How To Prevent Migraines By Managing Stress

Learning how to prevent migraines by reducing stress can be a crucial part of your migraine prevention plan. Managing stress is just not as easy as to stop worrying. Migraines create havoc in some of our lives, and the levels of stress can go up and up with each attack.

It can be easy to slip into being depressed and doing nothing about this medical condition.

Like Pavlov’s dogs that don’t get out of the cage when they are electronically shocked, even though the door is open.

Don’t let this be you. Don't give up - I am here to tell you to persevere. If I can do it, so can you!

Here are some helpful tips on how to prevent migraines by reducing stress and anxiety. There are more tips in our migraine help section and throughout the website. This is page two of our most popular article on building your own migraine prevention kit.

Learning how to prevent migraines means you have to learn new stress management skills. There are things to be done, that can be done now - so let's get started.

How to Manage Stress

1.  Do physical exercise. Indoors, outdoors it doesn't matter. It can be dancing or chores around the house. Do half an hour everyday of something you love. Ok, you might not love housework, but do stuff you enjoy.

2.  Learn a progressive muscle relaxation technique or breathing relaxation exercises. I always start with breathing ... more on that later. Here is an easy migraine relaxation technique you can use right now.

3.  Listen to music that moves you emotionally. Have a good cry now and again. Or watch your favorite movie, just for something different watch one that makes you angry so you can process that too in the peace of your own home.

4.  Talk to someone. Talk to a friend or find some professional pain counseling for some extra migraine support. It will help wonders to express your feelings with another compassionate soul who can listen to your woes and guide you.

5.  Use distractions – visual. This means: TV, movies, video games and yes - your computer if you can. Look out the window, look at the clouds, a tree or a flower. Looking at nature can help reduce stress.

6.  Use distractions – physical. Things like: arts and crafts, fix something, tinker, garden, just DO something. Move that body.

7.  Find a replacement for worry. Use positive affirmations for migraines and find a hobby, like a jigsaw puzzle or crossword to preoccupy that busy mind.

8.  Practice these new healthy habits daily. Yes every day until they become part of your routine. Half an hour everyday would be best, longer if you have longer. But the breathing you can do in 5 or 10 minutes. It does not have to take long to take a little time out.

Consciously choose to bring balance to your life. 

But First You Must Learn to Recognize Stress

How to Prevent Migraines Stress Puzzle

In order to reduce your stress levels, you need know what it looks like in your body and then learn your limits.

This can be very hard to determine exactly in today’s world with so many life pressures, so many changes, that we just don't have time to process. Never mind the added stress of intensely painful chronic migraine attacks. In learning how to prevent migraines, you must be willing to experiment and find what works for you.

Learning some of the skills and techniques in this website will help you to reduce stress. However, you must acknowledge your stress in the first place. I watch people racing around; I think we have forgotten how it feels to be relaxed and fully alert.

Close your eyes and just imagine being calm: take a slow deep breath, imagine walking on a warm sandy beach, walking through an acreage of rose gardens, hear the silence inside of you, or what ever brings you inner balance. Now how do you feel? Have you slowed down a bit?

I think learning to breathe deeply is one key element in our how to prevent migraines plan.

How to Prevent Migraines Using Body Awareness

Using body awareness to recognize when you are stressed out will help you learn how to prevent migraines.

Check your breathing – is it shallow and fast, or deep and slow? Tune into your breath and let it tell you if you are stressed. Put one hand on your heart and one on your belly – are your hands moving, or just one? Have you forgotten to breathe?

Notice your eyes – do they feel dry, strained?

How about your jaw? Is that clenched, or your buttocks, are they clenched?

What clues is your body giving you right now? Does your stomach feel tight? How sore is your neck and back? Is there an all too familiar ache in your neck? How about your hands? Just tune in and notice each part of your body and see if it feels contracted or tense.

Your muscles will let you know if you are stressed. Now you need to find a way to relax them. You can read our migraine relaxation technique article, and any of our meditation for migraines articles.

I have found using body awareness to be a most useful tool to help me feel proactive in my migraine prevention.

How We React to Stress

How to Prevent Migraines Stressed Man

How to prevent migraines relates to how we react to stress. And then how we treat stress.

There are 3 ways that we react to stress, you may have heard of these:



and freeze.

Knowing which way you react is important to choosing what you might do for quick stress relief. If you normally react in an angry or agitated way then you need to find something to calm you down like Yoga, Tai Chi or meditating.

