Knowing how to prevent stress headaches can mean saying goodbye to cumbersome pain for good — and enjoying a calmer, less stressed lifestyle in the long run. Many of us know the feeling of a tension headache — the most common type of headache for adults — and are accustomed to the symptoms: the dull pain, pressure, and tightness around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. Who wouldn't want to avoid that painful feeling?
Luckily, there's a lot you can do to stop stress headaches and prevent them from occurring in the first place. Hectic schedule? No wonder your head hurts. New research proves that stress overloads are the number-one headache trigger. Fortunately, doctors have uncovered tension-tamers that can prevent the pounding pain.
1. Learn how to stop stress headaches with real chamomile.
Chamomile tea has long been known as a natural remedy for stress and pain. But reach for the herbal extract — instead of the tea — and you’ll get 10 times more of chamomile’s powerful anti-anxiety agent (apigenin), says Harold Bloomfield, M.D., author of Healing Anxiety with Herbs. Rx: 200 mg. to 350 mg. daily. (As always, check with your doctor first.)
2. Calm your nerves by decluttering.
Ever notice that the more organized and tidy your surroundings, the less frazzled you feel? UCLA researchers say that simply decluttering your room, office or even e-mail inbox can make you more relaxed and less prone to stress-triggered headaches. Try spending 10 minutes a day tidying one area until you’ve slowly purged your space of items you no longer treasure.
3. Reduce your risk with nutmeg.
Consuming 1/4 tsp. of freshly grated nutmeg daily (sprinkle some in yogurt, tea, coffee, even sauces and salad dressings) could reduce your risk of stress-triggered headaches in as little as one week, research suggests. Nutmeg contains an active ingredient (myristicin) that mimics the action of calming, mood-boosting Prozac, the study authors say.
4. Stop trouble in its tracks with an orange.
Feel a stress headache brewing? Eating an orange could nix it within 10 minutes, Australian research shows. The natural sugars and vitamin C in oranges kick-start your brain’s production of pain-dulling serotonin, says neurologist Alan Hirsch, M.D.
5. Know how to stop a stress headache once it starts.
Giving yourself a hot oil scalp treatment scented with the pain-soothing aroma of marjoram can shut down a tension headache in 10 minutes, says Hyla Cass, M.D., author of Eight Weeks to Vibrant Health. To do: Warm 2 Tbs. of olive or sunflower oil in the microwave for 20 seconds. Stir to avoid hot spots, and add two drops of marjoram essential oil. Massage into your scalp for 10 minutes. Shampoo and rinse twice.
6. Hummus can help with headaches.
Another great method for how to stop stress headaches? A health snack like hummus. Eating 1 cup of this savory bean spread daily can cut your risk of painful headaches 25 percent. Beans are packed with muscle-relaxing — in addition to a whole host of other health benefits.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.