How To Avoid a Headache During the Holidays

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Updated December 01, 2014.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See's Medical Review Board.

The holiday season is filled with joyous parties, quality time with family and friends, and hopefully, a little break from your hectic work routine. That being said, the quick change in your daily routine from a regimented workday to a more leisurely, relaxed atmosphere can triggers headaches.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a headache this holiday season!

1.) Eat Right: First and foremost, make sure you are eating at regular times throughout the day.

Often with the holidays, we like to save up for a big evening feast. But this can be detrimental, as fasting is a common headache trigger. Try eating small, but hearty and healthy meals throughout the day prior to your dinner. A plate of fruit, crackers with cream cheese or jam, or a quick bowl of oatmeal can help tide you over.

Monitor what you are eating too. Common appetizers at parties can be dreadful for your headaches, especially those aged cheese and processed meat platters. Also, desserts are enticing during the holidays, especially chocolate ones. For some of you, even a little chocolate can be headache-triggering. Try other desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth like fruit or blondie brownies with white chocolate chips (no cocoa!).

2.) Hold Back the Drinks: You may be tempted to indulge in a pomegranate martini or some eggnog, but please think about the consequences first. Cocktail headaches and hangover headaches can be quite burdensome. In addition to alcohol, hot cocoa and flavored coffees are another holiday luxury that can be headache-provoking.

Moderation is key here. Probably a little extra caffeine or a mug of hot chocolate every now and then is fine. Just don't go overboard and remember to hydrate with water, not soda or other sugary drinks.

3.) Maintain Sleep Hygiene: Sleep deprivation is frequently associated with both tension-type headaches and migraines. Try to maintain your regular sleep schedule, even though you may be tempted to sleep in a few extra hours or stay out late at night when you are not working. In the end, you will feel better if you follow your usual sleep routine.

4.) Keep it Low-Key: The stress of the holidays is very real and can precipitate headaches. Let's face it. Family and friend gatherings can be overwhelming, even anxiety-provoking for some. Preparing meals, budgeting and buying gifts, balancing numerous obligations are just some of the stresses that occur during this time of year. Try to keep it all in perspective and relax.

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break. Read a book or curl up on the couch with your pet and watch a funny movie. Ask your spouse for a five minute neck massage. Exercise can also be extraordinarily helpful for stress relief. Try going for a short walk or practice yoga or meditation, even if it's only for five minutes.

5.) Prepare Well for Travel: Many of us travel long distances to see loved ones during the holiday season. Make sure you prepare yourself for your travels to maximize comfort. Take along extra headache medication, bring nutritious snacks in case there are delays, and time accordingly so you are not stressed and rushing. Depending on how and where you are traveling, speak with your doctor beforehand if you are prone to motion sickness or altitude sickness.

Take Home Message

Enjoy the holidays, but be realistic and be proactive in your headache health. If you do get a headache, don't worry and don't feel guilty. They do just happen sometimes, even when we try our best to avoid them.


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DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.
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