Migraine headaches and anxiety can go together like coffee and cake, only less desirable and definitely not as delicious.
Anxiety compounded by a headache can be debilitating and make even the most minimal task feel like a mountain. It is often associated with trouble focusing, tension in the neck and shoulders, and around the jawline. We can become irritable and lose patience. And all we want is to be left alone and somehow feel better.
The good news is anxiety and headaches are very treatable. Both can also be relieved holistically through several practices. Practicing mindfulness, dietary awareness, meditation, and breathing techniques can help ease anxiety and its sister symptoms.
Mindful massages with essential oils have been proven to relieve anxiety and headaches with their soothing aromatic effects. When I first began studying herbalism, one of the first herbs I learned about was peppermint and its many beneficial uses. I love the scent, and it's my go-to when my migraines kick in. It helps relieve the intensity of the migraines.
I wanted to share a wonderful massage ritual to help alleviate anxiety and the tension it builds. If you have a partner to help you with the massage, this is also a great bonding exercise that helps build trust and connection.
Anxiety Relief Oil Massage
· Olive or coconut Oil
· 8 oz Plastic Squeeze Bottle
· Essential oil (lavender or peppermint)
· Medium bowl or pot with warm water
· Towel (to wrap your head)
Lavender and peppermint are perfect for anxiety and stress. Peppermint is especially beneficial for migraines and headaches. The active ingredient menthol helps relax muscles and ease the pain from headaches and migraines.
Add 2 ounces of oil to the squeeze bottle.
Add 5-10 drops of essential oil to the bottle.
Place the cap on the bottle and place the bottle in the warm water for 2-4 minutes till the oil is warmed
Before you begin the massage, I encourage you to create a space of peace. Lower the lights, light some candles, play some meditation music. Minimize distractions as much as possible by shutting off the phone and closing the door. Hang a "MAMA NEEDS A MINUTE" sign on your door if you need to (I do this at my house, and you would be surprised how well this works).
Once you have set the space, take a moment to practice mindfulness. Notice the quiet and stillness in the room. Listen to the sounds outside of the space, and tell your mind they are just background sounds. Let them begin to fade away. Begin by taking a few breaths, breathing in through your nose, holding the breath for a moment, then releasing. Placing one hand on your heart and the other on your tummy, allow your abdomen to expand when you inhale. You are connecting with your heart center. Imagine you are breathing in a golden light, and as you hold your breath for the moment, that light travels throughout your body. From the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, then fully releasing the breath. Repeat this 3-4 times.
This is another beautiful opportunity to practice mindfulness. Once you begin the massage, notice the warmth of the oil on your skin. What emotions come up for you? How is your body reacting to this? If your mind begins to wander, that's perfectly ok, just let the thought pass and bring your attention back to the present moment. Close your eyes, sit back, and allow yourself this moment of peace and pampering. Be very intentional with each step. Let your senses lead by feeling the tingle from the peppermint or using your olfactory senses as the lavender's soothing scent melts you away.
Beginning with the ears, pour a few drops of the warmed oil to your fingertips and rub on the points of relief on both ears, continuing to add oil as needed:
The Ear Gate- this is front where the earlobe begins. Rubbing the oil with gentle pressure will help release the tension around the jaw and the ears, causing tension headaches and migraines.
Apex- this is found on the cartilage where the ear comes to its highest point. Applying gentle pressure here with the oil is also useful in relieving tension, headaches, and migraines.
Next, we move to the temples. Pour a few drops of the oil to the finger's tips first, then applying to the temples in a circular motion. This helps to promote blood circulation and is extremely helpful in easing headache symptoms.
Finally, last but not least, and certainly my favorite, the scalp massage. If you have a partner to help you with this part, it's even more relaxing. Taking the oil in your hands or squeezing a small amount of oil directly to the scalp, begin working into the scalp with a "shampooing" type of motion and paying particular attention to the crown of the head and the lower part where the neck begins. Use small circular motions all around the head to ease pressure and pain.
Wrap your head in a warm towel and lay in a quiet area. If you drift off to sleep, that is perfectly fine. Allow your body to take care of itself in this healing process. Any thoughts that come up, just let them float away without judgment. Imagine they are like leaves in a river and allow them to float away.
This is your sacred space for you to revisit and recreate whenever you wish. Enjoy the peace of the moment.