Headaches Due to Stress? Symptoms + 11 Treatment Tips

Deal with stress

‘Why won’t my headache go away?’ Persistent headaches turn your life upside down.

It can have many causes. It is therefore difficult to determine what is the cause of your headache.

Although there are many causes, there is one cause that is becoming more common. Namely stress headaches.

In this article, I’m going to explain how to recognize the symptoms of a stress headache. This allows you to test yourself whether you have a stress headache or not.

I also give you 11 effective tips to relieve stress caused by headaches.

Purpose of this article: In this article I’m going to teach you how stress headaches are caused. In addition, I will also give you the most common symptoms and what you can do about them if you have a stress headache. These tips can help prevent and treat persistent stress headaches.

Causes of Stress Headaches 

As if stress isn’t bad enough on its own, it can both trigger and exacerbate headaches.

Stress can make tension headaches and migraines worse, and it can trigger or exacerbate other types of headaches.

You may react to stress or unpleasant situations by tensing your muscles, grinding your teeth or keeping your shoulders tense.

Stressed woman holding her hand to her forehead and keeping her eyes closed

There are a number of things that can trigger stress headaches:

  • Too little rest
  • you are  overworked
  • Bad Posture
  • Fatigue
  • hunger
  • Low iron content
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Jaw or dental problems
  • Squinting with the eyes
  • dehydration
  • Skip Meals
  • To smoke
  • Cold, flu or sinus infection

Many people suffer from chronic stress, which exacerbates these symptoms. Read more about it in this article .

Relieve stress headaches

Fortunately, stress headaches are fairly easy to fix, but you have to spend time on it consistently.

It is important that you reduce the stressors in your life, or improve your ability to cope with them.

For that, you can do relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing. I will explain more about this shortly.

Woman holding the sides of her head due to pain

Recognize stress headaches

Tension headaches are generally a mild to moderate pain often described as a tight band around the head. It is the most common type of headache.

The characteristics of stress headaches can include:

  • Mild to moderate pain or pressure in the front, top, or sides of your head.
  • Headaches that start later in the day.
  • Sensitivity around the forehead and scalp.
  • Dull headache.
Man holding his hand to his forehead while working

What Symptoms Are Associated With Stress Headaches?

  • Difficulty sleeping: Persistent headaches make it difficult to fall asleep. You can also be awakened from your deep sleep by a headache.
  • Very tired feeling: Because you are constantly ‘on’, stress costs a lot of energy for your body. The headaches, stress and difficulty sleeping can make you feel very tired. It is a negative spiral of symptoms that perpetuate each other.
  • You are irritable: Difficulty sleeping, fatigue and headaches can make you irritable. Your ability to deal with stress deteriorates and you may become more irritable during stressful situations.
  • Mild sensitivity to light and/or sound: If you are more irritable than usual, you may also have more difficulty processing everyday stimuli such as light and sound.
  • Tense shoulders/neck/jaws: Stress can cause you to tense your muscles without realizing it. This causes overload and cramping of your shoulders, neck and jaw muscles. Because you are not aware of it, it may be that you do not realize where your complaints come from.
  • Tense shoulders/neck/jaws: Stress can cause you to tense your muscles without realizing it. This causes overload and cramping of your shoulders, neck and jaw muscles. Because you are not aware of it, it may be that you do not realize where your complaints come from.
  • Muscle pain: Stress can make your muscles tense more. The connective tissue around your muscles tightens so that you can no longer move your muscles optimally. The tense muscles and the tight connective tissue cause this muscle pain.
  • You grind your teeth: Grinding your teeth is often a result of stress, which can also cause headaches. You often don’t realize that you’re grinding your jaw against each other, but it can make you feel very tired.
Woman having muscle pain in her neck and holding her hand on her neck

Unlike migraines, you do not suffer from other nerve symptoms, such as muscle weakness or blurred vision.

Tension headaches usually don’t cause serious symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting. But still it is very annoying!

Before proceeding, take a look at this video:

What to do if you have a stress headache? 11 tips

What can you do to reduce headaches caused by stress?

It is important to know that when you deal with the source of stress, the symptoms will disappear on their own.

However, there are some tips to minimize headaches caused by stress. I will explain these below.

Reducing day-to-day stressors can be very difficult, and these tips can help you improve your ability to cope. Read on soon!

Stress written on a chalkboard with a red cross through it

Tip #1: Meditation and Mindfulness

Through meditation and mindfulness you can increase your ability to cope with stress. Learn more in this article on how to keep your cool in stressful situations.

With meditation you can clear the plethora of information that builds up every day and contributes to your feelings of stress. Some advantages:

  • Improving the ability to cope with stress
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present

There has been scientific research on the link between mindfulness meditation and the ability to cope with stress.

It turned out that the test group that did mindfulness meditation learned to deal with stress better and that it reduced the anxiety and stress symptoms.

As you take a deep breath, you can train yourself to live in the here and now, instead of following thoughts of fear and worry. You could start by doing guided meditations. A voice guides you through relaxation, as it were.

This is a 10-minute guided meditation for dealing with stressful situations:

Tip #2: Yoga and relaxation stretches

Yoga encourages mental and physical relaxation, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. The physical poses promote flexibility and relieve tension and pain.

It can help you to release physical and emotional blockages.

Yoga and stretches release the happiness hormone endorphins, which has a positive influence on how you deal with stress.

Full body stretches:

Stretches for tension headaches:

Tip #3: Take magnesium

Taking magnesium has a number of health benefits. These are mental and physical.

Magnesium helps with headaches, but it also has other benefits that can help control your feelings of stress.

