No one likes a headache and I know you’re no different. Those of us who work in the complementary health field are quick with the list of headache remedies (including our own services, of course) but not so fast with the prevention tips – unless we’re admonishing you for some ergonomic or dietary crime.
Well, let me break that mold. Oh, wait… my 1st blog post of this year was on headache remedies. Oops! But I had to start somewhere, didn’t I?
When it comes to prevention, the best generic strategy is to find your triggers and avoid them. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. So, I’m going to go through a few of the most common triggers, some of which might surprise you. I’ll also share how you can sometimes prevent headaches without having to avoid that particular trigger (some of that might surprise you, too).
I’ll start with the old standby: Food allergies and sensitivities. Both can give you a migraine if you consume the food you’re allergic or sensitive to. You know what an allergy is and how to get it tested at your doctor’s office, but what is a food sensitivity? Well, put simply, it’s like an allergy but not quite strong enough to show up in traditional allergy testing. A NAET practitioner can test you for sensitivities and allergies and work with you to eliminate them. (No, I’m not a NAET practitioner, I’ve just seen it work too many times to not mention it here.) Prevention tip: Either eliminate the offending food(s) from your diet or eliminate the allergy.
Now we move on to: The beverages you do (or don’t) consume. The big three are alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and water. Let’s look at them quickly one by one. 1. Alcohol generally causes headaches for one of two reasons: it has a dehydrating effect on the body, and it causes the blood vessels to dilate which leads to a flushing of the skin &/or a pounding sensation in the brain. 2. Caffeine itself doesn’t usually cause headaches, per se. It’s the body’s dependence on, and withdrawal from, caffeine that causes the headache. We call them rebound headaches. Coffee, cola, black tea, energy drinks, chocolate, and many over the counter pain relievers and stimulants are the biggest sources of caffeine. 3. Water is the good guy. I know, everyone’s telling you to drink more water, to drink half your weight in water daily, to never drink anything but water, to only drink pure mountain spring water that’s been triple filtered, etc. I’m not going to give you “dietary advice” but I will tell you how water relates to headaches. When the muscles aren’t hydrated enough, they hurt; including the muscles in your head. If drinking a glass of water makes your headache go away, it was a dehydration headache. Prevention tip: Minimize the amount of alcohol & caffeine you consume (hint: you can very gradually reduce the amount of caffeine you consume to avoid a rebound headache) , and make sure you get enough water to prevent dehydration headaches – this amount is different for everyone, you’ll have experiment to see how much your body needs.
We can’t move onto the content I teased you with in the last blog without talking about posture. The two biggies to watch for are what you do with your hips and what you do with your head & neck.
Go ahead and hate me, but mama was right… no slouching. It can cause your pelvis to tip which puts strain on the low back and can cause a chain of strain all the way up to your head. Same goes for leaning forward. Prevention tip: Pull your chair up to your desk and sit up straight. If your sofa is too deep-seated for you – place a pillow behind your back to keep you from slouching.
As for your neck, neutral is best. This means that spending long hours looking down at your laptop, tablet, or other mobile device is a major headache inducer. So is craning your neck forward when you’re on your desktop computer, watching TV, or playing video games. Prevention tip: Place computers and other devices at a neutral height, to minimize the neck strain that leads to head pain. If that’s not possible, take short but frequent breaks to look up toward the ceiling and give those muscles a break.
And now… the content I promised to deliver in this week’s post: How you can minimize or prevent headaches that you get from your tyrannical boss or crazy coworkers. I’ll bet you’ve been wondering what the magic tip(s) may be, haven’t you? But I’ll also be willing to bet it’s not what you imagined (especially if you imagined anything involving valium, margaritas, firearms, blunt objects, poison, or the witness protection program).
It is simply this: Change your expectations, and change your behavior &/or response(s). Let me explain. That old maxim about not being able to change anyone but yourself… totally true. You aren’t going to change your tyrannical, micromanaging boss or your crazy, sabotaging coworker, and without some drastic event it’s unlikely that either one is going to change themselves. People, as a general rule, are not going to change their personality just because you (or the whole office) don’t like them. You must remember that the things people say or do reveal more about them, than about you; in fact, it reveals everything about them and nothing about you. Think about it this way: Your tyrannical boss is probably equally horrible to everyone, right? (if you’re singled out, there might be some self-assessment that needs to take place, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog) And your crazy coworker is probably unreasonable towards most people. (if not… see note above)
The first step in preventing tension headaches and migraines in these situations is to change your expectations. Simply expect that they will behave the way they always have and that there’s nothing you can do about it. Now, this is WAY easier said than done; especially if any of their behavior is unethical or abusive. This step alone probably won’t prevent your headaches, but it should reduce the intensity &/or frequency of them.
The second step is to change your behavior &/or responses. We’ve established, however briefly, that the difficult people in your life aren’t going to change. That means it’s up to you to change the way you respond and behave when they start their “headache-inducing” behavior. Remember the old saying: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. It’s true. So how do you change that instantaneous urge to strangle… I mean, how do you change your response? Well, a full explanation would fill a book; in fact, it’s filled lots of books. I highly recommend The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, it’s an amazing book that has helped a lot of people deal with difficult people and situations. I also recommend checking out these authors: Byron Katie, Sylvia Boorstein, Pema Chodron, and Wayne Dyer.
Here are a a series of 10 stress management techniques to get you started: 1. Pause 2. Take a deep breath (or several) 3. Remind yourself that their words or behavior are a reflection of them, NOT you 4. Recognize when the other person is overreacting to a situation and choose to NOT join them – take another deep breath if needed 5. Make a conscious decision to NOT let this person have power over your emotions or health (anytime you stay upset over a situation for hours, this person still has control of your emotions) 6. Own any part you had in the situation, but do it in a concise manner such as “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. What can I do to make it better?”, “Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention”, or “I’m sorry, I misunderstood. It won’t happen again.” Sorry, thank you, making amends, and/or an assurance that it won’t happen again will often diffuse a situation all on their own 7. No if”s, and’s, or but’s – these just add fuel to the crazy fire and negate any apology or assurance you give 8. Make sure that any response you give is calm and measured – even if they yell, you need to stay level-headed and speak in your normal voice 9. Don’t dwell on the situation … take action when needed but then let it go. 10. Remember that sometimes two people are simply not compatible in any way. If this is your case, you may need to look for a different job. (If this is the case in ALL your jobs, well… remember that earlier note about self-assessment?)
So there you have it; a few headache prevention tips to get you started. If you have a headache prevention tip that works for you, please share it in the comments below.