The Most Wonderful Time of the Year … for Headaches

If you’re looking forward to spending the holidays with your loved ones, you might be concerned that a migraine or headache could pop up and ruin the festivities. There are ways to keep yourself healthy and happy throughout the holidays, though. Here are some simple steps to take to ensure that you don’t experience headaches or migraines during the holiday season.

Headaches and Stress

Stress is a common cause of headaches. When you feel stressed out, your body releases chemicals called “stress hormones” into your bloodstream. These stress hormones can trigger headaches in susceptible people. It’s important to learn how to manage your stress levels so that they do not affect your health negatively.

Stress can also cause you to clench your jaw. This causes tension in your neck, head and jaw muscles, leading to headaches, tooth damage and jaw pain. It can also lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), which can contribute to jaw pain and even loss of function of the jaw. So much for the most wonderful time of the year! 

Stress and the Holidays

The holidays are stressful for many reasons. The pressure to spend time with family members who may not always treat us well, the need to maintain a certain appearance and the expectation of having fun or creating fun can make anyone feel stressed out.

If you have a history of severe headaches or migraines, make sure to get plenty of rest before the holidays. Try to avoid caffeine as much as possible and steer clear of the alcohol at holiday gatherings. Avoiding these substances will help reduce the chances of getting headaches or migraines.

Migraine Headache Prevention Tips

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the holidays and start to feel a headache or migraine coming on, try taking these steps:

1. Eat well.

A balanced diet is key to keeping your body healthy. This includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. 

2. Stay hydrated.

Drink water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces every hour. If you weigh 150 pounds, that means drinking 75 ounces of water per day. Note, we also recommend that you limit your alcohol consumption during the holidays – we know, we know, that might sound tough, but too much holiday cheer can dehydrate you and exacerbate your headaches. 

3. Get enough sleep.

Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping, try using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to relax before bedtime. It can be hard to get enough sleep during the holidays if you’re busy baking cookies, shopping, and doing all that other holiday prep and partying, so make sure to set aside time to unwind and rest.

4. Exercise regularly.

Exercise helps maintain a healthy lifestyle by burning calories and improving cardiovascular health. Try walking, running, swimming, biking, dancing or any other form of exercise that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and your overall health when you work out. Many people skip working out during the holidays, but we recommend you stick to your healthy exercise routine to help you relax and avoid headaches. 

5. Avoid caffeine.

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, energy drinks and more. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and increases anxiety. While this stimulant is great for short bursts of energy, it can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can trigger head pain. We suggest limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages during the holidays to prevent headaches.

6. Keep an eye on your posture.

Poor posture can cause headaches. When you sit down, keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Sit up tall and don’t slouch. Use a chair that has armrests and supports your back properly. Poor posture can cause the muscles in your neck and back to become tense, causing you headaches. It can also cause shoulder pain, which can contribute to tension headaches. 

7. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening around you without judgment. Mindful living involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions. Practicing mindfulness can help you manage stress and reduce tension. Take deep breaths when you feel anxious. Deep breathing helps relax your mind and body.

8. Limit your screen time.

We all love social media, but overuse of technology can lead to increased stress levels and headaches. Make sure to take breaks from screens to recharge your batteries. Turn off your phone and computer and spend some quality time with family and friends this season. 

9. Schedule an appointment.

If you suffer from migraines, schedule an appointment with your doctor or let us know your symptoms. If your headaches are accompanied by the signs of teeth clenching, including neck pain, tooth pain, tooth damage or worn enamel, call us to schedule a consultation. Other signs to look for are pain in your jaw joints, clicking or snapping when your jaw is in use, or lack of jaw function.