Health

How to avoid headaches at work

Dr Daniel Fenton, clinic director at London Doctors Clinic, shares his top 10 tips for warding off headaches and migraines at work dan-fenton

We have all suffered the discomfort of a headache at some point in our lives, but anyone who’s ever experienced migraines knows all too well the misery and suffering this condition can cause.

According to the Migraine Trust, migraines are the third most common disease in the world, with an estimated global prevalence of one in seven people. It is also one of the most common health complaints we see as GPs, which isn’t surprising considering that over ten million people across the UK suffer with headaches on a regular basis.

These debilitating headaches often lead to people taking time off work. According to a new report by the Work Foundation, it’s estimated that absenteeism and presenteeism due to migraines results in 86 million lost workdays per year, which costs the UK economy a huge £8.8bn per annum.

Migraines are identified by recurrent disabling headaches – they’re much more severe than the average headache and are thought to be caused by temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Sufferers often begin having episodes from childhood and these can range from mild to extremely painful with vomiting and even temporary paralysis.

In line with the focus for this year’s Migraine Awareness Week, it’s important for businesses to cultivate a culture of mindfulness around migraines in workplaces, and to:

  1. understand that migraines are a complex neurological condition and that not everyone experiences the same symptoms, and
  2. make reasonable concessions for employees who get migraines, such as offering them flexible working hours and looking at how their physical environment can be adjusted to help avoid elements that may trigger a migraine.

So what steps can we take to prevent migraines at work?

  • Be mindful of stress and anxiety

Prioritise taking steps to reduce your stress or anxiety levels as this will lessen your headaches – be it through relaxation exercises, psychological therapy, a walk in the park or a long bath. A great way to feel calm when you need a quick solution is to take deep breaths from your diaphragm- set aside 10 minutes to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, and your body should soon relax.

  • Manage the glare

It’s no secret that squinting causes headaches but what few office workers realise it that the glare from their screens can make them squint. Encourage migraine-prone employees to get glasses with glare resistant lenses, and to give their eyes regular breaks from the computer screen by looking away and focusing on an item in the distance for a minute or two.

  • Cut down noise

Noise is a migraine trigger so if you’re prone to migraines and can’t avoid noise at work, wear ear plugs or find a quiet breakaway spot to work in. If necessary, speak to your manager about reducing noise levels in the office.

  • Get more sleep

No surprises here – too little sleep causes headaches as well as grumpiness! Having a consistent sleep routine is vital for keeping migraines at bay. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. It may sound obvious but be careful with your consumption of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol and don’t over-indulge in exercise or food before bedtime – this could have a negative impact on your sleep and possibly lead to headaches.

  • Get moving!

If you sit, lie or slope about and don’t exercise you will get headaches. An aching head does not inspire us to get active but getting outside in the fresh air can help loosen tight muscles which cause migraines. Make it a priority to move – be that going for a morning run, walking part of your commute to work or pushing back your chair to do desk-er-cises during the day. Exercising will not only transform your life, but considerably reduce your migraines too.

  • Correct your posture

Bad posture gives you headaches so make a point of sitting up right, squaring your shoulders and straightening out whenever possible. Find a way to remind yourself to ‘straighten out’, such as setting an alarm or making a mental note to sit up straight whenever you drink coffee.

  • Eat regularly and check your diet

No matter how busy you are, don’t skip breakfast or lunch. Fluctuations in blood sugar can sometimes cause migraines so always have breakfast and aim to eat at regular intervals. Sugar and processed carbohydrates cause huge fluctuations in blood sugar so be careful of them.

Cheese, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol are known to trigger migraines in some people so if you’re a regular sufferer, cut these foods and beverages out one at a time for 2-4 weeks and assess if that makes a difference. If you can’t function without your daily Caramel Frap, consider switching to decaf or limit your coffee intake to one cup.

  • Drink plenty of water

Not drinking enough water will very often give you a headache and can lead to migraines. The first thing you should always do when you feel a headache coming on is have a good long drink of water! Make a point of keeping a water bottle on your desk and drinking from it regularly.

