Even the most minor headache is an uncomfortable distraction but, at their most severe, headaches are debilitatingly painful, with nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to lights and sound. The most common type of headache is a tension headache, where a feeling of tightness and throbbing in the skull lasts for around 30 minutes. Tension headaches can be stressful because of the pain and disruption to your daily life. Problematically, stress is also likely to prolong and intensify your headache. However, there are ways to alleviate this.
Rest Your Eyes
Headaches usually increase sensitivity to light, so shutting your eyes and gently pressing the palms of your hands over your eyelids until you feel the intensity of your headache marginally decrease will provide temporary relief. This is particularly useful if you get a headache in an office environment, as the harsh glare of a computer screen can strain the eyes, intensifying headaches.
Gently massage the points of pain; rubbing the temples, forehead, or lower neck will help relax knotted muscles and relieve stress. It can also help take your mind off the headache.
In the comfort of your own home, placing a hot compress over the site of pain during a headache can relieve stress and pain. Soak a compress in warm water and add a drop of pain-relieving essential oils, such as passion flower or peppermint, which also have anxiety-relieving properties.
Drink an Herbal Tea
Drinking an herbal tea can help relieve the stress of tension headaches. The action of sipping is psychologically calming, and herbs such as peppermint and chamomile have natural stress-relieving properties to help you relax.
Headaches can often be caused by dehydration, so be sure to drink the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day - that's 1.6 liters - and sip cool water during a headache to help relieve stress.
It's a good idea to keep a handkerchief and stress-relieving essential oils to help relax you when a tension headache occurs. Put a drop of passionflower or peppermint oil into the handkerchief and inhale deeply to help reduce stress.
Concentrate on your breathing; it is very difficult to feel stressed or focus on pain when you are breathing deeply. Inhale for eight counts, hold for four counts, and exhale for eight counts until you feel calmer and the pain begins to subside.
While tension headaches are a painful distraction, understanding how to handle the stress of a headache will help limit their impact on your life. Keep stress-relief resources - such as herbal teabags, essential oils, and a handkerchief - in your handbag if you are prone to headaches so that you are prepared for them when you are out and about. If your headaches are becoming more intense, more regular, or hinder your general well-being, it's important to consult your doctor to diagnose and treat whatever is causing them.
- National Health Service U.K. (2013). Headaches. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Headache/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- National Institutes of Health. (2014). Passion flower. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/871.html
- National Institutes of Health. (2013). Peppermint. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/705.html
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Migraine fact sheet. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html
- Srivastava, J.K. , Shankar, E. & Gupta, S. (2010) Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), 895-901. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2010.377