or migraine.
Sleep strengthens your immune system, helps to avert anxiety and depression, and promotes sound relaxation. Getting between 7-9 hours sleep each night (ideally 8 or over) should be non-negotiable for headache sufferers, and making sure you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help hugely with this. In addition to this, sleep scientist Matthew Walker advises limiting screen time before bed, keeping your bedroom cool, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine to help you get a good night of quality sleep.
Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood-boosters, so it makes sense for headache sufferers to make sure they’re getting their heart rate up on a regular basis. It also reduces stress and aids restful sleep — a lack of which can be migraine triggers.
A study published in 2011 found that exercise, relaxation exercises, and the use of topiramate all produced the same reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks, with researchers concluding that exercise can be an option for preventing migraines in the absence of medicines.
In order to minimize the chance of exercise triggering a migraine, make sure to warm up with stretching and gentle movements, stay hydrated throughout your workout, and eat balanced meals before and after exercising.
Posture is a factor that many might not consider to be a trigger of headaches and migraines, but slouching your neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles can cause tension, head and neck sprains, and shoulder muscle pulls — which could all contribute to an attack. Poor posture can result from a sedentary lifestyle, including sitting in front of a computer or looking down at your phone for extended periods of time. These activities change the curve of the spine and add pressure to the brainstem and nervous system.
So, it’d certainly help to relax back and neck muscles throughout the day through stretching, moving your head side-to-side, and aerobic activity. In order to improve your posture while sat working on a computer, make sure that the monitor is kept at eye level, your kept at least a foot-and-a-half from the screen, your shoulders are held back and relaxed, with your elbows at your side and forearm parallel to the floor. It’ll also pay to use a chair that supports your spinal curve, and allows you to sit with your feet flat on the floor.
This one should come as no surprise. It’s not at all uncommon for headache and migraine attacks to come on because of stress and anxiety, so it’s important to know how to deal with stress when you feel it arising. A reduction in stress levels can drastically decrease the recurrence and severity of migraines and headaches.
Reading a book or taking a bath is often not enough for most people to attack the stress in their lives. You can make more conscious, lasting changes to your stress levels by practicing yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. In addition to these, stress can be curbed by simplifying your life – it’s OK to not complete every task on your list, or say no to something you don’t have the capacity to do. Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed, and seek support from family or friends. Along with a balanced diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep, you can reduce stress and subsequently the risk of a headache or migraine.
Engaging in a healthy and low-stress lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to keep headaches and migraines at bay. By cutting out these triggers and incorporating the suggested healthy habits into your daily routine, you can actively lessen the severity and frequency of headache and migraine attacks.