April is Stress Awareness Month. Did you know that stress can lead to severe headaches and migraine? Diverse factors contribute to headaches and the many types of migraine, including age, weather, gender, and family history. More than 32 million Americans are far too familiar with migraine and severe headache symptoms — throbbing pain on one or both sides of the
head, upset stomach, and sensitivity to light, strong smells, or loud sounds. Since headaches and migraine can stop you in your tracks for hours or sometimes days, let’s talk about things you can do to help reduce how often they occur:
- Track your pain. Keep a journal of your episodes. Make note of the foods you ate, medications you took, what you were doing, and the types of symptoms you experience. Record the time each headache begins and how long it lasts. Over time you may be able to recognize common activities that occur before your headaches or migraines start. This information will be very helpful when you talk with your doctor.
- Know your triggers. In addition to light, sounds, and smells, certain types of medications, physical activity, interrupted sleeping patterns, and even some foods can trigger a headache or migraine. When you know what prompts an attack, you might be able to reduce your exposure to it or avoid it altogether.
- Change your routines. Simple things like driving in traffic can send your stress level through the roof. When you notice specific activities that set you on edge, try adjusting them. For example, if your rush‐hour commute is too stressful, consider using mass transit, taking a different route with less busy streets, or asking your employer about
switching your work hours; even a 30‐minute difference in your start time can help you avoid traffic peaks.
When you do get a headache or migraine, here are five things you can do to feel better. While each one is considered helpful and effective in general, you may want to avoid those that act as triggers for you specifically:
- Try aromatherapy: Need to relax? Inhaling scents such as eucalyptus or lavender can help promote a sense of calmness. Many home fragrance companies make plug‐in diffusers for aromas in these and other popular scents, including chamomile, peppermint, rosemary, and sandalwood. Just remember that if strong smells are triggers, you may want to be very careful with the scents you select.
- Get a scalp massage: Reduce stress by combining aromatherapy with scalp massage. Most massage therapists are trained to provide this service. You can also train yourself or a family member to do it. To make your own massage oil, simply mix almond, avocado, coconut, or grapeseed oil — most of which can be found in your local grocery store’s skin care or baking aisle — with your favorite scent.
- Modify your surroundings: If you’re experiencing light or sound sensitivity, then set up a space in your home or office that is dark and quiet. If you can’t create a sanctuary on the job, then keep a pair of very dark, oversized sunglasses and over‐the ear, noise-cancelling headphones in your desk. Put them on at the first sign of symptoms. Lie down if you can, and place a cool cloth on your forehead.
- Practice yoga: Increased flexibility, balance, and strength aren’t the only benefits of yoga and other slow‐movement exercises such as Tai Chi. These routines are especially effective in reducing stress and promoting mental clarity. Before starting any exercise program, be sure and get your doctor’s approval, especially if you have other conditions
such as high or low blood pressure. You may have to modify some poses, and that’s perfectly OK.
- Call Teladoc: When a headache or migraine hits, you need relief immediately. You don’t have time to wait for a doctor’s office appointment, and don’t need the extra stress of an expensive urgent care clinic or ER visit. Contact Teladoc and our board‐certified doctors will be able to help diagnose your condition, recommend treatments, and prescribe medication when needed.
You’ll also want to have a plan in case you suffer a migraine while you’re away from home. Stash away some of your pain medication, bottled water, a few snacks, and a first aid cooling pack for your head. Be sure to enlist the help of a trusted co‐worker or friend to get you home so you don’t have to drive.
And don’t forget that you can trust Teladoc 24/7. Whether you need to treat your headache or other symptoms, or want to talk with a board‐certified counselor about the cause of your stress, Teladoc can help. You can reach us by phone, online, or with our convenient mobile app. Fight the drain of brain pain with Teladoc!
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