For example, it can help to combat depression and it can help to exercise better.

Research has shown that taking supplemental magnesium can help prevent certain types of headaches such as migraines.

Using magnesium citrate , an easily  absorbable, natural form of  magnesium, can help prevent migraines. 

You can take it in pill form, with a generally recommended dosage of about 400 to 500 milligrams per day.

Nuts, leafy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are among the best natural sources of magnesium.

Tip #4: Use a headache diary

Try to keep track of exactly when you get a headache. This can help you discover your triggers.

Record the date, time, other symptoms, location, pain intensity, what you were doing, what medications you were taking, and what you ate and drank before.

To gain insight into all the circumstances surrounding your tension headache, you can get to the core of the problem and try to tackle it.

Woman writing in a book due to stress headache

Tip #5: Do things you like

This tip may sound a bit contradictory, but pleasurable activities can help you feel mentally refreshed.

Making time for pleasurable activities can recharge your mind. These are the things that make you feel fulfilled like listening to music, dancing, exercising or reading a book. These are activities that don’t cost a lot of energy, but can give you energy.

Tip #6: Breathe easy

Your breathing is an automatic function of the body that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain. When we feel stressed, our respiratory rate and breathing pattern changes.

Woman standing outside and taking a deep breath

Fortunately, we can consciously change this ourselves! Controlling breathing can help treat stress and stress headaches.

The main role of respiration is to take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. When you are under pressure, this pattern changes. You start to breathe small and shallow.

Shallow breathing can prolong feelings of anxiety by exacerbating your physical symptoms of stress.

By calming your breathing, you can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, lower the stress hormones in your blood, balance the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, gain a sense of calm and well-being, and much more.

Woman takes a deep breath with her hand on her chest

Reducing stress through breathing?

But what makes calm breathing so effective? It is very difficult to let go of strong emotions such as fear, anger or stress. Just think how frustrating it is when a coworker tells you to “calm down” during stressful situations.

When we are in a highly stressed state, our prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain responsible for rational thinking – is affected, so logic rarely helps to regain control.

This can make it difficult to think clearly or remain emotionally intelligent. But with breathing techniques it is possible to regain that control.

The idea is that you switch from chest breathing to abdominal breathing. You need a quiet environment where you will not be disturbed for 10 to 20 minutes.

Sit comfortably and place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen.

Notice how your chest and lower abdomen move as you breathe. Try to breathe in and out slowly through your nose.

With each breath, let the tension slide out of your body more and more and enjoy the feeling of physical relaxation.

Would you like to try this out? Then this video is a good way to get acquainted with calm breathing:

Tip #7: Get regular exercise

When treating stress, it is important that you do not only address the mental aspects. Stress management also involves the body.

Research shows that exercise can help lower stress levels and improve your quality of life, both physically and mentally.

It can have a positive effect on your mood by relieving tension, anxiety and anger, emotions often associated with stress.

Exercise improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and improves blood flow.

It can help distract you from your worries. Focusing on a physical task can bring about a sense of energy and optimism. And by doing this consistently, you increase all of these benefits of exercise.

It doesn’t have to be intensive though. Walking, yoga and stretches are also forms of exercise that interrupt your daily feelings of stress.

Woman doing push-ups

Tip #8: Take care of your body

Diet and sleep are one of the most important things for your body to deal with stress.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber can give you more energy and help manage feelings of stress. Skipping a meal, on the other hand, can cause a throbbing headache.

Stress can disrupt sleep, but lack of sleep can also hinder your ability to deal with stress.

Sleep deprivation puts your body under stress and can trigger the production of the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. Make sure you get a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. During the day, you can practice meditation, exercise, or yoga to improve your sleep quality.

Woman with a towel on her head and two half kiwis in her hands that she holds against her cheeks

Tip #9: Try to think positively

By thinking “I can’t do this” , you hold yourself back. Instead, think, “This is going to be hard, but I’m going to make it happen!”

Negative thinking is a major stressor for your body. It ensures that negative emotions receive more attention than positive emotions.

Putting a positive spin on negative thoughts can help you get through stressful situations. You can train your brain for this by, for example, doing cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist or therapist.

No negative thoughts, just think positive

In positive psychology studies, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Gratitude can help people feel more positive emotions, enjoy happy events, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships with others.

In the following video you can watch tips for applying gratitude in your daily life:

Tip #10: Listen to your body

Do you feel overwhelmed? Take a moment to clear your head. A few gentle stretches or a good walk can energize you for the task ahead.

If you feel things are getting too much for you, try not to feel guilty about needing a break. By listening to your body you will feel much better when you are energetic.

In this article you can read more tips on how to reduce a rushed feeling.

Woman lying on the couch with a hat on her head and relaxing

Tip #11: The Stress-Free Secret if you often have headaches

So far you have received 10 tips to reduce headaches caused by stress. However, this is only the beginning of advice to get a grip on feelings of stress and tension complaints.

Hope you learned a lot from it! But of course you are looking for a long-term solution to remedy complaints caused by stress.

The good news is that a solution has recently been discovered to get to grips with stress. You reverse it using one method. It’s what I call ‘The Stress-Free Secret’ . Start now with the free Stress Test below to map the seriousness of your complaints.

As soon as you have taken this test you will receive the e-book ‘ The Stress Free Secret ‘ sent to your mailbox completely free of charge.

I see stress headaches as a blessing rather than a curse. The body gives you a signal that it is too much for you. Try to listen to your body! Good luck dealing with your headache and the cause of your stress problem, and don’t forget to rest. 

PS Do you also suffer from stress? Do you also notice that it affects your health? Leave a comment below.


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