Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 15-08-2014
September can be a very stressful time of year for many people. With kids heading back to school, work schedules getting busier and winter on the horizon (even distantly), our busier and more hectic lives can often result in significantly increased levels of sustained or chronic stress. While most of us handle temporary or acute stress without any noticeable impacts, chronic stress can often lead to headaches or migraines (in more extreme cases, it can even result in potentially more serious health conditions). If you've been experiencing stress-related headaches or migraines, the key to managing this pain is focusing on what's causing the stress in the first place and then employ the appropriate coping techniques. IDENTIFYING YOUR KEY SOURCES OF STRESS: Stress is typically caused by either internal or external factors. Internal factors include things like our own beliefs, fears or feelings of powerlessness while external factors include things like major life changes, unexpected events, uncomfortable social situations, work related issues or even shifts in the environment. Often though, stress is the result of a combination of both internal and external factors. One way to identify what’s really causing your stress is to write down exactly when you feel particularly stressed, what was happening at that time, how it made you feel and how you reacted. Make sure to consider both internal and external factors as your coping strategies will vary depending on the source. REDUCING/MANAGING YOUR STRESS LEVEL: Addressing internal factors means, essentially, controlling our thoughts. The difficulty is that many of our underlying attitudes, fears and beliefs are longstanding and deeply ingrained and may take some effort to change – but they can be changed by simply challenging/reframing our negative thoughts, talking things out with an objective third party and using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation. For external factors, the key is taking care of yourself physically to maximize your resiliency (this means eating well, sleeping well and getting enough exercise) and employing coping mechanisms such as time management, creative problem-solving, asking for help and maintaining a sense of humour. Stress-related headaches or migraines are a surprisingly common condition – particularly during the chaotic early fall period. However, by identifying what’s causing your stress and then consistently employing some very simple coping strategies, you can learn to minimize and even eliminate this condition altogether.