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Longterm Stress Reduction

99.5% of people who have seen a doctor about migraines or headaches have been told to reduce stress. I made up that statistic, but I bet it’s not far off.

Google “ways to reduce stress” and you’ll get nearly 3 million hits. Most recommendations are mildly effective band-aids. Changing how you react in the moment or trying to slow yourself down when you’re already worked up are vital skills, but living a calmer life overall is the only true solution.

Zenhabits takes this approach in 12 Ideas for Establishing a Calming Routine. The recommended daily rituals go a long way toward longterm stress reduction. Among the 12 recommendations include:

  • Enjoy a quiet cup of tea or coffee each morning. I sit at the kitchen table and look at our ugly patio. Normally the current state of the patio distresses me, but in the mornings I simply enjoy the sun streaming through the windows.
  • Devote a few minutes to think about what and who you are grateful for. A bipolar chronic headache sufferer mentioned in a forum that she does this. The small ritual has made her happier and keeps her from being bogged down by anger and self-pity over her illnesses.
  • Have a real, honest conversation with a loved one.

I’m taking bite-size pieces of Zenhabits’ suggestions to see if calm down my life. I’ve quieted my frazzled self a lot in the last two years, but there’s always room to relax more.

Do you have any soothing rituals?

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World Hypnotism Day

While the name World Hypnotism Day sparks images of everyone walking around like zombies, I suspect there’s more to hypnosis than what I saw on Three’s Company. Shedding the stereotypes I was mired in, I learned that hypnosis is helpful for headaches because it encourages relaxation and reduces stress. However, it doesn’t appear to be more effective than any other relaxation technique

Thus far studies have shown that the usefulness of hypnosis depends on the type of headache a person has. Tension-type headache sufferers trained in self-hypnosis had modest improvement compared to those who recorded their headaches during a study, according to an ACHE article. The same article says that behavioral treatments for migraine, like biofeedback, are useful, but hypnosis alone has not shown to be beneficial. Both ACHE and the National Headache Foundation say that hypnosis is not effective for cluster headaches.

I’ve never tried hypnosis, but am willing to. Since my headaches are caused by migraine, though, I think I should try biofeedback first. If you’ve tried hypnosis, was it helpful for you? Even if you haven’t, I’d like to know what you think of hypnosis for headaches.

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Embrace Your Messiness

Say Yes to Mess” and stop feeling guilty about how disheveled your house is or how scattered your days are. You can reduce your stress (and, thus, possibly your headaches) by changing the way you think about clutter.

Rest assured that this isn’t a sign of weakness or laziness. In fact, messiness is illustrative of “creative, limber minds” and slobs are “probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. “The anti-anticlutter movement “confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands.”

I love the idea, but can I really let my guilt go?

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Holiday Stress & Headaches

With high levels of stress and routines out of whack, the holidays can be a painful time for people with headache. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of tips on how to cope with holiday stress. Here are some that caught my eye.

If all else fails, consider my favorite remedy: Close all the windows and doors and scream at the top of your lungs (for some reason, this always works best in a car). Follow it up with a lovely latte or hot chocolate — or, if your screaming session is prolonged, treat your throat with hot tea and honey. You’ll get out your frustration and the warm drink provides some self-nurturing.

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Stress Reduction

Even though it’s a little late in the season, stress reduction is crucial to getting through holidays in tact. Since stress is a vital component of holidays, I figure it’s still relevant. The Mayo Clinic article I link to is basic information that’s good to be reminded of.

I have to get my two cents in, of course. Planning ahead is on the list, but it doesn’t include the most important way to do this: Make simple meals that you can prepare ahead. If you’re at a loss, pick up this month’s issue of Real Simple (the best magazine ever) and turn to the holiday insert immediately. You’ll find a collection of menus for different types of parties, including a shopping list and a break down of what can be prepared in advance.

After attending one party and hosting two more between Sunday night and this afternoon, my mom told me that she plans for Christmas dinner to be a re-creation of a Thanksgiving meal. My response? “Are you trying to kill yourself and Dad in the process?” (not in those exact words). Enter Real Simple.

If you’re also inclined to overdo it, give yourself a break. Who wants to be laid up with a horrendous headache on Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s? Even if you’ve done your grocery shopping, ask your guests to help. People like to pitch in and it will help you relax — as long as you don’t try to control the results of your sous chef.

Now I have to convince my mom long-distance to not go crazy for our meal. I’d say I have a 5% chance of success.