First, drink a tall glass of water. (You’re probably dehydrated.)
Then, concentrate on your headache. Ask yourself these four questions:
Where is it?
What color is it?
What shape is it?
What does it feel like?
You must make an effort to answer these questions as accurately as possible (even if the answers don’t make sense).
For example, here’s how my answers usually sound:
- Where is it? In the middle-front of my head, pressing down behind my eyes.
- What color is it? Bluish-grey.
- What shape is it? A blobby square with rounded edges.
- What does it feel like? A blobby grey mass pressing down in the middle of my head.
(If your answers are “1. In my head, 2. Round, 3. Grey, and 4. A headache,” because you’re not willing to put any thought into it, this isn’t going to work. Enjoy your headache.)
If you’ve been following along so far, you’ll feel like nothing’s happened. Don’t despair. Just ask yourself the exact same four questions again.
This time, you’ll probably feel like your headache is changing—like it’s morphing around in your mind somehow. Or like it’s wriggling away from you just as you try to pin down its shape or color. That’s good!
My second round might go something like:
- Where is it? In the side of my head, behind my left eye. No, in the front behind both my eyes.
- What color is it? Yellowish-green.
- What shape is it? A coiled rope. No, a mushy-looking cross.
- What does it feel like? A blobby mass extending the width and length of the middle of my head.
Now repeat the questions a third time, and a fourth if necessary.
Usually, by the time I get to the fourth “Where is it?”, the answer is “It’s gone!” Truly magical. And no painkillers needed.
This only works on tension headaches, not migraines, unfortunately.
I call it a temporary cure because my headache does tend to come back after five minutes, at which point I run through the questions again, and the headache goes away again (for another five minutes).
The only way I can get the headache to permanently go away is to put down all computer/phone screens, go to bed in a dark room, and not come out until the next morning.
This is just a way to get some relief in the meantime.
I did not come up with this method. I found it in a YouTube video approx. 14 years ago, and haven’t seen it anywhere else (nor can I find the video anymore), so I am recording it hopes of helping other tension-headache sufferers.
I once talked my notoriously earth-motherish friend Cheryl through these questions, and she was like, “Kate, I never knew you were so hippy-dippy!”
Nonsense. I remain firmly on the side of reason and science. I endorse this method because it is evidence-based (evidence: I had a headache, and this cured it).
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