I might as well be called the Headache Girl. I’ve had them for as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl. They would come too often, several times a week during the worst times. And the only thing that would make them go away would be a night’s sleep. Sinus meds, pain killers, supplements, heat, cold, massage… I’ve tried them all and they do nothing. The only cure is 8+ hours of sleep in the dark.
The various doctors and specialists I have consulted over the years have not been much help, other than ruling out a brain tumor and migraines. It’s just a nagging pain and pressure that makes me kind of miserable, but not miserable enough to stop everything.
So, what’s the solution? Well, since the cure is yet to be found, I’ve started focusing on prevention in recent years. And I’m happy to report that the results have been amazeballs. The real kaboom break-through for me was realizing that my headaches are not caused by just one trigger. I’m a highly sensitive person and the reason I was getting headaches so frequently was that everyone and their mother was causing them. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that the world gives me headaches. 🙂
There wasn’t one magic bullet, but since I’ve started identifying ALL the factors that were causing my headaches and controlling them to the best of my ability, the frequency of my headaches has gone down drastically. I now sometimes go for a few weeks without a single headache, which is HUGE!
So in this post, I wanted to share everything I have figured out about my headaches in case some of it applies to you too and will help to ease your pain and suffering.
Here are all the headache triggers I have experienced and how I go about preventing them:
Sun Sensitivity Headaches
I’m sensitive to any kind of bright lights, but the sun in particular. If you are a young one with light sensitivity, I hate to tell you this, but it gets worse the older you get.
- Never ever ever ever EVER leave the house without sunglasses. Own several pairs in case you lose a pair. Keep a pair in every purse or bag you use regularly.
Sensory Overstimulation Headaches
Any places or events with a lot going on at once – a lot of people, sounds, and lights – give me what I can only describe as a physical hangover, including a headache. It took me until my thirties to figure this one out. Going to amusement parks, the fair, or concerts used to involve some alcohol when I was younger and I thought the alcohol was the culprit for the hangovers. But I discovered it wasn’t the alcohol when I started going to these things sober with my kids.
2. The only way to prevent sensory overstimulation headaches completely is to avoid sensory overloading events, but that would be no fun. 🙂 It does help to know your limits and not schedule too many of these events back to back. If we take the kids to an amusement park on Saturday, I won’t schedule anything for Sunday. My senses need at least a day to recover. 🙂
I’m deeply introverted by nature. I can act extraverted for a while and be ok, but if I let it go on for too long without a break, it drains me, and yes you guessed it, I get a headache.
3. If you are an introvert, take frequent breaks to recharge.
4. Identify the most frequent sources of stress in your life and start making changes to reduce them or avoid them altogether.
5. Try to keep your body relaxed as much as possible. I find that daily exercise and stretching help with this a lot. Progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful.
6. Try to remember to take deep belly breaths as often as possible. Here are a few things you can do to help you remember until it becomes a habit:
*Print the word “Breathe” in a pretty font and hang it on the wall.
*Set your phone to remind you periodically.
*Ask someone to keep reminding you.
7. Figure out if you are tensing your jaw and/or grinding your teeth. I pretty near destroyed my TMJ (temporomandibular joint) before I realized I was clenching my teeth like crazy. If you do this mostly during the day, reminders to relax your face and jaw, similar to the ones I suggested for deep breathing can be helpful. For me, simply becoming aware that I was doing it helped me to stop. And if you grind your teeth at night, you might need a mouth guard.
Bad Sleep Headaches
8. Easier said than done, but try to get enough sleep.
9. Pay attention to your sleeping position. Is your pillow right for you? Are you twisting yourself in some weird way that might cause muscle tension? The latter was my problem and it’s kinda hard to fix, since it happens when you are asleep! But I have found that simply making sure I go to sleep in a non-twisty position and correct my position if I happen to wake up at night has helped me to learn to sleep in a better-for-me position.
“I’m Always Too Cold” Headaches
If the temperature is below 75 degrees, I feel cold. I just crank up the heat in my own house, but in most other places I’m going to feel cold even when others are comfortable. And constantly shivering and being cold makes me tense, which gives me a headache.
10. Wear enough clothes to feel warm even if it means you have a lot more clothes on than other people around you.
11. Stop socializing with people who say “but you can’t be cold” because their annoyance is enough to give you a headache even without the cold. 😉
The Huz rolled his eyes and said not to include this one, because nobody would take me seriously ever again. But he just hasn’t had his hair “done” by our seven-year-old, and therefore, doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Hairstyle Headaches are a real thing and my mission in life is to rid the world of them. 😀
12. Don’t pull your hair too tightly into a ponytail, bun, or braids. Leave it a little loose.
13. If you have thick, long hair, don’t put it in a bun at all if it feels too heavy to “carry”.
14. Don’t let your hair hang in your face, especially not in front of your eyes.
15. I have a specific morning routine that clears my sinuses: a minimum half hour cardio + cool down + hot shower + breakfast with hot drink. If I follow this routine, I almost never get a sinus headache that day. If I don’t follow the routine, the chances are about 50/50.
16. Let’s get gross for a minute. You need to blow your nose at the tiniest sign of any kind of gunk in your nose. Never ever ever ever EVER suck it in.
Bad Air Headaches
I think this might actually be related to sinuses, but I made it its own category because everything listed here is related to the quality of the air you breathe.
17. Stay away from anything that pollutes the air you are breathing: cigarette smoke, burned dinner fumes, traffic exhaust, and strong perfumes.
18. Regularly air out the rooms you spend the most time in.
19. Keep the bedroom door open at night to let the air circulate.
20. Is the air too dry or too moist in your bedroom? Use a humidifier or dehumidifier if needed.
Blood Sugar Headaches
21. To avoid low blood sugars, eat at regular times and don’t skip meals.
22. To avoid high blood sugars, don’t eat more carbs than your body can handle.
23. Be sure to drink enough water. If your pee is pale yellow, you are properly hydrated.
24. If you exercise heavily, you might need supplemental electrolytes. I get an electrolyte imbalance headache if I run for more than 90 minutes without supplementing. Drinking electrolyte water keeps these headaches at bay.
25. Don’t drink too much. Duh! My limit is two beers.
26. In addition to the amount of alcohol you are consuming, be mindful of the types of alcohol you are drinking. For example, some people (me!) get headaches from even a small amount of wine, while they do ok with liquor or beer.
Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches
27. Either wean off caffeine altogether or drink the same exact amount of caffeine every day at around the same time of day. Don’t drink five cups of coffee one day and then two the next. Soda counts too.
These are the worst and there’s really no way that I know of to prevent them completely if you are prone to getting them, but:
28. Don’t get pregnant unnecessarily. 😉 I had a headache every single day for the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, and no, it wasn’t fun.
29. If you are on the pill, talk to your doctor about having your period less often. I used to have a headache for three to five days during my period every month. Now, I only have my period every three months or so, and when I do, I only take the placebo for five days rather than seven, so when I do have my period, I have fewer days of headache.
So, would you say this post is official proof that I’m high maintenance? I’ll admit it’s kind of a pain in the ass to try to control all these factors, but I guess I’d rather take that pain than the headaches. 🙂
Do you have any tips to add to my list? I’m always looking for new ideas, so I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂
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