If you flee, which translates as “shut-down or space out” then you need something more active like: jogging or stretching. If you freeze, perhaps a calming movement like just squeezing a stress ball might work.

Biological Reaction

Fight – angry, agitated, intense desire to fight back

Our Conscious Choice

Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Pattern Interrupt

Flight – shut down, space out, intense desire to flee

Jogging, Stretching, Tapping on your body

Freeze – speeding up and slowing down at the same time, no desire

Calming movements – squeeze a stress ball, breath work, body awareness, or experiment with an elastic band on your wrist to snap you out of it

As you can’t just run off and do a meditation at work, or fight back in most cases, you need to find a quick action to take. Tony Robbins suggests pattern interrupt where you just say something silly and off topic whilst you are, say, getting angry.

So “the umbrella is red!” might work in the middle of a heated ‘discussion’ with your boss or husband. Its your choice if you say it out loud or just silently to yourself. Robbins suggests tickling your nose to interrupt your own pattern of getting angry.

Quick Stress Relief

Eckhart Tolle says to think of two body parts at once. So, to get into your body, sense your hands on the table and your feet on the floor. Or sense your feet on the floor and your sitting bones on your chair. Wiggle your toes and imagine breathing down to them. Just take 3 nice deep breathes and see if that calms you.
For quick stress relief Jeanne Segal, PhD recommends using sensory input to put a change into action. A visual, sound, taste, smell, and touch, can all be used to change your nervous systems reaction. But this is learning a new habit, so you must do this daily before you retrain your brain.

Using Your Senses for

Quick Stress Relief


Imagine your children as babies, or recall the last time you felt absolutely delighted.


Have your favorite music or relaxations on your iPad or MP3 player.


Carry your favorite snack, peppermints or little migraine free yummy.


Carry a bottle of essential oil with you, or anoint a handkerchief. Peppermint, lavender or rosemary are all good, if smell is not a migraine trigger.


Have a small crystal, piece of suede material in your pocket or wear a nice textured scarf around your neck.


Step back, walk away, turn around, and jump up and down on the spot.

Developing emotional awareness by learning to recognize and connect your body signals with your emotions you can:

  • gain control over the way you react to challenges,
  • improve your communication skills,
  • and enjoy more fulfilling relationships.

Make This A Habit

By making your awareness of body sensations important instead of dismissing them, you will learn how to prevent migraines. Timing is everything.

Cynthia Perkins e-book below will tell you everything you need to know about timing. It is crucial to aborting the attack.

Anyway, here are my tips:

1. Learn to recognize the stress in your body and then acknowledge it. Saying 'hello' works for me.

2. Make a list of the things that get you stressed. Start with something minor, not major! Maybe make two lists, you can work on the major things later when you are ready.
3. Just pick one thing. Spend a week on experimenting with that one thing.

4. Experiment to find what sensory input works best. Are you visual, auditory, or kin-aesthetic? Try a different sense each day of that week.

5. Write down what works best for each stimulus. Commuting to work, dropping the kids off at school, grocery shopping, in those bright migraine trigger lights. What reduced the trigger the best for you?

I like a tissue with lavender essential oil on it for all day things that might stress me out, or peppermint oil for nausea! I am kin-aesthetic so I am more soothed by touch, I carry a crystal in my pocket, and I have learned to take a step back and say ‘pause’ silently to myself before I get angry. This is still a work in progress!

6. Remember to do it!

And one more thing, fit in balance, variety and fun in your day. Make sure you have a migraine pain management strategy from your doctor, so that is one less thing to stress about. How to prevent migraines is different for everyone so like I said, keep experimenting to find what works for you.

More Ways to Prevent Migraines

The alternative approach for how to prevent migraines recommends: biofeedback, meditation, acupuncture, supplements, yoga, and counseling.

The traditional approach uses: medication, treatment strategies, and therapy. I recommend a combination of both traditional and alternative.

These all work for me. Give them a try.

  • Ice packs and a hot water bottle at my feet and hands

Stay well,

How to Prevent Migraines Article Disclaimer

How to Prevent Migraines References:

1. Bourne, E. J. PhD., (2000) The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Harbinger Publications, Inc.: New York, NY. pp. 433-434.
2. Segal, J. Ph.D., Smith, M. M.A., and Robinson, L. (2016) Stress Relief in the Moment. [Online] Available: Accessed June 12, 2016.

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