Health: Don’t let stress become a real headache

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Stress is the most common trigger for the one in seven people in the UK affected by migraine.

For National Stress Awareness Day, which takes place on Wednesday, November 2, national charity Migraine Action is helping people to reduce their chances of an attack with some simple stress management tips.

Migraine is classified by The World Health Organisation as amongst the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions with symptoms including a severe headache, nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances, confusion, numbness of the limbs and speech difficulties.

With more than eight million people in the UK affected by the condition, and the cost to the UK economy estimated to be around £2.5 billion a year, it is vital that this key migraine trigger is addressed.

Migraine Action director Joanna Hamilton-Colclough says: “Stress plays a huge part in migraine attacks for many people, whether this is tension, anger, worry or tiredness.

“Life is particularly tough for people at the moment with extra pressures at work and home. Migraineurs in particular can find themselves in a vicious cycle, whereby the worry of being absent from work or letting down friends and family due to an attack can actually lead to further episodes. It is important to recognise and address stress to break the cycle.”

Top five ‘coping with stress’ tips

l Help to manage stress by taking good care of yourself generally. This means trying to eat regularly, keeping hydrated, maintaining regular sleep patterns and getting some fresh air and exercise every day.

l Use regular relaxation techniques, from a couple of minutes deep breathing at your desk each lunchtime to a yoga class once a week.

l Manage physical as well as emotional stress. This can include making sure your desk and computer set-up at work is correct to avoid stiffness in your back, shoulders and neck. Get up and stretch periodically if your job requires you to sit for extended periods.

l Don’t take on too much and learn to say ‘no’.

lIt is impossible to avoid stress altogether so find an outlet which works for you. This may be going to the gym, seeing friends once a week or spending ten minutes at lunchtime with a good book.

Migraine Action’s ’48 suggestions to relieve stress’ booklet can be downloaded from their website at www.migraine.org.uk/shop.

You can also find out more about managing migraine by telephoning the charity’s helpline on 0116 275 8317