Stress Headache Symptoms and Tips

Stress is a natural process. It is a response to the body's need to adapt to its environment. However, when a stress headache is long-lasting and intense, it can be dangerous for your health.

Stress is a rigidity or tension cause by different distressing or overwhelming situations. Said situations can trigger psychological disorders or psychosomatic reactions, including a stress headache.

The symptoms that can cause stress are diverse and can start with a little or a great amount of intensity. We can even feel light pressure in our heads or even extreme migraine pain.

The symptoms also vary person-to-person. What might seem like a headache could be related to migraines, insomnia, fatigue, or more.

When you are experiencing head pain more than twice a week over the course of several months, you could possibly be suffering from chronic headaches.

The causes of head pain can go from physical ones, like allergies that cause sinusitis, to psychic ones, like being worried.

Stress is one of the more common of the psychic causes of headaches.

What causes a stress headache?

woman with stress headache in front of a computer at work


  • Constant stress
  • Keeping your head in the same position for too long
  • Working in front of the computer a lot
  • Sleeping with your head in an unnatural position
  • Straining of your eye muscles
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, or consuming a lot of caffeine
  • Sinusitis or nasal congestion
  • Cold or flu
  • Contraction of the neck muscles and of the scalp

A stress headache is not associated with structural injuries in the brain or with serious illnesses.

Daily worries are one of the causes of stress. But there is a great difference between thinking about something and being worried about something.

When you think, you look for solutions to your problem. However, when you are worrying about something, you paralyze yourself in the same pattern of reasoning. This tires out your mind and causes headaches.

From a psychologist’s point of view, it is very interesting to analyze this pain. Stress mobilizes our brain’s chemistry and changes the equilibrium of our muscles, vertebrae and the nerves in our skull.

So, it increases tension and this tends to cause head pain.

When stress is light or temporary, it does not hurt us. However, when it is prolonged for a while, the body stays in a state of alertness which causes the body’s defenses to debilitate. In turn, you become exhausted, and experience a stress headache.

Symptoms of a stress headache

young woman with stress headache in pain

  • Low intensity, continuous, annoying head pain. Can be isolated or occur routinely.
  • More intense pain around the temples, scalp, and the back of your neck
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle pain (shoulders and upper back)
  • Sensibility to changes in climate, noises and lighting

When the pain is light, you can treat it with homemade remedies. However, if the pain is strong and persistent, you should seek advice from your doctor.

Actions to reduce stress headache frequency

young man with headache at his desk in an office

If, because of your stress headache, you have also acquired other symptoms like muscular tension or grinding of your teeth, you could end up suffering from an intense pain that will affect your quality of life.

Because of this, it is necessary to take control of the situations in your daily life that negatively effect mood. For example:

  • Enjoy pleasant activities like listening to music, reading, working out, dancing or playing with your pets.
  • Take a moment to do a relaxation exercise using techniques like breathing, deep thinking, yoga and meditation.
  • Make your life easier: choose the activities that you have to do and budget your time efficiently.
  • Look for help. Talking with family and friends helps you to problem-solve and control your stress.
  • Give up the negative thoughts. By doing this, you release endorphins that contribute to a positive attitude.
  • Work out regularly to prevent and combats stress.
  • Get a massage from a professional that you are comfortable with.
  • If your headaches are caused by the cold, keep yourself warm.
  • Change your sleep position. Also, adopt a better posture when you are reading, working or exercising. Sleep and rest appropriately.
  • Exercise your neck and shoulders frequently.
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