Holiday office parties. Getting Christmas cards together. Grocery shopping. Gift shopping. Gift wrapping. Decorating. Holiday happy hours. 

All of these things can contribute to holiday headaches. And not just proverbially – we mean it quite literally: The holidays are stressful, and stress can mean actual head pain. 

What Is a Stress Headache?

Stress is defined as “a temporary emotional or mental state caused by an event, person or situation that threatens our well-being.” 

It is important to note that not all stress is bad for us. In fact, some stress actually helps us feel better. For example, when we have a deadline at work, we may be more focused on getting it done than we would if there was no deadline. This type of stress is OK because it motivates us to get something done. It also makes us feel like we accomplished something.

When we experience too much stress, though, it can cause problems. We can become anxious, frustrated, angry, sad, depressed or even suicidal. These feelings can lead to physical symptoms such as stomachaches, back pains, fatigue, muscle tension, insomnia, heart palpitations and headaches.

What Does a Stress Headache Feel Like? 

A headache is usually described as a dull, throbbing pain in one part of your head. The pain often starts behind one eye but will spread across the whole head. A stress headache is similar to this, but it tends to start in the forehead and move down toward the base of the skull. 

The pain is typically worse with movement.

Signs of a Stress Headache

Headache is one of the most common signs of stress. A headache can occur anywhere in your skull but generally occurs behind your forehead and above your eyes. Some people describe their headaches as being similar to having a hangover. They can last from a few minutes up to several days. If you experience frequent headaches during the holidays, you should see a doctor.

Other Signs of a Stress Headache:

  • Feeling tired
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Headaches can be caused by many different factors, including diet, sleep habits, exercise, medications, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, allergies, sinus infections, hormone imbalances, stress, depression, anxiety and other medical conditions.

Stress and Migraines

Many migraine sufferers report feeling stressed before they get a migraine. However, the exact relationship between stress and migraines is still unclear. Some theories suggest stress could trigger a migraine attack or make a migraine worse.

There are ways you can manage stress so that it doesn’t affect your health. First of all, try to avoid negative thinking patterns. Negative thinking can increase your stress levels. If stress is a common trigger for you, consider relaxing and making an effort to make the holidays less stressful. 

How Can I Prevent Holiday Stress Headaches?

The best way to prevent holiday headaches is to avoid them altogether. But this isn’t always possible. So here are some tips to help you enjoy the holiday season while reducing the chances of experiencing a headache. 

  • Know your spending limit. Did you know that worry over money is one of the biggest causes of stress during the holiday season? This year, set a budget, and don’t spend more than you’ve planned. Don’t buy gifts that you’ll spend the rest of the year trying to pay off. Consider making homemade gifts or treats instead of purchasing items. 
  • Get organized. You may also want to consider creating a “to-do” list for yourself of the things you have to accomplish before the holidays. That way you’ll be less likely to forget something, which could cause a stressful situation.
  • Share the tasks. You don’t have to do everything yourself to make the holidays magical. Share your “to-do” list with others. Ask friends and family to join you as you decorate, wrap gifts or cook. It’s more fun that way, anyway! 
  • Consider catering. Love the holiday food but hate the holiday cooking? Consider getting catering from a local restaurant. 
  • Make plans for after the holidays. Think about what you’d like to do next year. Maybe you’d like to go on vacation or start planning for spring break. Or perhaps you’d like to take some time to reflect and write down all the good memories of the past year. 
  • Mind what you eat. There’s no doubt that the holidays feature some of the best and most festive foods, but overdoing it may make you stress about weight gain after the holidays are over. For best results, limit how much you indulge. 
  • Limit alcohol. It’s easy to overindulge in holiday food and sweets, but it’s also easy to overindulge in “festive” drinks. The best thing you can do is to drink water instead of alcohol. If you’re having any alcohol at all, choose something light, such as sparkling cider or wine. 
  • Stay hydrated. Make sure you stay well hydrated throughout the holiday season by setting a goal for water intake each day. 

The holidays don’t have to be a headache. We can help. Call us now to schedule a consultation.