Preventing Headaches: Steps to Ensure a Pain-Free Day , 0 Comments

Headaches are one of the most common, and disruptive, woes of the workday. For those of us who suffer from them, their onset can be anything from simply annoying, to downright debilitating. While being an advocate for a pharmaceutical-free lifestyle has had many health benefits, day-to-day ailments like the headache have proved particularly tricky to treat holistically (the temptation to just pop an Advil and be done with it has struck me many a time!). Through my own experiences, I've discovered some personal tension triggers that I can now actively avoid, or remedy, whenever a headache encroaches on my productivity. Some of the most universal causes of headaches include:

  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of, or too much, sleep
  • Diet
  • Allergies

Tackling these issues one at a time, and understanding which ones are causing your headaches, are key points in prevention and treatment. When it comes to stress, I find keeping a soothing essential oil (such as lavender or chamomile) to be indispensable. If you feel a headache coming on, take a few moments to quiet yourself. Proper circulation is vital in expediting the effects of aromatherapy, so I make a conscious effort to have correct posture when seated, regardless of whether I'm about to take a few moments to myself or not. Dabbing the oil onto the septum of the nose, and taking deep breaths while focusing on proper breathing technique, is a simple way to begin the relaxation process. If, like myself, you find that your stress headaches are accompanied by stiffness in the back of the neck and shoulders, I also recommend using a few drops of the essential oil to massage the affected area. If you are at home, or work from a home office, when your headaches strike, another simple remedy is to do a black mustard seed footbath. To do so, crush 4 ounces of black mustard seeds, and top them with boiling water in a bowl large enough to submerge your feet all the way up to the ankles. Once the water has cooled enough for you to dip your toes in, soak for approximately 20 minutes.

Dehydration is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to headaches. A simple way to avoid this particular trigger is to monitor your liquid intake. To do so, take your current weight in pounds, and divide the number in half: that is how many ounces of water you should be drinking daily (if you're not being physically active). If you exercise, or break a sweat for longer than 5 minutes, you should up your liquid intake by at least 8 ounces per half hour of exertion. If plain water is too bland for you, some of our favorite healthful substitutes include raw coconut water, herbal teas (iced or hot), and freshly-pressed juices (fruit and vegetable). Regulating your sleeping patterns is also an important part of evading headaches. 8 hours is the recommended norm per night, but if you end up getting less, a nap can be a godsend. Be sure to monitor your naptime, though! A short nap should be no longer than 20 minutes; after this point, the brain begins to descend into deep sleep, and it is jarring for your system to interrupt a REM cycle. Allow yourself 1.5 hours for a long nap, to fully recharge your body and complete one REM cycle. Any more than that can disrupt your circadian rhythms, and contribute to problems such as insomnia.

When discussing diet as a contributing factor to headaches, it is crucial to understand your own sensitivities and intolerances for foods. Personally, I find that avoiding coffee, red meat, and the majority of dairy products effectively neutralizes my propensity for headaches. However, each person is different, and gaining insight into your own body's tension triggers is a necessary component to healthy, holistic living. An easy way to pinpoint your own dietary red flags is to keep a logbook: record your consumption of 'trigger foods,' and compare them to a record of your headaches. It should be fairly easy to pick out the culprits then! Lastly, if you suspect allergies to be at the root of your troubles, I recommend purchasing an air purifier and cleaning your living space at least once a week (to get rid of irritants and pollutants). While conventional air purifiers (machines that suck in air, pass it through a filter, and then release it back into the room) come in many forms and at different price points, I have also discovered a much simpler way to cleanse my domestic quarters; by burning 100% pure beeswax candles. When lit, these candles exude negative ions, which effectively "clean" the air. And they also smell delicately sweet, which I consider to be an extra impetus towards incorporating them in your daily routine. Let the candles burn for at least 2 hours, and always trim the scorched wick down to about 1/4 of an inch after you've blown the flame out. Once you have all these bases covered, you'll find that the frequency of your headaches will decrease markedly, if not disappear altogether! 

- Maria Vasylivna