  • Supplement with vitamin B2

There are several herbal supplements you can take to improve migraines which are loaded with Vitamin B2. Clinical studies show that taking regular doses can reduce some types of migraines or prevent them altogether. Your local health food store or chemist should have a range of products available.

  • Trigger management

If it’s not very obvious what’s causing your migraines, keep a diary. Note when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief.  This can really help you and the doctor to work out what next.

Finally, if you are still getting migraines you should see a GP. There’s an array of things that can be done, that will make a huge difference to your quality of life.

So in summary you should: relax, give your eyes a break, wear ear plugs to block out noisy colleagues, get some sleep, get moving, SIT UP STRAIGHT, eat some breakfast, have a drink of water and take your vitamins!

For those people who struggle severely migraines, book them a visit or video consultation with a GP.

Offers

Win a spa break with Macdonald Hotels

Macdonald Hotels Spa Collection has launched a competition for one lucky winner to land a well-deserved spa break as part of National Spa Week 2018 (10-17 September).

It’s inviting people across Britain to nominate a friend, family member or themselves to win a spa day experience and overnight stay at a Macdonald Hotels Spa Collection hotel.

Emma Leadbeater, Macdonald Hotels Spa Director, said: “There’s no better cure for something getting under the skin than a facial! If someone you know just can’t catch a break –  if they keep missing their bus or their computer crashed, and they’ve lost a big piece of work, then this is your chance to make their day by entering our competition.”

The Macdonald Hotels Spa Collection is a group luxurious retreats, providing rejuvenation and relaxation in tranquil surroundings, where highly-trained staff use the finest professional products from ELEMIS as well offering bespoke treatments which are as individual as each hotel.

Nominations can be made by using the hashtag #CatchASpaBreak on Facebook or by emailing macdonald@bigpartnership.co.uk to explain the reasons why someone you care about really deserves a special treat.

Regular spa visits are used around the globe as an effective way to combat everyday stresses, whereas in the UK a spa treatment is still regarded as a rare treat – that’s why spas across the UK have come together during National Spa Week 2018 to provide an antidote to life in the 21st century.

Facial

On Monday, 1 October, five lucky winners will be informed that they have a free spa day in store, including lunch and an overnight stay for them and one guest.

Macdonald Hotels Spa Collection covers more than 20 locations across the UK and winners will be able to choose from any of the following participating hotels:

  • Macdonald Alveston Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Macdonald Berystede Hotel & Spa, Ascot
  • Macdonald Botley Park Hotel & Spa, Southampton
  • Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Golf & Spa, Peebles near Edinburgh
  • Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel Spa, Chester
  • Macdonald Elmers Court Hotel & Resort, Hampshire
  • Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa, Aberfoyle
  • Macdonald Inchyra Hotel & Spa, near Stirling
  • Macdonald Manchester Hotel
  • Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa, Windemere
  • Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa, near Chester
  • Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford

Find out more here

 

Health

5 easy ways to give yourself more energy

We all know what it feels like to be exhausted, lacking energy and lethargic, now here’s what to do about it!

Dr Emma Derbyshire shares her tips for boosting energy levels:

Care-free commute – many of us face at least an hour’s commute every day, often on public transport, with delays which do nothing for our mood or energy levels. But instead of focussing your energy on getting annoyed, use your commuting time to do something just for you. Read a book, practise mindfulness or meditation, listen to your favourite music or catch up on small admin tasks. You can’t control commuting woes, so just go with it.

Natural energy release – get up and dance, do star jumps or go for a walk and create some of those feel-good endorphins. You could also try a supplement such as Red Kooga’s Natural Energy Release, which works with the body to help increase alertness and vitality, boost energy and wellbeing and ward off fatigue.

Ditch the digital –  we are a nation addicted to our smartphones and laptops. But this digital dependency also impacts our energy levels. While we play with our phones, time ticks away and we become more sedentary. Seeing social media posts from others can also affect our moods. Try to allocate certain times during the day to check social media and emails instead of all the time.

Get moving – schedule in some movement time every day. It’s easy to get so involved in your work that three hours have gone past and you haven’t so much as stood up! We might think being in front of the screen hours on end makes us productive, but actually it makes us sluggish, while energy levels drop and productivity goes down. Get up from your desk, stretch, make a round of teas, talk to colleagues and get out for a walk at lunch – it will refresh you and leave you with more energy to tackle the afternoon!

