Headaches, Migraine and Student Life

Life’s full of stresses and exams top the lot. Do you find yourself with pounding in your temples, a steel cap three times too small for you or that ice-pick-through-the-eye-feeling?Late nights, lost weekends, irregular meals (and alcohol and fast food!!) are all central to student life. They contribute a physical component to the emotional stress of performing on call (which the whole world seems to be asking you to do.)If headache strikes, rest, re-hydration and a slow-release blood-sugar boost are what you need. Migraine or other severe headache may make those seem impossible. They’re not – but many aspects of life do get a little bent out of shape around exam time.1) Get something light into your stomach like bread or rice (not fried rice from the Chinese takeaway, though boiled or steamed is fine.) Make sure you keep taking plenty of water. Something cold like fruit, a smoothie or some sorbet/sherbet might be good to have on hand.2) Rest if you possibly can. Taking a bath in a darkened room for twenty minutes works wonders.3) If you’re happy to, take a couple of dispersible aspirin, Tylenol or paracetemol… but don’t take these, or ibuprofen, on an empty stomach. Alcohol depletes your vitamin C levels, too. You may want to avoid orange juice if you’ve been partying/studying all night but fizzy vitamin C can be comforting “the morning after” if your stomach can take it. Some preparations like Berocca and Alka-Seltzer contain both a mild painkiller and a vitamin boost, often with caffeine. But if you take caffeine, you won’t be able to rest, so beware… and do read the label.4) If you’d rather avoid painkillers, try some yoga. Loosen the spine with gentle head and neck rolls, then follow with the cat, downward-facing dog, and the child poses. Finish in the pose of total relaxation.5) BREATHE. Most of us have little idea about how much our breathing affects everything else we do and feel. Many meditation traditions teach breathing techniques to help you achieve emotional stability (enlightenment, even!) So if you’re feeling anxious or vulnerable, breathing deeply and slowly helps, even without any training. Do breathe out as well as in so you don’t hyperventilate.Headache is a sign that you’re not maintaining your body quite as you need to. It’s feedback, that’s all, a sign you need to take note.If your headaches are chronic – you’re getting them at other times besides exams or they’re becoming a feature of your life – you’ll need a bit more help to sort out why and what you can do about it. Repeating or lasting headaches can indicate other health issues or relate to the way we’ve learned (or haven’t learned!) to look after ourselves.Re-education can put most of that behind you. Depending on what you value and how you want to live your life, there’s lots of help to be found on the Internet and elsewhere. Spending a little time NOW to find out how best to treat your headaches is an investment in your future.Meanwhile – bye for now; and best of luck with your exams.© 2011 Alexandra Brunel, all rights reserved.