Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Relaxation Followed by Stress Triggers Migraines

If you have migraine headaches, they may increase significantly after you relax and then experience heightened stress, according to the results of a new study.

“People with migraine are thought to inherit a predisposition to headaches.

Attacks of migraine headache are initiated in vulnerable individuals when they are exposed to a broad range of triggers,” said study co-author Dawn C. Buse, PhD, Director of Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center, and Associate Professor, Clinical Neurology, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“Our study results support the ‘letdown phenomenon,’” she said.

“That is, relaxation following high perceived stress is a powerful predictor of migraine onset.”

The researchers published their results online on March 26, 2014 in the journal Neurology.


Dr. Buse and colleagues asked 17 patients with migraine to keep electronic diaries for 3 months to examine the relationship of perceptions of stress and relaxation after stress with increased probability of a migraine attack, yielding more than 2000 diary entries, including 110 eligible migraine attacks.

Data were collected using a custom-programmed electronic diary.

Each day patients recorded information about migraine attacks, 2 types of stress ratings, and common migraine triggers.

Triggers included hours of sleep; certain foods, drinks, and alcohol consumed; and menstrual cycle.

They also recorded their mood each day, including feeling happy, sad, relaxed, nervous, lively, and bored.

“We found that a reduction in stress from one day to the next was associated with a nearly 5-fold increased risk of migraine onset within 6 hours,” Dr. Buse said.

The biology of stress is complex, including activation of both neuroendocrine and sympathetic mechanisms, she noted.

“Cortisol rises during times of stress.

If cortisol falls in periods of relaxation after stress that may contribute to the triggering of a migraine attack,” said lead author Richard B. Lipton, MD, Director, Montefiore Headache Center, and Professor and Vice Chair of Neurology and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology at Einstein.


“This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine,” Dr Buse stated.

“It is very important for people to be aware of rising stress levels and attempt to relax during periods of stress rather than allow a major buildup to occur.

Strategies to relax could include exercising, attending a yoga class, taking a walk with your dog, or simply focusing on your breath for a few minutes.”

Behavioral interventions that protect against rising levels of stress also may prevent the peak followed by the valley that leads to an increased risk of migraine attack.

“There are several approaches to stress management with strong scientific support, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), biofeedback, and relaxation therapies,” Dr. Buse said.

“An additional bonus is that these techniques also have scientific evidence for migraine prevention.”

Some approaches require the guidance of a mental health care professional, such as biofeedback and CBT, and some can be self-learned, such as diaphragmatic breathing and guided visual imagery.

“Once learned these techniques can be practiced practically anywhere at any time for the rest of someone’s life,” Dr. Buse noted.

“Based on these findings, we suggest that health care professionals caring for individuals with migraine should incorporating stress management interventions into treatment plans, especially for patients for whom changes in stress levels are triggers for migraine attacks.”

How Hormones Play a Role in Mood Swings During Fertility Treatments

Infertile men and women often say they feel sad or tired.

They can’t eat or sleep, they are anxious, irritable, or pessimistic.

These are all symptoms of depression.

Women, more than men, tend to express higher levels of depression about infertility.

Studies show that women tend to experience greater levels of distress than their male partners in terms of anxiety, depression, and hostility as well as more stress and lower self-esteem.

Often it’s the woman who has to bear the brunt of the medical interventions.

She has to show up for regular monitoring and go through the day-to-day struggle of hormone injections, drug side effects, and recurring periods.

Some of the depression is due to the effect of hormones on a woman’s mood during fertility treatments, writes Piave Pitisci Lake, M.D., Member of the American Fertility Association (AFA) Mental Health Advisory Council, in the July issue of the AFA newsletter.

“There is no doubt that women experience mood and anxiety symptoms during hormone therapy for fertility treatment,” writes Dr. Lake, who is a psychiatrist in Mount Pleasant, SC, who has an interest in women’s mental health and infertility issues.

“The causes of these symptoms are multiple, including the psychological issues involved in having to undergo fertility treatment.

In addition, there are specific points during a treatment cycle that are associated with increased anxiety and distress.

The length of time one has been pursuing fertility treatment also affects how vulnerable a woman might be to symptoms of depression and anxiety.

There is now some evidence to suggest that, among women given hormone therapy for fertility treatment, fluctuating levels of hormones, especially declining levels of estrogen, will have a negative effect on mood beyond that attributable to psychological distress.”

So how can a woman handle the emotional issues of fertility treatments?

— Recognize that feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, isolation, and anger are very common among infertile couples.

— The more you know about your condition, its causes and treatments, the less stress you will feel about it.

