Wednesday, 15 July 2015

On Trying To Relax

I've always found it difficult to relax. I just find it really hard to switch my brain off, it feels as though there is a constant stream of conversation going on in my head at any given time, no matter what I'm doing. 

Although my life is far less stressful than it used to be, I still find that I get myself tightly wound. I'm a worrier by nature and I tend to always have something on my mind that I'm mulling over, as well as a To Do list as long as my arm! I'm also a serious introvert and I often find myself even more reluctant to spend time with anyone when I get like this and, if I do see people, I'm usually withdrawn and find I can't remember anything that's been said later on.

For me, with stress and tension come headaches and migraines. I used to suffer from terrible migraines in my early twenties, real stinkers that used to render me completely helpless. I'd often lose feeling or get numbness or tingling down one side of my body, that side of my face would droop and I knew that I'd have a very small window of time to get myself home, take my prescription tablets and get into bed - otherwise I'd be unable to drive and would be stuck wherever I was in complete agony. My tablets would knock me out for at least four hours and I'd be left with what I thought of as a 'migraine hangover' afterwards - feeling washed out and literally hungover for the following day or so. My doctor called these 'cluster headaches' as I'd get them regularly for a few weeks and then they'd disappear for a while.

Luckily it's been years since I had one of those migraines, though I still get headaches often. Strangely, since falling pregnant they are not as bad as they used to be. I was worried about getting a bad headache whilst I was pregnant as I knew I could only take paracetamol and let's face it, paracetamol doesn't do much of anything for most people. It's bloody laughable that they offer you it when you're in labour!

The team at Syndol have read about my reliance on their headache relief tablets in the past and I was delighted when they got in touch and told me about their newly launched website. Syndol headache relief tablets have been relaunched with a new formulation and I'm pleased to have them in my medicine cabinet again as nothing else comes close to dealing with serious headaches for me. The new formulation still gives me quick relief but I've found that it doesn't give me the sleepy feeling that the old formulation did, which is great if I need to take it in the middle of a busy day.

The website is full of really useful information about different types of headaches, their causes and triggers and ways to help headache/migraine sufferers 'head for a better place'. Every headache/migraine is different, as is every sufferer and Syndol have recognised that there isn't a 'one size fits all' approach to management. The Syndol website has pages of beautiful relaxing imagery, gentle music, suggested exercises to try and even massage techniques

Over the years I've found that my triggers are;

Broken sleep, a couple of late nights or poor quality sleep have always given me headaches. The worst is when you wake up with a headache, it's such a nasty, hopeless feeling

Tension always manifests itself in a back-of-the-head headache for me. Like the nape of my neck is being squeezed in a vice. If I'm particularly stressed I tense my jaw tightly, even whilst I'm asleep, and wake up with a headache that also affects my jaw and facial muscles

If I've got to do something that I'm nervous about, I'll often get a headache after it's over. It's as though the relief is too much for my poor little brain and it just aches

Going out in the cold without a scarf or in windy weather without my ears covered always gives me horrible headaches that affect my whole head and neck and also gives me earache. Ugh.

Caffeine withdrawal
I only usually have one coffee per day but in the summer when I drink more cold drinks and less coffee and tea I am prone to headaches. I remember having a migraine that lasted two days and nights one summer and realising that it had come on because I'd had no hot drinks, only water for a few days because it had been really hot. I had a cup of coffee and it started to lift almost immediately

Physical strain*
For some reason, tipping my head forward gives me an instant headache. For example, leaning over the bath to wash my hair is a total no no for me, as are certain TV watching positions which involve lying on my back on the sofa.  Squinting in the sun or balancing my sunglasses on top of my head can also bring on a headache.

*I'm assured by Dr Sue Lipscombe, headache specialist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, that these are all common triggers except the last one, which is due to my existing back and neck problems. If you experience the last one you should discuss it with your GP.

It's become clear to me that the key to minimising my headaches is to make the time and effort to relax. It can be hard with a toddler, businesses and a busy household to run but it really makes all the difference for me. I do escape to a spa as often as I can (read 'not as often as I used to/would like to'!) but I obviously need to be able to relax at home too. I find the best ways to do this are to

Take a bath
Having a bath is a real luxury when you're short on time, isn't it? So often I find myself thinking 'I haven't got time for a bath, I'll have a shower instead so I can fold another load of washing/finish the online grocery shop/do some batch cooking for Forrest'. But a deep, warm bath with one of my favourite Aromatherapy Associates oils is a surefire way to relax my body and mind, which usually makes for a noticeably better night's sleep

Listen to some relaxing music
I find piano music really relaxing but there are also some wonderful pieces of music on the Syndol site

This is new to me but I have downloaded the Headspace app and try to make time to use it when I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed

I'm a big believer in aromatherapy, as was my mum. I used it during my pregnancy and even in labour and found it really helped me. My mum used to make me a cold compress with lavender oil when I had a headache, something I still do now. I also like to fragrance the room with a specially blended relaxing scent as a special treat, using an aromatherapy diffuser.

I can highly recommend Syndol to migraine/headache sufferers, having used it for 15 years myself (man that makes me feel old!) and the new website is really worth making time to have a look at if you are interested in finding out more about migraines/headaches and how to manage them. 

Are you a sufferer and do you find that they are linked to any of the triggers above? 

* I received a gift from Syndol in respect of this feature but would have been happy to recommend the product either way. You can read my disclosure policy here


  1. Quite a few of those are triggers for me too actually as well as missing a meal - that, weirdly, is guaranteed to give me a full blown migraine. Ick.
    I do swear by Syndol though, perhaps the only over the counter drug that works for me. I didn't know about the website though, I'm a bit of a sponge when it comes to migraine knowledge, anything I can learn that might help me beat the buggers.
    M x

  2. Oh, I'm so pleased to see that Syndol is available again. I used to take the normal (non headache) variety for my back pain and it was the one thing that worked - then it disappeared from the shelves. Maybe it wouldn't be as good now though as it was the muscle relaxant (hence the sleepiness) that I found particularly useful. I will investigate! I also get terrible headaches if I don't drink enough caffeine. x


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