The holiday season is traditionally a busy time filled with happiness and good cheer. With celebrations, family gatherings and office parties, it represents the most social time of the year. The holiday-party season and the gathering of family during the holidays can produce a tremendous amount of stress and tension - two key triggers in the onset of headaches.
Here are some tips from the National Headache Foundation to help you battle holiday headaches:
- Plan in advance. A well-planned trip can ease the stress of holiday traveling. Be prepared for extra long lines and wait times at the airport and arrive at least three hours before your scheduled departure. As many Americans may choose to drive rather than fly this holiday season, consider increased traffic on the roads and plan accordingly. If you do plan to travel by car, plot your course and make all hotel reservations in advance.
- Make lists. Forgetting to leave the key with the neighbor who will water the plants and pick up the mail can spoil even the best tasting turkey dinner. Make a list of everything that must be done and of all important items you will need before you leave. Knowing that you have everything carefully organized will ease the tension of a long trip.
- Don’t skip meals. An empty stomach could spur a headache. Therefore, if you’re unable to follow your normal eating schedule, pack snacks for the trip. Avoid foods such as ripe cheeses, processed meats and chocolate, which may cause headaches in susceptible people.
- Consider alternate plans. If you are staying home for the holidays and can’t be with family and friends far away, create new ways to celebrate. Plan a special dinner with neighbors, volunteer at a shelter or other community event, or plan to swap photos and videotapes of your celebration to with loved ones later.
- Avoid last minute shopping. Hot stores and long lines are enough tol give the most ardent ‘shop-a-holic’ a tension headache. This year, why not utilize catalog or online shopping opportunities as a stress-free option. Also start holiday shopping early, slowly accumulating gifts for friends and loved ones.
- Be aware of smoke- and perfume-filled rooms. Both are typical celebration environments, which can trigger headaches. If possible, get some fresh air or find an area that is relatively smoke and perfume- free.
- Don’t disrupt your normal sleeping and waking patterns. Those late-night parties can also lead to migraines by tempting you to stay up past your bedtime and wake up later than usual. Try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time everyday.
- If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Try to sip your drink slowly. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable juices will probably have less effect than straight alcohol. Alternate with non-alcoholic beverages such as soda or water. Avoid red wine which contains tyramine, a naturally occurring amino acid known to trigger headaches. Try a glass of white wine instead.
- Schedule personal time. Holidays bring families together for quality time, but the stress of being with your family over several days, perhaps in close quarters, may be stressful. Have realistic expectations about the visit. Plan to visit friends, take long walks and give yourself a break from all that family togetherness.
- See your healthcare provider. If you find that you are experiencing more frequent or severe headaches during the holidays, you should make a specific appointment with your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan.
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