Stress – what is it, anyway?

The word "stress" as we understand it today was first used by scientists about 50 years ago. One researcher, Hans Selye, described stress in general terms as "our body's response to demands." For most people these days, stress is the feeling of being under too much pressure, all tensed up, or not having enough time. Stress is not only caused by major life events. Ordinary everyday hassles can leave you feeling stressed.

Digital stress

Many of us are available almost every second of the day. For any reason, no matter how important or how trivial, your smartphone pings or your computer flashes with a new notification. At work, at play, everywhere. We often think that if we’re not connected all the time, we might miss something. And we think we have to respond to every message right away. Before you know it, reading and responding becomes a full-time job and you find it impossible to "switch off” (literally and figuratively).

Stress generates headache

Everyone experiences stress differently. Some people are less prone to stress than others. One thing is the same for everyone, though: being stressed is very bad for your wellbeing. One of the consequences of various types of stress is headache.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks headache as one of the “most disabling illnesses” – “dis-abling” because head pain can make you unable to do your job every day AND unable to relax and rest properly during your free time.

The science around stress and headache

A lot of research has been done on stress and headache. Researchers use many different ways to try and show how stress happens and how it affects people. In some studies, volunteers are exposed to situations that cause stress and the researchers watch how they react. This provides useful information on how we cope with stress.

Major headache risks in the workplace

Workplace factors that increase your risk of a headache are grouped into two categories. The first category might be headed "job satisfaction". Feeling overwhelmed is a key contributor, also a pressure to meet deadlines, disappointments, trouble with colleagues, or a tense working atmosphere overall. Tension-type headaches are common in this situation.

The second category is more about physical well-being. Office workers often sit hunched over a computer for hours. This unhealthy posture tenses your shoulder and neck muscles and strains your upper back. Poor posture is not limited to desk workers. Many jobs involve hours of standing, stooping or bending over. These postures tense and strain your body, resulting sooner or later in a headache.

The economic burden of headache

Headache has serious economic consequences among the working population. Time off work due to headaches costs billions in lost income every year. Stress accounts for a major part of that. Sufferers also spend a lot of money on headache medication, most of which is not covered by health insurance.

Good sleep helps

You are less likely to develop stress and headaches if you get plenty of restful sleep. Especially if you are prone to migraines, try to go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. For many headache sufferers, not getting enough sleep is a key trigger. Research has shown that lack of sleep, poor sleep, a stressful day and, last but not least, job worries can reinforce each other. No wonder people end up with a headache.

Less stress!

Stress reduction at work and in your leisure time will only succeed with the active cooperation of the workers themselves. The first step is to manage your time better. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Take regular breaks. Work out a reasonable schedule in which to complete your projects. Otherwise, you are just setting yourself up for stress. And if things don't go as planned, stay calm. Not everything is under your control and not everything is your fault. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure. Follow these tips to maximize your chances of getting through the day without a stress-related headache.

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