What’s on your plate? – we all grew up with the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. And it’s true – we need to pay attention to foods which are going to give us sustainable energy and satisfy our body’s nutritional demands. Rather than just grabbing at food because we have a hunger to satisfy, nutrient-rich foods such as lean protein, oily fish, fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds) should be our go-to. They will help sustain our energy levels and see us through the day.

Health

10 ways to look after yourself when you’re stressed

According to research, four out of five British adults feel stressed during a typical week, while nearly one in 10 feel stressed all the time.

And when we’re stressed, it’s really easy to let things slide. We’re prone to lapse into poor sleeping patterns, make bad diet choices, and suffer from low mood and bad skin.

But, according to the experts, there are ways we can stay on top of things when it comes to wellbeing – even when we’re stressed.

  1. Eat little and often

“Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress because the crashes in sugar levels (which happen through the day due to going long periods without food and not eating the right foods) stimulate the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, who is the author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.

“Make sure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid-morning and one mid-afternoon).

“Have a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, a small can of tuna and brown rice, for example. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings – reduced adrenaline levels will automatically make you feel happier and calmer inside and feel less stressed.”asparagus-2169305_1920

2) Increase your intake of omega-3s

“To help prevent life getting so stressful, you need omega-3s – especially DHA  (Docosahexaenoic Acid),” says nutrition and weight loss coach Pippa Campbell.

“You won’t get the same mood boost from the omega-3s (Alpha-Lipoic Acid or ALA) in flax, walnuts and soy though, so eat about two servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish.

“In addition, research shows that people who take a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid ) reduce their anxiety by up to 20 percent.”

3) Try ‘medium’ breathing

“Deep breathing is more like yoga breathing, which is fine for a yoga class but if you are stressed you can end up over-breathing and feeling dizzy,” says Pippa.

“I call medium breathing 4-1-6 breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second and breathe out for 6 seconds. Really try and breathe so that you can see your belly filling with air. Try and practise this even when you are not stressed as it can take some practice to make your ‘out’ breath longer than your ‘in’ breathe.  Do this for 5 minutes whenever you can.”happiness-1866081_1920

4) Get your heart rate up

“If you feel like you can’t escape your worries, it could be worth leaving the house and getting your heart rate pumping,” suggests nutritionist and fitness instructor Cassandra Barns.

“Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed afterwards. Getting enough exercise can also help us sleep better, which then helps us cope with stress.

“However, if you’re very stressed, take care with the types and duration of exercise you choose. It may be best to avoid endurance exercise such as long-distance running, or very high intensity exercise such as spinning classes – unless these involve short intervals of high intensity with longer periods of rest. Intense exercise can have a net effect of raising your levels of stress hormones and making you more anxious, stressed and tired.

“Good types of exercise to go for can include weight training, interval training with longer periods of rest, moderate intensity aerobic-type exercise such as cycling, team sports where there is a good element of enjoyment too, or relaxing exercise such as certain types of yoga.”

5) Eat more protein 

Research from the Association of Comprehensive Neurotherapy has found that increasing your protein intake can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety. Tryto include protein with every meal and add protein-rich snacks to your diet, such as Greek yoghurt, eggs, almonds and tuna. To get an extra boost of protein, Natures Plus Vegan Power Meal is a great addition to your morning smoothie. eggs-1467286_1920

6) Get more sleep

“A good night’s sleep can be a great stress-reliever,” says Cassandra. “Unfortunately, of course, sleeping well can be easier said than done when you’re already stressed or anxious. Do what you can to get to bed early enough to get seven to eight hours’ sleep, make sure your bedroom is a calming environment, and set up a good wind-down routine in the evening, such as taking a warm bath.

“Take a magnesium supplement in the evening too. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it’s associated with calming and relaxing properties – it may help you sleep as well as cope better with stress.”woman in bed

7) Keep a bedtime journal

“Keep a journal by your bed where you can write down what you need to do the next day at least an hour before bed,” adds Marilyn. “The aim is to stop the dialogue in your head which can end up stopping you from getting off to sleep or else waking you up in the middle of night remembering something that has to be done the next day.”

