7 a.m.: Abide the alarm
Snoozing in for more than an hour can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, and anything that tinkers with your body’s natural rhythms may prime you for pain, says Lisa Mannix, M.D., a spokeswoman for the National Headache Foundation in Chicago. Commit to waking up (and going to bed) at the same time every day — yes, that includes weekends, too.
7:45 a.m.: Get caffeinated
If you often have a pick-me-up drink (coffee, tea or soda), by all means keep enjoying it, says Richard Lipton, M.D., professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. Caffeine activates receptors in your brain; skip your fix and your head might surely revolt.
10:45 a.m.: Do a posture check
Are you sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back? If not, readjust. The main sensory nerve in your forehead is rooted in the base of your neck — which is why experiencing muscle tension there or in your shoulders can lead to head pain.
11:30 a.m.: Break for H2O
Doctors know dehydration is a common trigger of headaches. But ask them to explain why, and they have no clear answer. Maybe it hurts their head to think about it too much. Either way, fill up on fluids frequently. Keep a water bottle at your desk, and refill it several times throughout the day.
12:30 p.m.: Skip the sandwich
Certain substances such as nitrates (in lunch meats), tyramine (in soft cheeses) and MSG (in some Chinese dishes) can alter neurotransmitters and spark a migraine in susceptible people. (Download a headache log at Self.comto identify your food triggers.) Have a protein and healthy fat to avoid the sugar crash that a meal of only simple carbs can induce.
3 p.m.: Take a time-out
When you’re overly anxious, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline surge, which prompts your body to pump out sugar. The rapid change in glucose can set you up for pain. But giving yourself a few minutes to decompress can keep stress from getting to you.
6 p.m.: Slip into your sneakers
Exercise increases circulation, relieves physical and mental tension and improves sleep, all of which help fight off aches. Need to inject excitement into your routine (or start one to begin with)? Check out the Reach Your Goal plan at Self.com.
8:30 p.m.: Wind down slowly
When you instantly crash on the couch, your brain chemicals continue to rev. That imbalance may contribute to what is called a let-down headache. Because it’s smart to give your body and mind some transition time do a calming activity — try a few stretches, curl up with a book, whatever you like. Come time for bed, you’ll be relaxed, happy and ready for a new day.