Tension headaches getting in the way of your day?
Let’s hone in on the root cause to make it go away. We’ve all experienced that tinge of a headache coming on mid-afternoon while working on a deadline, when the baby is crying, or when our phones are endlessly buzzing. Taking a few minutes to identify the source can solve this riddle in a holistic way.
1. Hydrate with quality water. Dehydration is often the root cause of headaches. Surveys show that 60-75% of Americans do not drink enough water. Learn to love water.
2. Movement. Exercise, dance, pilates, or yoga. Do what you love to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
3. Sleep. Quality sleep is the key to life. Stay away from digital devices for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Create a cool dark room. Add a sleep mask and ear plugs to successfully go down for the night.
4. Keep caffeine to a minimum. Everyone is different. Find a sweet spot that works. Avoid it after mid-day. Be sure to read labels and know that options such as green tea also contain caffeine. Still craving a warm cuppa in the morning? Try a pretty turmeric latte instead: turmeric has been known to alleviate inflammation and headaches.
5. Eat your greens. Tension headaches may fool us into reaching for a cheeseburger because a) we may think we are hungry when we simply need to hydrate, and 2) because “stress-eating” is a thing! Reach for greens instead. They are high in folate as well as magnesium-rich, which at suggested levels in the body have both been shown to reduce symptoms such as headaches.
Keep Stress in Check
1. Are your shoulders reaching for your ears? This is a sure sign of stress. This tension in the neck and shoulders can lead to headaches. Try this 15-minute Neck Release class with Mona Godfrey. This is a perfect practice to incorporate into the workday while seated at a desk.
2. Drop into one minute of conscious breath. The 4-7-8 Breath, also known as the Relaxing Breath, taught by Dr. Andrew Weil is a great go-to. Then take it to the next level with a pranayama class (yogic breathing technique) to decrease overall stress and anxiety as well as those pesky headaches.
3. Commit to a digital detox 1x per week. Let’s be honest. Our phones ultimately stress us out whether alerting us to endless emails or social media hits. Try a 12- hour detox during waking hours one day per week such as 8 a.m – 8 p.m. on Sundays. Let your nerves chill out.
Long hot Epson salt baths are beautiful, but time-wise, not always realistic for our modern day lifestyles, right? Schedule one for the weekend, but otherwise, every day self-care looks a lot more like the following:
1. Take ten minutes before starting the day. Salute the sun rising with this Classical Surya Namaskar yoga class to move forward in a fresh, empowered and relaxed way.
2. Set healthy boundaries. Saying “yes” to every request from others is a hard habit to break. Learning not to over-schedule our days is a vital component of self-care.
3. Discipline creates freedom. Take a few minutes toward the end of the day to schedule out the following day. Set an alert in your calendar. A little structure goes a long way toward taking care of needs, so that we can better take care of everything else. These few minutes of discipline can likely free up precious moments that add up to a lot more fun.
Three Yoga Poses to Mitigate Tension Headaches by Relaxing the Neck and Shoulders
Experiment with these yoga poses to find relief today.
Discover a few variations in this two-minute instruction and use the one that feels most supportive. Dropping the chin slightly toward the chest offers a gentle stretch for the back of the neck.
2. Simple Seated Twist
This pose relieves tightness in the back by rotating the torso. It includes the option of a gentle neck stretch.
Sit in a cross-legged position. Use blankets beneath the knees for support if needed so that the lower back can lengthen, sitting up tall. Inhale and elongate the spine, including all the way up through the crown of the head. Shoulders stay neutral, down away from the ears. Exhale and twist to the right from the navel up, placing the right hand behind the right thigh while the left remains in front. If it’s ok on the neck, gently look over the right shoulder. Repeat on the left side.
Deeply stretch the back, shoulders neck, (and legs) as Adi Amar lends her expertise in maximizing this pose. This pose allows for full body tension release.
The key is to find a daily combination of small steps offered above that suits our daily routine. Start with one. Commit to that one step for the next two weeks. Calendar it into your day. Every two weeks add in a new step. This might look like adding a second serving of greens to one meal every day or one-minute of conscious breathing. This way, each step eventually becomes a habit. Soon you are on your way to naturally relieving tension headaches, feeling more fully expressed throughout each day.