It can be a tense world out there. Here’s some relief when your head feels like it’s ready to burst.
One comforting aspect of suffering from headaches is that you’re not alone: It’s estimated that more than half of the adult population worldwide experiences them, with tension headaches being the most common. That’s not surprising given the year we’ve just gone through — the list of things to be stressed over is not short. No wonder our heads are throbbing.
While doctor-administered medications and therapies can help, especially with severe migraines, there are easy-to-adopt lifestyle strategies that can bring relief to those milder but still painful moments when your scull is in a vice. Here, some of the most common, science-backed hacks to ease your temples, forehead and everything else.
Get Smarter about Screen Time.
Digital eye strain is on the rise, a function of spending more time on screens, between working from home, Zoom calls, and virtual socializing. Ultra-bright LED monitors up your exposure to artificial blue light, which requires more work for your eyes to process, and can trigger sensitives that led to headaches. You might also be unconsciously squinting more, too, reading content on a palm-size phone or tablet. Beyond switching your phone to nighttime mode (which emits a rosier hue of light that’s easier on the eyes), try wearing a pair of glasses specifically designed to diffuse the blue light.
Inhale Some Relief.
Research shows that certain essential oils can effectively tone down a headache. A 2012 clinical study found that inhaling lavender can help manage migraines, and a 2015 review of published studies confirms that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead can provide relief from tension headaches. To get the benefits: You can literally open the cap of a lavender essential oil and breath it in or rub a few drops of peppermint-spiked body oil between your fingertips and massage your head.
Exercise Better, Not Harder.
When you’re prone to killer headaches, running and other jumping-related activity could be a trigger. But yoga and pilates poses, and other types of low-impact stretching movements, can help ease muscle tension in the head, neck, and shoulders. This can reduce the intensity of headaches and prevent them from striking. If you’re not a yogi or need some pose inspiration, try this handy deck of cards.
Find Stress Relievers that Work for You.
Stress, lack of sleep and poor posture can have direct or indirect effect on nerves in the brain, which can prompt headaches. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and biofeedback (which involves sensors and visualization exercises done with a therapist) can help improve the body’s ability to fight these triggers. Simple self-care can also be remarkably soothing. For example, try a bedtime ritual, whether it’s taking baths, journaling or drinking tea to mentally signal to your body that it’s time to rest. Take frequent breaks when working on your computer to avoid hunching and an app like Headspace can guide you through chilling exercises to release tension.
Massage Away the Pain.
To undo tight muscles that contribute to headaches, try this easy eye massage: Close your eyes, press your index and middle fingers under your eyebrows, starting at the inside corner of each eye socket. Press and inch your fingers along your browbones, applying firm pressure. When you reach the temples, do small circular motions with your fingers for a minute. Repeat three to four times. To maximize the benefits, you can also do this massage with the ball prongs of a face roller in place of your fingers.
Improve Your Gut Health.
Surprisingly, some experts believe the gut-brain axis is related to headaches. To keep your system in balance, go for more plant-based foods with prebiotics (fiber) and probiotics (healthy bacteria). Or consider a supplement that has both, as an easy way to cover your bases.
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