Imagine a mother that is preparing to leave home for a vacation with her family. She and her husband have worked hard all year to pay for a fun trip full of memories for them and their children. Suddenly, she is gripped with anxiety and uncertainty – she fears that a migraine attack is approaching. With her history of debilitating migraine symptoms, she worries that her vacation will be ruined. She panics; and her trepidations force her to consider cancelling the vacation altogether.
This scenario may seem irrational to the average person, but for people with a history of incapacitating migraine symptoms, it is all too real. It is not uncommon for migraine sufferers to experience fear over whether an impending migraine attack is just around the corner. Unfortunately, this angst alone can be enough to trigger a migraine attack. By adopting the following three relaxation techniques, it may be possible to placate migraine-inducing stress and keep migraine symptoms from interfering with day-to-day life.
1. Yoga for Migraine Symptoms
Yoga has long been used as a means of promoting health and relaxation. In fact, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga is the sixth most commonly used complementary health practice among U.S. adults. Research has shown time and time again that yoga has a powerful effect on stress, lowering anxieties, heart rate and blood pressure. In 2012, Harvard Medical School published a book that touts yoga as a possible treatment for migraine attacks. Not only can it reduce the anxieties that can bring on migraine attacks, but it may also be capable of reducing the severity of migraine symptoms and their and duration.
2. Meditation for Preventing a Migraine Attack
Meditation is a practice used to reach a state of heightened consciousness or awareness. It may be performed alone or in a group with the assistance of a guide – all for the purpose of silencing the mind. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine recognizes meditation as a complementary practice often used to cope with the mental and physical effects of stress, such as migraine symptoms.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, spiritual meditation has been shown effective for alleviating migraine symptoms. In fact, engaging in daily, 20-minute meditation sessions for a month led to reduced anxiety and fewer migraines overall. In addition to lower stress levels and migraine attack frequency, participants also experienced heightened tolerance for migraine pain when the headaches did strike.
3. Biofeedback for Managing Stress Responses
Biofeedback is a unique, technology-assisted method of using the mind to control the body. During biofeedback, electrical sensors are used to monitor the conditions of various areas of the body. Participants then use this information to intentionally modify biological responses. For example, muscle tension and anxiety are known migraine attack triggers. Biofeedback makes it possible for a person to monitor heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure, and even skin temperature and then make conscious efforts to control them. Greater awareness and the ability to modify one’s biological responses to stress can help prevent migraine symptoms and decrease their frequency.
Bonus Tip – Positive Affirmation
Stress and anxiety – even about a possible migraine attack – is often baseless and formed out of perception rather than a reality. Because of past experiences and patterns, new beliefs and expectations are formed about the future. For the chronic or frequent migraine attack sufferer, this means worrying about when the next migraine symptoms will occur. But like other physical manifestations of stress, such as panic attacks, worrying about the symptoms can actually cause them. That is why it is important to overcome negative thoughts and perceptions by replacing them with positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations, also known as mantras, set the foundation for rationality and sound decision-making. Instead of jumping to conclusions or allowing anxiety to creep in, a positive affirmation will bring balance to uncertainty and prevent one from entering ‘panic mode.’ Examples of positive affirmations for migraine sufferers include:
“I am relaxed and at peace.”
“I am learning to control migraine symptoms, and I am making progress every day.”
“I reject anxiety and will not succumb to it regardless of my circumstances.”
Stress and anxiety of any kind produces both emotional and physical reactions. Worrying about a possible migraine attack can ironically be the very thing that triggers a migraine. It is important for migraine sufferers to learn how to pinpoint migraine anxiety and develop a go-to plan for combating it when it attacks. Stress-reducing techniques like the ones above just may be enough to thwart an impending migraine attack – all while improving health and quality of life.
Image Source: Living Fitness UK