The Connection Between Depression and Headaches

Lifestyle Changes to Help With Depression and Headaches

Beyond professional treatments, changing your habits and behaviors in your life can lead to symptom relief.

  • Limit medications with estrogen – Women are more likely than men to have migraines and depression. Some believe the difference is hormonal. Consult with your doctor about the impact of any medications on your migraines and moods.
  • Eat better – This not only means eating better quality food but eating more regularly as well. You may know that avoiding certain foods can help you avoid an attack. You may not know, though, that eating regularly helps avoid low blood sugar, which triggers migraines, depression and anxiety. Know your food triggers and what you are putting into your body.
  • Exercise – As mentioned above, interventions that help your physical health also improve your mental health. Exercise is the best example. While you cannot jog while you have a migraine, a walking program will serve well as prevention.

Take Advantage of Good Days

Even people that suffer from severe depression and migraines have some good days. It is what you do on those days that impact the bad days. Follow these tips to make the good days better.

Be Active

After a tough week at work or a bad day with migraines, people too often head for the couch in the name of relaxation. Small amounts of resting in a comfortable spot are helpful for anyone but too much wastes precious hours of a day without symptoms. Watching TV is more of a neutral experience rather than a positive one.


List, explore and engage in familiar positive experiences. Resist the urge to “rest” at home. Being active actually boosts energy and stamina.  Too much sitting will leave you feeling drained and sluggish.

Try New Things

Having a migraine means that you are stuck staring at the same walls and laying on the same bed or couch. Good days are the time to break out of that comfort zone and try new things. Be adventurous. Don’t let your depression trick you into staying close to home.

Have a safety plan in place for times when a migraine surprises you. Otherwise, be bold and daring. The positive impact on mood, self-esteem, and anxiety will provide an incentive to do it again.

Accomplish Goals

Has there been something that you have been unable to complete because of recent depression and migraines? As long as it is positive, do it now.

Run errands, clean the bathroom or pay your bills. Doing these will lead to a strong sense of accomplishment. However, if the choice is clean the toilet or go on a hike with friends, choose the hike 99 percent of the time.

Be Social

Migraines often force you into canceling on friends, while depression encourages isolation. You have to break plans when a flare comes unexpectedly.

Use your next good day to be a fantastic friend, spouse or family member. Reconnect with loved ones.

If you are feeling resentful or feeling that someone “hasn’t been there” during your illness, use this opportunity to assertively clear the air and avoid future misunderstandings.

Don’t Have Too Much Fun

Some fun is good, but more is not necessarily better. By now, you know your migraine triggers and the effects that alcohol and poor sleep have on your mood. Be sensible with your fun so you can have more of it.


Because of the level of interconnectedness, treating depression and headaches or migraines together is unlike treating one individually. Work to gain awareness and education about your symptoms while understanding how they impact each other. Speak openly with your prescriber to find the medication choice that is the best fit for you.

With the medication under control, work on your well-being by investing in therapy, improving physical health and making the most of your symptoms-free days.


Head Wise (Down but Not Out: Depression and Migraine)

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