If you said you’ve never gotten a headache at work, you’re either lying, or you’ve never actually worked a day in your life. Even ice cream tasters run the risk of getting a headache (okay, brain freeze) with every lick they take. We tend to associate headaches with aggravation (especially if you hate your job), but there are actually a variety of reasons you might experience such pain, from the way your workstation is set up to your eating and lifestyle habits. If you constantly suffer from migraines or neuralgia, analyze your entire situation and see if there’s anything you can do immediately to improve your health.
1. Drink More Water
As anyone who’s been to a college party knows, dehydration almost certainly leads to a pounding headache, among other things. And it’s not really how much water you drink that will either stave off or bring on a headache, but how you do so. Chugging a half-gallon of water in the morning is much less beneficial than spreading that same amount over an eight hour period. You don’t want to over-saturate your body, but you do want to keep your hydration levels steady as the day goes on. And you want to continue drinking water when you’re home, as well. In fact, you should probably drink more at night, which makes sense: when you’re asleep, your body goes 6-8 hours without imbibing any water whatsoever. If you find yourself feeling dehydrated around 10:00AM, it’s because your body became dehydrated overnight and hasn’t had time to recover. So don’t be surprised if a headache follows soon after.
2. Fix up Your Workstation
You would think that bright lights would serve to keep you awake, but really they only serve to exacerbate your headache (which, again, anyone who’s been to a college party will understand). Try to keep your workspace as dim as possible, but not so dim that you struggle to read your paperwork. Also, assuming you work with computers, keep the screen dim as well; staring a screen for 8 hours a day is tough on the eyes as it is. Speaking of your computer, you want to situate your chair so that you can look straight ahead at your screen This will help you avoid neck strain, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
Also, keeping your workspace nice and tidy will definitely alleviate some of the anxiety that’s fueling your headache. The less frantic you are when looking for a stapler or that report that’s due in twenty minutes, the better.
3. Find Ways to Alleviate Stress
Great advice, I know. Like I said in the intro, most people associate headaches with stress, so obviously it would make sense to try to alleviate stress to avoid such pain. But stress comes from many different sources, so it’s important to pinpoint exactly what you need to change in order to feel better.
If you’re constantly cricking your neck (either up or down) to read something on your monitor, you’re putting an incredible amount of strain on your body. I don’t want to get too science-y here (okay, I mean I’m not smart enough to get all science-y here), but it stands to reason that if your body is fighting off aches and pains in one area, other parts of the body will be left unguarded. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed throughout the day, and try to stretch them out as much as you possibly can while sitting in your cubicle.
Doing all that will help with your physical stress, but what about the stress on your psyche? The best thing to do when you feel a headache coming on due to emotional or psychological stress is to take deep, intentional breaths, and meditate however you like in order to feel the stress wash away. You could count to ten slowly, picture yourself on vacation, or repeat a mantra quietly at your desk. Find what works for you, and resort to it anytime you start to feel off-kilter.
I hate to tell you, but alleviating stress at your desk also requires you to make some other changes as well. But you don’t have to completely change your lifestyle or fit anything extra into your schedule in order to get some much-needed exercise in. Use your lunch break to your advantage: instead of sitting in the break room contemplating going home “sick” for the rest of the day, take a brisk walk around the block. Wake up early and hit the gym before you get to work, or ride your bike to your job a few times a week. Park farther away so you at least get some extra steps in. Not only will you feel better while at work, but you’ll also feel better in general, and will be less prone to headaches and other stress-related illnesses altogether.
5. Eat Healthier
You’ve seen the Snickers commercials: You’re not yourself when you’re hungry. When you haven’t eaten in a while, your blood sugar drops, which causes your head to hurt, which causes you to fly off the handle when your colleague asks for help with a simple task that even a monkey could be taught to do…sorry, I got a little sidetracked. Anyway, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you don’t take the time to eat a full breakfast every morning before you head off to the rat race, right? You might grab a banana and granola bar, and end up snacking on donuts or something throughout the morning. Doing this is actually tricking your body into thinking it’s fulfilled. And since you’ve been eating all morning, you’ll wonder why you still have a headache. It’s actually better to wake up a bit earlier and prepare a meal full of protein, fruits, and grain and fill yourself up rather than keep yourself mildly satisfied throughout the morning. This way, you’re not tricking your body with sugars and empty calories.
6. Take Medicine
If all else fails, by all means pop a naproxen or ibuprofen. While this might be your first inclination, relying on over-the-counter medication will only mask the underlying problems that lead to your headaches. And, of course, relying on medication, no matter what kind, is a surefire way to unwittingly become addicted. I know there are much worse things you can be addicted to than Motrin, but the headache you’ll experience if you happen to forget to take your pills one morning will make you realize just how awful such a “casual addiction” can be.
Of course, if your headaches become entirely too chronic or severe, you should definitely seek the help of a medical doctor. I’m not saying that seeing a doctor should be your absolute resort after you’ve tried everything else on this list; in fact, it should be one of the first things you do. But if your condition isn’t improving and it’s having a severe effect on your life, you should immediately get to a hospital.
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When you have a killer headache, there’s absolutely no way you can function at your highest potential. It’s incredibly important that you take the necessary steps and precautions to bring your body back to baseline. Take stock of your life and see if there are any changes you can make that will keep you happy and healthy every day of your life.