Stress, Migraine & Other Headaches

While some folks debate whether stress is a trigger for migraine, tension-type or other headaches, research and anecdotal experiences satisfies me that there’s a connection*. Even if it’s not directly related, stress can induce other headache triggers, like not getting enough sleep and eating poorly. Besides, reducing stress is something that nearly everyone can benefit from because, well, life is happier and easier that way.

After feeling relaxed all week, I’m a tense kitty today. Lucky for me, checking Bloglines turned up a ton of recent blog posts on the topic.

May favorite is how to ensure that your life is stressful. This tongue-in-cheek post got my attention much more than the usual tips on reducing stress, which are so widely distributed that they’re easy to overlook. It really made me think about specific thoughts and behaviors that contribute to stress.

The fifth tip, be more and have more, hit me upside the head. I have half of this one beat as I’m trying to have less in my life; the other half I do all too well.

When does trying to make yourself a better person cross over to being too hard on yourself? For me it was a long, long time ago. Realistically, I can only improve on one or two faults at a time, but I’m forever thinking about all the others I want to “fix.” All that leads me to do is berate myself for all my negative attributes. Hmm. . . .

In the more typical list format, the American Lung Association suggests 52 stress relievers, which they claim are proven. Each one is only a couple sentences long so they’re easy to digest. Some that caught my eye:

  • Take more time between tasks to relax. Schedule a realistic day.
  • “Worry about the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” Pay attention to the details in front of you.
  • Do one thing at a time. When you are working on one thing, don’t think about everything else you have to do.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Forgive people and events. Accept that we live in an imperfect world.

I’m going to spend the afternoon trying to figure out how to stop nagging myself. I have no doubt that this will increase my already high stress level.

[via Lifehacker & Lifehack]

*Note, 01/19/07: The ACHE article that I link to in the first sentence says that stress is a headache trigger. My sloppy paragraph and ill-placed link imply otherwise. While some people argue that stress is not a headache trigger, they are a small minority. In fact, I’ve never seen that argument made by a health care provider.

So, yes, stress is a headache trigger, but it is not the cause of the headache. (You can read about the distinction in the fourth paragraph of this post.) Thanks to Dr. Peterson for pointing out my mistake.

3 thoughts on “Stress, Migraine & Other Headaches”

  1. The American Institute of Stress and The Centers For Control have both reported that up to 90% of all illnesses are due to stress, including migrane headaches. For close to 30 years I experienced several life threatening illnesses. In 1997 I found the Institute of HeartMath and discovered that all of these illnesses were due to stresses I had been experiencing in my life. Learning and practicing HeartMath’s tools and technologies literally saved my life. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure, in all areas of life. Additional information on HeartMath can be found at

  2. Hey–wait a minute. Dr. Lake didn’t say stress wasn’t a trigger; he said stress wasn’t a cause of migraine. Those are two different things.

    The cause is what happens in your brain, and why you have a brain like that–prone to migraine, that is.

    Triggers are what set off that brain to make a migraine happen.

    Yikes! That’s not what I meant to imply. That some people don’t think it’s a trigger is one thought, but I link to the article to debunk that and show that it _is_ a trigger, just not a cause.

    The paragraph isn’t written clearly and I made a bad choice in the words that I chose to make the link. Thanks for pointing it out.


  3. Simplify, simplify, simplify…

    When I look back over the past few years since my headache pain has been gradually worsening to its present state, I’ve been simplifying all along. Some of it has been by necessity, but mostly it has been a conscious choice to make my life less complicated and therefore less stressful.

    It’s a good practice to remember when life starts to feel overwhelming.

    Absolutely. Whittling down the stuff in just one closet can be so relaxing. Much more than all the shopping that it takes to fill the closet in the first place!

    I’m glad it helps you too.


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