There’s always something to do during the holidays, and that something usually seems to come with undue stress. Whether it’s preparing for your family members who are staying with you over the holidays or trying to meet an end-of-the-year deadline before some much-needed vacation time, you’re going to feel the tension.
And where you find tension and stress, you find tension headaches. There is enough to do this month without having to accommodate discomfort.
If you experience a tension headache during the holiday season, it generally means that you are dealing with a side effect of holiday stress. But a good management routine (which includes a massage) can get you back on track and out of a headache cycle.
Why am I Getting these Headaches?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, tension headaches are the most common headaches for adults. If you’re suffering from splitting headaches during the holidays, this is probably the culprit.
Tension headaches are given their moniker from the muscle tension that causes them. There are four main muscles that attach to the back of your head and can become rigid, causing you pain:
- Splenius capitis – starts at the skull and ends at the very top of the back
- Sternocleidomastoid – connects to the base of the skull but starts at the front of the neck and travels to the chest
- Trapezius – starts at the skull and ends your upper back
- Levator scapulae – begins below the trapezius muscle and up the neck to the back of the skull; the position of the skull depends heavily on this muscle
These four muscles become tense due to:
- Posture — Desk jobs, which most of us have, can wreak havoc on our posture. We’re perpetually arched over our computers or devices, resulting in a condition referred to as “tech neck.” When this happens, our upper back and neck muscles slowly seize up and become strained from holding the position for extended periods of time. This can also result in muscles “resetting” their resting state. When that happens, those muscles no longer relax because they have communicated to the brain that this constriction is their new state of rest, causing continued pain.
- Stress — Experiencing stress causes our bodies to become rigid and stiff as a defense. While stress in short bursts is perfectly fine, if our muscles hold that position for too long, they become tense and painful. You’ll want to be on the lookout for this in your employees as 62% of people feel an increase in stress during the holiday season. If they reach a level of discomfort that becomes too much to handle, that leads to more time off work.
- Sprains and strains — This kind of muscle soreness comes from general activity and is often accompanied by swelling and bruising in that area.
How to Relieve Holiday Headaches and Tension
Tension headaches are the most common form of headaches that come with this time of the year, but that doesn’t inevitably mean that is what you’re encountering. Other types of headaches like migraines and cluster headaches are also commonplace, but most often in individuals who experience them throughout the year.
If your head pain comes with nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, or auras, you are probably experiencing a migraine.
If you’re experiencing pain on one side of your head (often situated behind or around one eye) and cold-like or flu-like symptoms on that same side, you most likely have a cluster headache.
And if either of those is the case, you should contact your doctor right away.
But if tension-type headaches seem to be your source of pain, you can find relief by doing a few simple things.
1. Add Heat
If you’ve ever had any type of muscle strain before, you know that adding warmth to the area of soreness can bring soothing relief. Try resting your head on a hot water bottle or heating pack when you start feeling any discomfort. A hot shower before bed can help heal tight muscles as well.
2. Put Down the Coffee
It’s a well-known fact that caffeine wrecks havoc on your stress hormones. Don’t add to the tension if you’re already experiencing it. Reduce stress by switching out the coffee, tea, or soda for a water bottle. If plain water isn’t flavorful enough for you, try adding in fresh fruit or berries for additional taste.
3. Schedule Your Sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in stress management and aiding mental health. Make sure you get a full 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and try to fall asleep and wake up around the same time each day. If you need some help managing your sleep schedule or falling asleep, check out these apps to get a good night’s rest. (We also suggest implementing CBD into your routine for a restful night’s sleep as well as for muscular discomfort, irritability, dealing with the holiday over-commitment feeling, and overall health and wellness.)
4. Moderate Drinking
With all the holiday celebrations, it goes without saying that we often like to join in on the cheer. But alcohol can actually compound stress levels. As we mentioned before, more stress means more tension, and more tension means more headaches.
5. Take Time for Yourself
The holidays are a time of rushing and busy schedules. But if you’re dealing with continual tension headaches, it’s import to take a little time for yourself – even if it’s just 30 minutes. A cup of herbal tea or some hot cocoa in front of the fireplace can make a world of difference.
6. Get a Massage
When trying to get rid of tension quickly, nothing beats massage therapy. A therapeutic massage of any kind — deep tissue massage, relaxation massage, chair massage, massage with CBD oil, or other specialized forms — helps to fight stress symptoms. Just make sure you tell your massage therapists how you’re suffering, and they’ll know exactly what to do to bring some holiday relief.