I probably won’t be telling you anything you don’t already know here, but you may be surprised when you see it all together in one spot. So first, let’s start with the obvious: Your Job is (probably) Giving You a Headache. At least some of the time.
If you’re like most people, there are many people at your job who are capable of giving you a real doozy of a headache. It could be that just thinking about your boss can give you a headache because you’re boss is: a micromanager, a tyrant, a control-freak, a jerk, generally unpleasable, arrogant, a liar, idea-stealing, pettty, etc. Whereas some people have a lazy, arrogant, lying, idea-stealing, petty, gossipy, or sabotaging coworker to blame for some of their headaches. Still others are pain-bound by the customers and clients who have unrealistic expectations, always insist on a discount, insist on free-upgrades, or seem to believe that they are in fact the only person you do business with and that you therefore live to serve them. Perhaps the client is giving your boss a headache which s/he then passes on to you; you know what they say about things rolling downhill. It can be a devastating cycle. What you may not realize is that there is something you can do to minimize the headaches these people give you and I’ll be elaborating on what you can do about this in next week’s blog.
Maybe you don’t have any issues with the people you work with. Perhaps your headaches are due to your workload. Maybe you’re overworked. Layoffs/attrition without a corresponding drop in work load equals more work and more headaches for those of you who remain. Likewise, if your company is growing in prosperity but has a static workforce, the increased workload will very quickly add stress and headaches to your workday. Maybe you are scheduled for mandatory overtime, feel there are unrealistic deadlines, or have had your hours cut; all major headache inducers. Next week, I’ll address some coping strategies for this (aka headache prevention).
The environment you work in can also be a major cause of headaches. Fluorescent lights are popular in many offices because they are more energy efficient than incandescents and their length means they have the ability to light larger areas with a single bulb. The problem is this: they flicker and this strains your eyes. Compact fluorescents also flicker, although much less. (There is a lot of debate out there on whether either of these type bulbs actually cause headaches. What I have seen in my practice is that my clients who have chronic headaches are more sensitive to light, including fluorescent light of any type, and are therefore more susceptible to headaches from any lighting source.) Other common lighting issues that strain your eyes are overly bright lights in your work area or a work area that is too dimly lit. If you’re lucky enough to have your own office, you may be able to bring in a desk lamp with led or halogen bulbs and turn off the overhead fluorescents. If you have a shared workspace, such as cubicles, you probably won’t have that option but you may be able to make small changes to your workspace to minimize glare; this includes all those wonderful technologies that can also strain your eyes such as PCs, laptops, ipads/tablets, blackberries, and the like. Check out this interesting article for lots of suggestions on how to reduce eye strain at work. Please note that it was written in 2007, so you can pretty much ignore the references to CRT monitors; everything else is still applicable (and all in one place, which is why I chose this particular article).
Finally, ergonomics and body posture can also play a big role in tension headaches. You need to have a good desk chair; one that will support your low back and your midback comfortably and most importantly, in the right spot. Those of you who are really tall or really short know exactly what I’m talking about – at 5’2″, rarely is an “ergonomic” desk chair ergonomic for me because the inward lumbar curve continues past my low back and the outward thoracic curve starts way too high. While sitting at your desk, your feet should be able to lay flat on the floor. If you’re short, adjust your seat height for your desk and put a stool or phone book(s) under your feet if necessary. If you use a computer, you should be looking straight ahead to read the screen and your shoulders should be in a neutral position to use the keyboard (i.e. no slumping or raising of the shoulders). You should also be sitting up straight, without being rigid. This means bringing your chair in toward your desk so that you aren’t leaning forward, but neither should you be so relaxed that you’re slouching. Both postures will strain the hips which can cause a headache. If your company has an ergonomic expert, make sure you take advantage of their services.
If you would like to help those with chronic headaches and migraines you can sign the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy petition.
If you have chronic migraines, I urge you to check out Fly With Hope blog. Kelly is a Migraineur who blogs about her life with chronic migraines. She offers hope & advice and is a great example of how you can make the most of a life plagued by constant pain.