Stress is an inevitable part of life. That doesn’t mean we can’t take proactive steps to manage our stress, and most importantly, keep our migraines at bay.
I’m reminded by this because this past month has been hectic. We were fortunate enough to buy a house in our neighborhood in Brooklyn. But with this great life change, comes a lot of a new stresses – from managing a kitchen renovation to moving – all with a very active 1 year old ! I found myself constantly on the go andI paid for it in a big way when I was hit with a major migraine episode. I knew immediately what had caused the migraine : I hadn’t taken my own advice on how not to get too wound up. So I’m putting out my top tips in the hopes that it helps you and it sinks in for me as the next weeks will continue to be hectic.
7 Tips to Reduce Stress and Prevent a Migraine
Meditation or just simple deep breathing exercises might seem like an overly simplistic way to reduce stress. But even spending as little as 5 minutes per day has been proven to have profound effects on your health.
The reason is simple: mindful breathing helps shut off our fight-or-flight response and activate the rest, relax and digest response. When the latter response is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers as the blood vessels relax and your body is put into a state of calm and healing.
So how do you get started? You can use an app like Headspace to help guide you through the short sessions. Or you could start off on your own by doing a simple breathing exercise where all you have to do it make your inhale shorter than your exhale. Try this:
- Sit still and tall somewhere comfortable
- Set the timer for five minutes
- Inhale for a count of two
- Hold breath for count of one
- Exhale gently for count of four
- Repeat until timer goes off
Eventually, you can increase the counts from 2-4 to 4-6 or 6-8 and so on. Just remember the exhale has to be longer than the inhale!
As we’ll discuss more in the next section, exercise is incredibly beneficial for migraine sufferers. It is also one of the best ways to burn off stress hormones.
Get exercise in any way that’s fun for you. Run, dance, ride, swim, stretch or skip. Yoga is particularly great because it combines movement with breathing and signals to the body that it’s time to slow down.
3. Practice gratitude
The practice of being grateful not only makes you happier, it has been proven to develop stronger immune system and lower blood pressure. That’s because no matter how hard life gets, if we focus on the positive things you have in your life, you won’t stress as much.
You can practice being grateful by simply writing one thing you’re grateful for on a piece of paper before you go to bed. Or at nightly dinners with family you can go around the table and each say what you’re grateful for. Personally, I use “The Five-Minute Journal”, which is an incredibly helpful guide to start and end each day with gratitude.
4. Take a bath
This one shouldn’t be hard to try! Add the following ingredients to a very hot bath: 2 cups of Epsom salt (which contains magnesium, the relaxation mineral), a half-cup of baking soda (which promotes an ideal pH for healing, detoxification, and optimal cellular function) and 10 drops of lavender oil (which lowers cortisol). Soak for 20 minutes.
Bonus: for double-relaxation, try meditating while taking a bath!
5. Plan tomorrow
If you’re to-do list often haunts you as you go to bed, forcing you to anxiously stare blankly at the ceiling rather than falling asleep, you should consider planning as much for tomorrow. Try these two tactics:
- Take five minutes each night to write down your to-dos for tomorrow. And by write down, I mean actually write it down on a piece of paper (not on your phone or computer).
- Prep for your morning routine the night before. Pick out your outfit; make sure your clothes are ironed; have your breakfast ingredients chopped and ready to go; pack your lunch. This way when you get out of bed you can calmly get yourself ready to tackle the day.
6. Support network
Surrounding yourself with people who genuinely support you is one of the most important determinants of psychological well being. If you have good friends in your life, make sure to prioritize getting together with them.
If you need more support in your life, think about your favorite hobbies and go find other people that love it too! Whether you love running, photography or knitting, it’s easier than ever to find others that share your passion and want to spend their time doing the things they love.
If you can’t seem to lower your stress on your own, it might take some outside help to get you there. In that case, I highly recommend talking to a therapist who can help pinpoint the source of your stress and recommend tips specific to you to reduce your stress levels. Ask around for referrals for a good therapist – it could be life changing!
What are your top tips to combatting stress? I’m going to need all the help I can get until we’re moved in and settled, so please send them over!