Chronic headaches can take a major toll on your life and career. Whether you realize it or not, once you’re labeled as someone who “always has a headache,” or “is never at work,” that stigma sticks with you and directly affects the trajectory of your career.
For an entrepreneur, the effects of headaches can be damning. There is no one else to call in to be you. One headache at the wrong time can sink a ship before it gets out to sea.
Lost work productivity related to pain, inclusive of headaches and migraines, costs US employers around $300 billion annually. As an employee, the financial and advancement costs are staggering as well.
There are no figures to show are how many promotions are missed, how many business deals aren’t sealed and how much your professional reputation suffers as a result of chronic headaches and migraines.
You may be incredible at your job, but if you’re bracing headaches, you’re more apt to make mistakes and do the bare minimum to get things done. Both of which decreases the quality of your work and makes you look like a lesser employee than you truly are.
In addition to current medical treatments available, there are many different nutrition and lifestyle tweaks you can make to significantly decrease the duration, frequency and intensity of pain and headaches.
Drink Up Buddy
The simplest approach to combating headaches is to drink more fluids, namely water. Dehydration may not be the sole culprit behind headaches, but it’s often what initiates a headache sequence.
At the onset of a headache, sit down and calmly drink a 12 ounces glass of water. This may stop your headache in its tracks and prevent your workflow from getting derailed.
CONSISTENTLY drink 10 to 12 cups (8 fluid ounces) of fluid daily and opt for water whenever possible. 2 cups of water first thing in the morning prior to any other fluids or foods (yes, even coffee) can flush your system of toxins (which may also be related to your headaches), support regularity, improve cognitive function and all while getting you 20% to your fluid intake goal before you even really begin your day.
All fluids count in fluid consumption, but water is best. Avoid drinks full of sugar, food additives and empty calories. Drink fluids through the day instead of all at once and find a way to make this a daily habit.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Millions of Americans are deficient in this nutrient that is involved in over 300 functions in the human body and the consequences are staggering. One of magnesium’s functions is to essentially act as the off switch for neural pain signals, making it a major nutrient related to pain, headaches and migraines.
There’s a catch. Supplementing with magnesium is generally not recommended. As it is an electrolyte, a sudden influx of magnesium will upset fluid balance resulting in horrible gastric distress and diarrhea.
There are magnesium supplements out there in forms that are both easier to digest and have higher bioavailability, but they tend to be pricey. Surprisingly enough, your healthcare provider may be the best place to get the hook up on a reasonably priced, quality magnesium supplement.
The key is to make magnesium rich foods a several times a day habit for life. Magnesium is readily available in “baby plants,” meaning anything that you could plant in the ground and someday it will grow up to be a big plant: seeds, nuts or beans. Pumpkin seeds are major loaded with magnesium packing 50% of what the average person needs in a day in ¼ cup serving.
Pain sufferers need more magnesium than the average person. Also it takes about 90 days to amend mineral deficiencies because you’re essentially asking your body to absorb a rock. Rock absorption requires the help of many vitamins.
Think of amending nutrient deficiencies like getting out of debt. When you’re climbing your way out of debt your money and efforts are going 3 ways: paying off the debt, day-to-day costs and packing money in savings.
When correcting deficiency your body puts some of the nutrient towards long overdue functions, utilizes the nutrient for current metabolic tasks and packs some away in nutrient stores.
All of which means eat magnesium rich foods daily and several times a day at that. In addition to seeds, nuts and beans, magnesium is also found in dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and chard. Think creatively about seeds – cucumbers, zucchini, raspberries and strawberries all have edible seeds.
To absorb and utilize all that magnesium, you need vitamin D. Vitamin D is involved in over 200 functions in the human body and the majority of these functions also require magnesium.
Living in northern locations, stress, many medications, clothing, working indoors, sunscreen, and excess weight all have negative impacts on vitamin D status as well. You don’t have to quit your job and run away to a nudist colony to have great vitamin D status, unless you want to. Supplements are available.
Aside, age and darker skin also decrease the amount of vitamin D made in the skin and those are factors we cannot control even at a nudist colony.
