6 Tips for Avoiding Holiday HeadachesDec. 9, 2019
By Hannah Pietsch
It's easy to fall out of your usual routine around the holidays.
For some, this is a refreshing change of pace. For others, this means more opportunities for the healthy habits that keep headaches at bay to fall by the wayside…
Here are six tips for avoiding holiday headache triggers from Houston Methodist neurologist Dr. Bing Liao.
1. Make plans well in advance and know your limit
“The nature of the holiday season already increases stress levels, so finding small ways to reduce scheduling stress can help ward off a headache,” Dr. Liao says. “This can mean planning well in advance to avoid the hassle of making last minute travel plans or deciding not to attend a party at the end of a long day.”
2. Be prepared
Not drinking enough water and going too long without food are prime headache triggers.
Having errands to run, holiday shopping to do and people to see makes it easier for us to unknowingly skip meals and drink less water.
To prevent this, Dr. Liao recommends keeping a protein bar and a bottle of water in your bag or in the car. He also suggests maintaining your usual caffeine intake — as both a sudden increase or decrease in caffeine can trigger a headache.
3. Know your triggers
Heat from a crowded room or outdoor activities and certain food items, such as chocolate or artificial sweeteners, are known headache triggers for some people. Dr. Liao recommends avoiding situations that have triggered headaches in the past.
(Related: Why Do I Keep Getting Headaches?)
4. Avoid the urge to binge
“Don’t binge anything during the holidays – food, alcohol or television,” says Dr. Liao. “We all know how a hangover can affect the brain, but most don’t realize that overeating can also trigger a headache."
And having the next day off from work doesn’t mean you should stay up late watching holiday movies.
"The brain needs the same amount of sleep during the holidays as it does the rest of the year, so stick with your usual bedtime," adds Dr. Liao.
5. Take a walk
“If you already exercise regularly, keep it up during the holidays even if you have to settle for a shorter workout,” recommends Dr. Liao. “If you rarely exercise, try to fit in a 20-minute walk three to four times a week. Exercise can help reduce holiday-linked stress, keep the heart and brain healthy and reduce weight gain.”
6. Refill prescriptions in advance
Just like everyone else, doctors and their staff will be taking extra time off during the holidays, making them harder to reach for routine requests like prescription refills.
Be sure you have enough pills or a refill to get you through the holidays. Missing or decreasing your dose without medical supervision can bring on a headache and can even have more serious side effects.