9) Have a good laugh

“Having a laugh is one of the best remedies for stress – it triggers healthy changes in our body,” says Marilyn. “Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed.”smile-2928326_1920

10) Take control

“If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right,” Marilyn suggests. “There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health.”

“Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is or is not a priority and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life.”

Health

Is your mattress doing you more harm than good?

Sleep is incredibly important for us all. It doesn’t just make you feel more refreshed, but also proves advantageous to both your physical and mental wellbeing. However, as the average person spends more than a third of their lives in bed, could our precious sleep be put at risk without knowing it, simply by what we’re sleeping on?

Here, Michal Szlas, CEO of bed-in-a-box mattress retailer OTTY Sleep, takes a look at the life of a mattress and explores whether it’s actually doing us more harm than good.

According to reports by industry experts, a mattress should be replaced every seven to ten years. Anything longer, and you’re likely to suffer from a number of issues that will negatively affect your health and wellbeing.

But, despite the warning, we often encounter people who have become personally attached to their mattresses, and despite its longevity, they just haven’t got around to changing it, or in some cases simply aren’t ready to replace it.

As old mattresses begin to wear out, they can start to sag in places or develop bumps and lumps, which reduces the support the mattress provides, often leaving you to sleep in an awkward, uncomfortable position. This will ultimately result in pressure being applied to incorrect areas of the body, and time goes on, it leaves you suffering from a host of pains and niggles – especially in your back and neck. Quite a few people put these aches down to their own age; not many correlate the pain to the inadequate support given by the mattress.[8587]_OTTY_Matrass_Roomset_[MAIN_02]_v2_01_CR_UK

And even if your mattress looks ok from the outside and still gives you a relatively decent night’s sleep, the chances are it’s not all right on the inside.

Without trying to put you off your mattress for life, the average person sheds a pound of skin per year, with the average adult losing almost 300ml of moisture per night. As you’ve probably guessed, your mattress attains most of this, with the moisture making your mattress the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of nasties, including forms of bacteria and allergy-triggering dust mites.

While these are unlikely to cause you life-threatening harm, they can often lead to a number of illnesses ranging from skin infections to an exacerbation of asthma conditions, which would prove hugely problematic for the 21m asthma and allergy sufferers currently residing in the UK.

Away from pains and ailments, an old mattress might just simply give you a bad night’s sleep. Most mattresses are specially designed to give you a restful night, and often regulate your body’s temperature to keep you cool and comfortable, even in the hot, stuffy months.

Over time, older mattresses become compressed due to wear and tear and prevent air circulating throughout. Ultimately, once compacted, you become prone to a sweaty sleep, which disrupts your sleeping pattern and often results in a struggle to get the required eight hours. While you think a lack of sleep might just make you feel a little grouchy the next day, recent studies have linked a lack of sleep to an increase in stress and mental health illnesses.

Research conducted by the University of Glasgow looked at data collected from more than 90,000 UK-based people, and concluded that a disruption to your circadian rhythm can lead to an increased possibility of developing mood disorders and lower levels of happiness. If this occurs on a regular basis, it can put your mental health at risk.

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Michal Szlas of OTTY Sleep

A lack of sleep is also linked to a rise in stress levels. Sleep and stress may be a chain reaction-like bond with the latter causing a lack of rest, but a good night of sleep halts the production of stress hormones – consequently, if we don’t get enough sleep, our body will continue to reproduce these hormones.

Again, a small study in 2009 saw 59 people tested after spending 28 nights on a new mattress. Results proved that stress levels significantly decreased following the four-weeklong test, as the participants felt less worried, less nervous and less restless as a result of a better kip.

The rise of the internet and the increase of online retailers, such as OTTY Sleep, has made purchasing a mattress easier, and more cost effective, than ever before. Mattresses bought online often come with a ten-year guarantee, and a 100-night trial, allowing the sleeper to test the mattress before making the final decision.

But, despite the mattress purchasing process being easier and simpler than ever, there’s still a few out there who don’t fully understand the importance of a new mattress, and are unaware that making the switch could prove crucial in helping you in getting a good night sleep, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.