Stress is – for many of us – a compounding factor for migraine. Whether or not it is an actual trigger for you personally (there is controversy about whether it is a trigger at all, but I’m going to leave that topic alone and simply say it might not be your trigger), the things you do when you are stressed – eating infrequently, skipping sleep, not getting enough water, forgetting medicines, etc. – almost certainly are. If that is the case, then reducing your stress levels also can help you reduce the frequency or severity of your migraine attacks.
Many of us are at least passingly familiar with the most popular methods of stress reduction: yoga, regular exercise, mindful meditation, a hot bath, a cup of hot tea, a long chat with a friend. If those methods have not worked for you, however, or you simply don’t like some of those things, you’re in luck. There are nearly as many ways to reduce and manage stress as there are stress triggers. The trick, as always with matters of health, is finding what works for you.
With that in mind, here are a few uncommon, but scientifically valid, methods for reducing stress that you may not have tried:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Belly breathing and breath control
- A mini palm massage (simply use the opposite thumb to massage the palm in a circular pattern)
- Forced smiling
- Mantras and Affirmations (Example: I can handle this)
- Sexual intimacy
- Cuddling with an animal
- Chewing gum (Just make sure the muscle movements and jaw strain aren’t a migraine trigger!)
- Watching a funny video online or looking up a fractal pattern
Some of the above methods may sound strange, but researchers have found that each one reduces stress hormone levels and increases feelings of calm and/or happiness almost immediately.
Eliminating stress altogether isn’t possible, nor would we want it to be. (Certain types of stress are healthy and beneficial, as are the life events that accompany them.) Reducing chronic stress, however, is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle, and doing so will dramatically improve quality of life for those of us with migraine – whether the stress itself is a trigger or not.
Do you have any unusual stress-reduction techniques that work for you? Please share them in the comment section below. They may help someone else.
Also, if you are a migraineur who tends to experience a migraine attack when chronic stress eases, please read “Keeping Stress Consistent: Avoiding Let-Down and Stress Migraines.” It may help you avoid, or at least reduce, any let-down attacks.