Wellbeing and mental health

Stormy weather and headaches

Following the heat wave, most of us have experienced some stormy weather over the past few days.  And maybe you are one of those people who have been suffering with a headache as a result.

Thunder, lightning, grey skies and high humidity can all cause head pain if you are prone to headaches.  According to the NHS, atmospheric pressure changes are thought to trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain which irritate the nerves, causing a headache.  Indeed, a study in the USA asked those who suffered from migraines to keep a diary of their symptoms.  At the end of the test period, the diaries were compared with data gathered from the local weather station.  Sure enough, the majority of migraines were clustered around weather fronts where air pressure changed dramatically.  Interesting, but not surprising.  I’m guessing we all know someone who tells us a storm is coming because they can ‘feel it’.

This profound connection between weather and mood is used to great effect by writers, poets and film makers.  Pathetic fallacy is a device used in books, film and tv where a change in weather echoes the change in mood of the characters, or heralds something important.  How often does the sky darken, the lightning flash and the thunder boom as the evil character takes control?  Or have you noticed that a downpour occurs just as tragedy strikes the hero or heroine and seems to amplify their utter despair?

We humans don’t live in a vacuum – we are affected by the atmosphere around us, as those who suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) will know.  Therefore, it can be helpful to be mindful of the weather, light levels and the environment we live and work in as we take care of our mental health.  Working in an air conditioned office may have felt like bliss over the hot spell, but that atmosphere is artificial and can lead to headaches.  So, take a 5 minute stroll outside every so often to recalibrate your system, feel the sun, wind or rain on your face and breathe the fresh air.  Let your eyes take in the horizon and any greenery around you.  This can lower anxiety levels and have a calming affect, especially if your work place doesn’t include a view out of the window.

The NHS acknowledge that we cannot change the weather but offer this advice: “By looking at the forecast, you can predict when you’re likely to have a headache and take a preventative painkiller a day or two in advance”.

For more information on different types of headaches, visit the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/headaches/10-headache-triggers/