You wake up on the morning of a big day. Perhaps you’re setting off on holiday. Maybe its Christmas Eve and a visit from Santa Claus is getting closer and closer. Or today is the day you get to see a best friend you’ve been waiting to meet up with for a long time. You cannot wait for it to be the perfect day… you are excited! But then you feel something coming on – you sense an approaching pain. The pain you feel is a headache, and you realise that you are experiencing a migraine attack. But what triggered this attack on such a good day? Well, the very fact that you are looking forward to the day ahead – the fact that you are experiencing excitement – may well be the reason for your migraine attack.
It is well-known that there are many migraine attack triggers. They vary massively from person to person, and from attack to attack. One of the most common of all these triggers is emotional stress.
Emotional stress is when you experience any intense emotions. These emotions may be anger, stress, anxiety, or (as we have already suggested) excitement…
…but how do emotions like excitement trigger migraine attacks?
When we face situations that cause us to feel strong emotions like worry or excitement, our body helps us to deal with the situation by releasing a chemical. This chemical is a hormone known as adrenaline. As it floods our bodies, we experience an adrenaline rush which many people understand as the ‘fight or flight’ response. But what has all of this got to do with migraine?
Well, adrenaline works by causing our blood vessels to dilate (get wider). This means that more blood can flow through them, so more oxygen and sugar can be delivered to the brain to help it deal with the situation in front of us. But besides these useful evolutionary benefits, this increased blood flow does have its side effects in some individuals. Increased blood flow to the brain is believed to be a trigger of migraine. And this is why we may find ourselves having to deal with migraine attacks whenever we feel excitement.
How can I prevent migraine attacks triggered by strong emotions?
Avoiding migraine attacks altogether is very difficult. But there are some techniques you can use to reduce the likelihood of an attack beginning. Of course, stopping yourself from getting excited is not an easy thing to do (this is especially true for children) – nor is it necessarily something you may want to do! Instead, practising relaxation techniques (like breathing exercises, etc.) could be a good way to reduce the intensity of your emotions. Keeping a migraine diary is also really helpful. They can help you identify certain habits and features of your lifestyle which may also be the cause of your headaches.
Of course, speaking to your doctor is the best place to start. They will be able to nudge in the right direction when it comes to things like medication. With their help, you should be able to look forward to an exciting day without any additional worries about your migraine – an exciting prospect in itself!