During physical activity, your body releases certain chemicals that block pain signals to your brain. These chemicals also help alleviate anxiety and depression, which can make migraines worse.
Obesity also increases the risk of chronic headaches, so maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and diet can provide additional benefits in managing migraines.
If your doctor agrees, choose any exercise you enjoy. Walking, swimming and cycling are often good choices. But it's important to start slowly. Exercising too vigorously can trigger migraines.
Stress and migraines often go hand in hand. You can't avoid daily stress, but you can keep it under control to help manage your migraines:
- Simplify your life. Rather than looking for ways to squeeze more activities or chores into the day, find a way to leave some things out.
- Manage your time wisely. Update your to-do list every day — both at work and at home. Delegate what you can, and divide large projects into manageable chunks.
- Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed, a few slow stretches or a quick walk may renew your energy for the task at hand.
- Adjust your attitude. Stay positive. If you find yourself thinking, "This can't be done," switch gears. Think instead, "This will be tough. But I can make it work."
- Enjoy yourself. Find time to do something you enjoy for at least 15 minutes every day. It could be playing a game, having coffee with a friend or pursuing a hobby. Doing something you enjoy is a natural way to combat stress.
- Relax. Deep breathing from your diaphragm can help you relax. Focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply for at least 10 minutes every day. It may also help to consciously relax your muscles, one group at a time. When you're done, sit quietly for a minute or two.
Keep a migraine diary
A diary may help you determine what triggers your migraines. Note when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief.
Until recently, avoiding migraine triggers was considered the best advice. But new research suggests this may actually increase sensitivity to potential triggers.
A more useful approach may be to learn to cope with these headache triggers by using behavioral management techniques, such as identifying and challenging negative thoughts, relaxation training and stress reduction.
Strive for balance
Living with migraines is a daily challenge. But making healthy lifestyle choices can help. Ask your friends and loved ones for support.
If you're feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain.
July 08, 2015
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- Martin, P. Behavioral management of the triggers of recurrent headache: A randomized control trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2014;61:1.