Nearly 25% of Americans have debilitating headaches that disrupt their lives, taking time away from work, family, and hobbies. You may have tried every pill and test available, yet still, lose time to pain. If that sounds familiar, you may want to consider making these five lifestyle changes to limit the frequency of your headaches.
There are many types of headaches, but migraines are arguably the worst. Following these tips may help with other types of headaches, but they’ve been studied most extensively in the context of migraines.
Set a schedule — and stick to it
When you have a headache, it’s partly because you’re genetically inclined to headaches, and partly because you’ve been exposed to something that triggers your headaches. Many people who have headaches share common triggers, and there are a few ways to identify what yours are. Following a schedule may help you learn more about what triggers your pain, as well as help you have fewer headaches overall.
You may find that setting a strict routine for your life helps. Wake up at the same time each morning, even on the weekends, eat your meals at the same times each day, and go to bed at the same time each evening. Going further, schedule your exercise and other self-care routines for the same times each day.
Your headaches may be triggered by getting too little or too much sleep, so regulating your sleep patterns may help you avoid that trigger. You may have headaches when you’re hungry, and scheduling your meals will help you avoid hunger. Stress may be a trigger, and a regular schedule often decreases stress because you know what to expect.
Maintain a headache diary
By tracking your activities for a few weeks, you may be able to identify your triggers. Keeping a headache diary that includes what you eat, when you sleep, and your activities each day may reveal patterns. Perhaps you have a migraine a few hours after having a glass of wine but never noticed before. Maybe you’ll find that each time you clean the bathroom, you have a migraine; strong chemical scents are common triggers.
Identifying the cause of your headaches is a critical step in avoiding them. Keeping such close track of your days may seem tedious, but if it helps you to prevent headaches, it’s well worth the time and effort.
You don’t need to become a world-class athlete, but doing some kind of activity for about 30 minutes 3-5 days each week may help limit the frequency of your headaches. You may need to build up to that slowly. It’s fine to start with 5-10 minutes of activity and work your way up to a longer session.
Scientists are still studying how exercise limits headache pain, but it may be that it improves the quality of your sleep, reduces overall tension, or that it improves your circulation. Regular exercise is a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, and if it also means less pain, all the better!
Generally, it’s a good idea to perform low-impact exercises, such as walking, biking, or swimming. Finding an activity that you enjoy is important because if you don’t like it, you’re far less likely to do it.
Lower your stress level
It’s much easier to talk about reducing your stress level than it is to actually do it. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and exercising regularly are all likely to help you feel less stressed, but you may find that you need to do more.
Your life is unique, and the things that create stress for you are probably different than they are for your neighbor or co-worker. The same is true of lowering your stress levels. Some commonly helpful strategies include:
- Reducing the number of commitments in your life
- Practicing yoga, which has the added benefit of movement
- Meditation using apps, classes, or simply focusing on yourself for a few minutes each day
- Setting aside time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading or participating in a hobby
- Scheduling time with loved ones
Pay special attention to your diet
Certain foods are common triggers, including:
- Cured meats
- Aged cheeses
- Some food additives
Avoiding potential food triggers is important, but you may find that balancing your diet overall reduces the number of headaches you have. Aim for a healthy mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats by consuming lots of vegetables and fruits, lean meats or beans, and healthy oils and nuts.
You may want to discuss your diet with your doctor as you work toward having fewer headaches. You may need to experiment with cutting out particular foods, such as sugar or dairy. It’s always a good idea to have the input of a medical professional when you embark on a dietary overhaul.
If headaches are interfering with your life, consult the professionals at Katy ER. Call to make an appointment, book one online, or come in when an emergency dictates. They’ll be able to guide you toward resources that may be useful, as well as evaluate your situation and make suggestions.