How to Avoid Holiday Headaches

The holidays can be a real headache, literally. That’s why we’re offering some tips for avoiding migraine and tension-type headaches, courtesy of the National Headache Foundation.

According to the Foundation, those who are prone to headaches have a particularly tough time around the holidays, due to the many headache triggers present. The biggest of these is stress, but even certain smells and foods can set your head a-pounding.

To help you avoid headaches this season, the Foundation is offering the following tips:

  1. Maintain your regular sleep schedule. Those late night parties can play havoc with anyone’s health, and especially impact those with chronic headaches and migraine. Try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time each day. Make sure you get your regular amount of sleep-8 hours would be perfect.
  2. Maintain your regular meal schedule. Too often, we skip or miss meals as we travel from mall to mall, or are cooking/cleaning in preparation for a big celebration. If you can’t stop for a regular meal, try packing a nutritious snack.
  3. Moderation is the key to avoid those “hangover” headaches. If you opt for that festive cocktail, sip your drink slowly. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable choices (think Bloody Mary) may have less negative effects than straight alcohol. For migraine sufferers, red wine is a well-known culprit so a glass of white wine is preferable.
  4. Watch that diet!!! Offerings at those holiday parties may look delicious but may contain foods that trigger headaches such as ripened cheese, chocolate, and processed meats. Some sensitive individuals should avoid food items containing MSG or low-cal beverages with aspartame. Monitor your caffeine intake. The cold weather may encourage stopping for a hot cocoa but think twice before ordering.
  5. As you sprint through those crowded stores, be aware of odors that may produce a headache. Those perfume scents wafting through the air may trigger a headache, and some unfortunate individuals may be sensitive to the smell of pine boughs and balsam trees. Others may be affected by the scents of freshly baked treats, such as chocolate chip cookies. Your best bet is to find an area free of smoke and perfume.
  6. If you are traveling, make sure you have sufficient amounts of your headache medicine. You do not want to find yourself without your prescription medications on Christmas or New Year’s Day. For those who experience headaches when traveling by plane or vacationing in mountainous regions, discuss the situation with your health care provider. Preventive remedies are available to avoid the “altitude” headache.
  7. One of our members recently complained of headaches from all of those bright Christmas lights. In addition to the illumination caused by the decorations, some tree lights flicker which can easily trigger a migraine. One solution may be wearing sunglasses or other protective lenses to decrease the effects of those “Silver bells” and other holiday decorations.
  8. It would be easy to say avoid stress but that would be a gargantuan task at this time of the year. To help maneuver through the holidays, set aside personal time. If you feel you have had more than adequate “family togetherness,” take a walk or just take a break from the festivities. Organize your schedule for shopping, cooking, cleaning, and “me” time.

Strange lights, food and spirits, strong scents and stress are kind of hard to avoid during this season. But it helps to be aware that all of these things can act as headache triggers.

Perhaps it’s best to take occasional “time outs” during this season. Get away from all things holiday, close your eyes and get a little rest. If you possibly can.

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