— You can manage the effects of stress through techniques such as breathing exercises, journal writing, meditation and relaxation, mindfulness, and making time for yourself.

— You can learn to replace negative thoughts with new, more balanced thoughts.

— You and your partner may respond differently to infertility. Support each other and try to understand your partner’s feelings.

Reduce Stress and Win Your Life Back

Whether you are an overworked executive, a fast-moving soccer mom, or an athlete with limited time for cross training, you need to find a way to reduce your stress.

For me, I practice the moving meditation of Tai Chi most every day.

Others successfully use sitting or standing meditations.

Even sitting still for as little as 10 minutes watching your breath may be enough to get the effects of meditation.

Meditation experts Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, recently debunked the 6 reasons why meditation appears to be difficult in a Huffington Post blog.

Below Jeff Cannon, a certified meditation instructor and the author of the fine book The Simple Truth: Meditation for the Modern World, gives his take on stress and provides you with some exercises on how to reduce it:


Stress is part of life.

But it does not have to ruin your life.

Let it out.

Release it.

Fill the empty space it leaves with the kind of positive energy that will help you live the life you love living.

The next time you feel your blood pressure jump or your brain starts to spin out of control, hit the pause button, slow the world down, and have it start spinning at your pace.

Here are some easy exercises that can be done anywhere to help you do just that.

Breathe 8-2-8.

I cannot stress enough how beneficial proper breathing is.

If you feel your heart start to race, take three deep breaths into your stomach as you focus you attention on your belly expanding and contracting.

Feel it move against your clothing as you slowly count to eight on each inhale, let your breath settle for a count of two, and then exhale for a count of eight, again letting your breath settle for two before inhaling again.

It will center you and help you regain your mental footing.

Ground yourself in your setting.

Rather than trying to escape, close your eyes and listen to the world around you.

Listen to the hum of the lights, hear the sounds of the people and equipment wherever you are.

Embrace your environment as a reality, but not your reality.

Know that you are separate from it, that the fear and angst it breeds is not something that you need to be a part of.

Relax in the knowledge that when you open your eyes it will all be there, but that it will only touch you if you let it.

You, and only you, have control over how you respond to the world around you.

Learn Your Triggers.

Identify and monitor the triggers that cause you stress.

The next time you feel your stress growing, think about what happened to cause it.

Turn your mind inward and review the emotions that were set off when that trigger was activated.

Try to remember another time in your life when you had the same emotional response.

Remember, the way an event affected you is as much a part of your past as it is your present.

Use that insight to help you separate the present event from past associations to reduce the way you escalate a small event into greater stress.

Own your stress.

Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Admit to it and embrace it.

Then let it go with a great big inhale.

Running from a problem only makes it worse, and only prolongs the stress it brings.

Training Tips On Meditation

Meditation can generate many health benefits.

Those health benefits, according to Yang Yang, PhD, a noted New York Tai Chi researcher and author, include:

• kindness toward ourselves and the rest of the world

• enhancement of mental and physical agility

• better sleep, digestion, bowel function, and sexual function

• cultivation of tranquility, joy, and resilience in daily life

• awareness of our mind, body, and spirit

• awareness of reality

• acceptance of differences between ourselves and others

In the January issue of Yang-Sheng, Yang outlines how he cultivates awareness, which includes meditating on one or another of these maxims, choosing the one that best applies to the situation:

1. The world is yin and yang; we are all different.

2. Everyone is seeking his or her best interests or happiness, including ourselves.

3. Nothing is personal.

4. The meaning and purpose of life.

He also works on the following principles:

1. Gratitude.

2. Kindness and love.

3. Acceptance of differences between self and the rest of the world, and acceptance of imperfection in life.

4. Forgiveness.

5. The golden rule.

“There are no fixed ways to apply these maxims and principles,” Yang writes.

“You can apply one maxim and one principle on one day, and apply another on the following day until you apply all of them.

Or, you can apply more than one maxim and principle to the same situation.

However, one maxim and one principle may be easier for beginners.

After I have meditated through several of these notions, I feel energized, peaceful, joyful and ready to start out a new day to do something for myself, my family, and my community.

I find this method of categorized meditation leads me easily into quiet.

It does this not only by improving my ability to manage my daily stress, but also — and more importantly — by reducing the stressors.

Meditation helps me realize that I have created stressors through my rumination, and that those stressors should never have been stressors at all.

New stressors can arise every day.

The good news is that we can develop a habitual mental pattern to neutralize them.

In this way, we can make some stressors less stressful, and eliminate others entirely.

We can reduce the stress of our daily lives.

And we can make positive thinking our way of life.”