If you’re dealing with pain, poor mood and/or lousy sleep, vitamin D may be your hero. Grab a supplement and reach out to your healthcare provider to have your levels tested as soon as possible. This nutrient can completely change your work performance and quality of life.
Barely eat for 3 days and by day 4 you’ll have a headache come out from seemingly nowhere. Hardly eat anything all day until afternoon hunger drives you to mad binge and you’ll have a headache.
Eating throughout the day and fairly consistent times and amounts each day and it’ll help level water and nutrient balances.
If you’re not eating protein, you’re more likely to be filling up on carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates fuel the flames of pain and protein deficiency leaves you without the building blocks needed to repair from pain damage.
Fortunately, protein is readily found in the primary foods that have magnesium: seeds, nuts and beans. Seeds and nuts make perfect snack drawer items at your desk.
Opt for natural sources of protein – not protein powder, shakes, bars, etc. The latter is simply paying a lot of money to thrash your kidneys and colon. Make sure every meal and snack has protein present.
Avoid Common Dietary Instigators
Check labels for monosodium glutamate (MSG), high fructose corn syrup, artificial food dyes, high sodium content, refined carbohydrates (sugar, while bread, etc.) and high saturated fat content, all of which set off and continue to feed a pain cascade.
As a general rule, choosing a diet free of nasty food additives is great for overall health and preventing headaches. Asking your body to perform at its best with chemicals grinding on your organs is unrealistic.
Tight, tense muscles in the neck and shoulders set off headaches. Working at computers for hours and the majority of activities we engage in throughout the day tighten these muscles. Over time deep knots form and chronic headaches set in.
Add stretching into your day to counter this. Remind yourself that your shoulders are NOT earrings and put them down. Setting a reminder in your schedule or in your phone may be necessary at first until it becomes a habit to check in and lower those bad boys.
Stretch at onset of headache/pain, as well as throughout day. Make it part of your daily routine. Those knots took time to form and they’re going to take time to work out.
Taking up yoga can significantly help stretch muscles in addition to all its other benefits that can greatly reduce stress and headaches.
This goes along with yoga, if you opt to go that route. In its simplest form, deep breathing is the first go to for an oncoming headache. When you feel the pain begin to creep in return to the simplest part of being human, your breath. Take a deep breathe in and slowly let it out. Repeat.
This can avert a headache. Practicing deep breathing as part of your routine can reduce headaches overall and help with stress regulation as well.
Stress has horrible, staggering consequences on health and quality of life. Nothing ignites a headache quite like stress. You cannot completely avoid stress. However, you can choose how you react, the amount you engage stress and honestly, what stresses you out. If you’re sweating the small stuff, you’re opting for more stress in your life.
Counseling can provide many tools to that you can use to manage your stress better, as well as provide prospective. Self-improvement books will help as well, but make sure to look up and stretch your neck and shoulders from time to time. The timeless book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is a great place to start.
Walk It Off
Daily walks are great headache prevention. Gets oxygen pumping to the tissues that need it most. Plus it reduces stress and something about the EYE MOTION that results from walking is great for brain function. Walking around the office can do in a pinch and if you can get out into the great outdoors the benefits of nature exponentially bolster the perks of walking.
Take a walk at onset of a headache. Sometimes the physical act of stepping away can divert a headache in addition to all the benefits listed above.
Regular, consistent sleep can completely change your game. Sleep deprivation is a major headache trigger. Less sleep means less time to repair from headaches leaving your nerves already frayed the next time a headache trigger hits you.
Everything mentioned up to this point can help with regular sleep in one fashion or another. If you struggle with sleep, reach out for professional help. It’s the most important 8 hours in your day.
Adopting new behaviors takes time, but when the incentive is your bottom life and career trajectory, that time span shortens. Start with the changes you can implement today and make notes of their outcome. Noting that you did it and how it made you feel is going to make you more likely to continue with the behavior and to continue to add on the others until you engrain them as a habit. Before you know it, you’ll be busy making career advances and forget about the days of headache woes all together.
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