Decorating the house, setting up the tree, writing out cards, holiday shopping, holiday parties, school activities, and out-of-town guests can all add up to one thing: Tension Headaches!
Tension headaches can occur when you tighten shoulder and neck muscles. This can happen while driving, wrapping presents, carrying heavy packages, or sitting at a computer for online shopping. This causes the muscles that go into the skull to tighten and squeeze your head.
During this season of giving, we tend to neglect ourselves while doing for others. Preparing meals, shopping, forgetting to eat regularly, or having too many engagements while being sleep-deprived can all cause headaches.
By taking care of yourself, you can enjoy all that the holidays have to offer, minus the pain:
Keep your task list manageable.
Stress and anxiety can trigger headaches for some people, especially those who tend to be headache-prone. Learn how to pace yourself and say "no." There are times you just cannot fulfill every obligation and responsibility over the holiday season. Be sure to include "me" time on your list, like a night out at the movies with friends.
Exercise and sleep.
Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, also help manage stress.
Exercising sends oxygen to the brain and gets the "feel-good" chemicals (endorphins) flowing. Tai chi, yoga and qi gong can calm your mind while stretching your muscles. Or, go for a small walk every day just to keep the body moving.
To relieve tight muscles that cause tension headaches, try taking a warm shower to relax. Gently massage your head, neck and shoulders with your fingertips.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which can cause dehydration, so drinking on an empty stomach, mixing cocktails or having too much can trigger headaches. Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic beverages to dilute the effect.
Watch what you eat.
Pay attention to your diet. Know which foods, if any, trigger headaches for you, and limit how much you eat those foods.
Processed meats with a high nitrite concentration (such as salami), or foods usually found on a deli platter or appetizer plate, can trigger a headache. Aged cheeses (blue, cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss) are full of a tyramine, a substance that can also trigger headaches. Other foods that also contain tyramine are nuts, foods processed with MSG, and even red wine.
Traveling by plane during the holidays can be a giant headache! Dry air, time zone changes, and lack of sleep can causes major tension headaches and dehydration. Make sure you stay hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking eight or nine (8 ounce) glasses of water a day is a good general guideline. Avoid caffeinated drinks on the plane because they will accelerate dehydration.
Winter colds and sinus headaches.
Stress, meals on the run and lack of sleep give your immune system a beating, and colds and congested sinuses can trigger a major sinus headache. Sinus headaches usually happen during or just after a bad cold.
Sudden temperature changes, dry indoor air, and cold, damp air worsen sinus headaches. Stay inside, keep warm, and use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Inhaling steam during a hot shower can help relieve sinus pressure.
When making holiday party rounds, avoid cigarette and cigar smoke, which can also irritate sinus membranes.
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