Pain in any part of our body is a sign that something is a bit off. It’s our body’s way of telling us to pay attention and give that area some extra care.
Determining what our body wants us to pay attention to is the first step. Once we identify the culprit and cause of a headache, the remedy usually comes in the form of prevention rather than reaction.
*Disclaimer: This post is in no way diagnostic or offering medical help. If you experience regular, consistent headaches or migraines, especially preceded by floaters/auras or those not remedied with pain medication, you should consult a medical professional.
Cause #1: What we Eat (and drink!)
A hidden cause of many headaches is what we put into our bodies. Even if you don’t have a known food allergy or even a food sensitivity, some foods are common inflammatory agents and headaches can be an unwanted result.
All bodies are different. Some people can eat whatever they want, whenever they want and not be affected. Other people have to be incredibly restrictive with what they eat to avoid unwanted physical side effects. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, even if we don’t see food as a cause of physical discomfort.
So, what can you do to determine if what you’re eating is potentially causing your headaches? The first step is knowledge. Some common inflammatory foods include:
- Nightshades (such as tomatoes)
Don’t worry – headache help does NOT mean you need to overhaul your diet to exclude all of these foods. Simply start by paying attention. Consider keeping a log or a journal of what you eat, when you eat it, and when you have headaches.
After a week or two, review the log to see if you can identify any patterns between what you ate and the days you had headaches. If so, try reducing or cutting out the common food for at least two weeks and see if you notice a change in how frequently you have headaches.
When working with eating habits, it’s important to only change one variable at a time. For example, if you recognize you have headaches a few hours after eating both sugar and gluten, just reduce one at a time, not both. This way, you can more quickly identify which food may be the root cause.
Be patient. Determining what your headache triggers are can take a lot of trial and error!
Cause #2: Stress
We’ve all had them. The tension headache. The headache that creeps from the back of our neck up into our temples. The headache brought on by stress. But why does stress cause headaches? And what is the best headache help for stress headaches?
What happens to our bodies when we’re stressed? A lot!
One major contributor to stress headaches is increased muscle tension. When we’re stressed, we tense up, typically in our shoulders, our necks, and even our jaws. Carrying around all of this tension can quickly cause headaches.
Stress also increases inflammation throughout the body, as different chemicals and hormones are released when we experience stress. Inflammation causes pain – and headaches!
Stress management is key to reducing headaches, but that is easier said than done as a parent in normal life, but even more so in the midst of social distancing and uncertainty. Below are some realistic tips for not only reducing stress but also reducing the number of headaches stress induces!
1. Notice where you carry your stress.
I know I’m really stressed when I find myself “relaxing,” only to find I’m sitting with my hands clenched into fists! Believe me, this tension runs into my arms, shoulders, neck, and head.
Start by noticing where you carry your stress and when you are tensing up. Intentionally try to relax your body when you notice the tension. Take an extra minute to stretch the area, apply a warm compress, or ask your partner to give you a quick massage.
2. Practice deep breathing.
When we start to recognize what stress feels like in our body, we can begin to incorporate deep breathing as a regular practice or in moments of stress, preventing headaches!
Deep breathing acts a reset on a biological level for our brains, slowing the release of those inflammatory hormones. And it gives us mommas an extra moment to pause before responding in moments of stress.
3. Schedule in self-care.
Personally, I recommend literally putting self-care in your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself on a regular basis that can’t be canceled. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be consistent.
Working self-care into the schedule while everyone is home all the time presents an extra challenge. Try incorporating quiet time into your new daily routine where everyone is engaged in self-play, napping, or reading. Give yourself permission to leave the household chores for at least 5 minutes and find a way to rest, relax, and recharge. Your kids, partner and your mind will thank you.
Cause #3: Lack of Sleep
Sleep is more than a luxury, it’s a necessity. During sleep, our bodies heal physically and emotionally. Muscles are restored, inflammation is reduced, emotions are cleared, and energy is replenished.
Without sleep, our muscles stay tense, inflammation increases, stress remains, and our energy stores remain depleted. For all of these reasons, lack of quality sleep is a definite trigger for headaches.
Getting quality sleep is often easier said than done. With kids in the house, stress high, and chores always waiting to be done, 7 to 8 hours a night of sleep often sounds like a dream. Instead of focusing on sleep itself, try focusing on what you can control – your sleep routine.
Setting yourself up for quality sleep is the best way to improve your sleep and, quite possibly, reduce headaches. Consider how some of the following might fit into your routine:
- Unplug at least an hour before bed
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Keep your room dark and free of distractions
- Use the bed only for intimacy and sleep
- Wind down before bed with meditation, gentle stretching, deep breathing, or reading
- Diffuse calming essential oils while you sleep
- Monitor your caffeine and alcohol intake throughout the day and evening
Not only can quality sleep help reduce headaches, but it can also give you the energy you need to face whatever stress and uncertainty life throws your way.
As a busy mom, headaches are an unwanted part of life. Identifying the root cause can take time and patience, but the effort is worth it. Tackle your headaches with your nutrition, stress management, and sleep so you can be the best working-from-home, homeschooling, social-distancing mom and partner you can be!