Headaches can turn a good day upside down. There are many causes of headaches, among the most common are dehydration and lack of sleep. Stress-initiated headaches are also quite frequent among busy adults, though stress is much harder to cope with than dehydration or sleep deprivation.
“Stress is a major trigger for headaches,” said Jayan Thomas, licensed clinical social worker with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “A large part of this is due to the ‘fight or flight’ response of the body that causes a rise in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and muscle tension.”
The “fight or flight” response is normal and the intensity can range from a simple situation to something more complex. According to Thomas, the key is how you cope with stress and whether you are able to work through it.
There are two forms of stress, eustress and distress. Eustress, which produces excitement and motivation, has a positive effect and is perceived as within our ability to cope. However, distress is a negative stressor that decreases energy and performance, and is beyond our coping abilities.
Understanding the differences in stress is the first step. Stress may cause headaches but it could have a much larger effect on your health. . Thomas suggests the following coping mechanisms for when stress won’t let up:
- Identify how stress affects your body. If you can recognize common triggers for stress, you are one step ahead. Use these symptoms to your advantage sooner rather than later.
- Recognize healthy ways to soothe yourself. Understand the importance of sleep, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing and meditation and how they can calm your mental state (relieving headache tension).
- Practice these coping mechanisms regularly. Working these healthy relaxers into your daily routine will combat stress-initiated headaches and teach your body to deal with stress daily.