October 21, 2020 by Peter B. Laird
Experts Offer Advice on How to Handle Back-to-School Stress, Headaches, Migraines and More
With the new school year comes plenty of stress and anxiety for both students and parents. But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of what to expect for the upcoming school year, students, parents and even teachers are experiencing higher than normal amounts of stress and anxiety.
In a recent Baptist Health Resource Live panel discussion, “Easing Back-to-School Stress, Migraines & More,” television host and journalist Jeannette Kaplun, who is also CEO of Hispana Global, was joined by Graciela Jimenez, a family psychologist with Baptist Health Care & Counseling, and Dalia Lorenzo, M.D., a neurologist with Miami Neuroscience Institute.
The two experts offered their thoughts on back-to-school stress and steps you can take to get your stress to a more manageable level for the upcoming year. They also detailed what happens in your brain when you experience stress and why it can sometimes lead to headaches or migraines.
“If we didn’t have a little stress, we wouldn’t be able to function – a little bit of stress is good for us,” said Ms. Jimenez. “Where it gets out of control is when you start getting headaches and other physiological responses to the stress.”
With COVID-19, kids are feeling stress just like their parents, they just don’t have the emotional vocabulary or coping skills to manage their stress. Dr. Jimenez advised looking for changes in your child’s behavior.
“If they usually sleep through the night and have difficulty sleeping – too much or too little – or if their diet has changed, they’re eating more, or they’re more irritable, then, yes, you should seek out some assistance,” said Ms. Jimenez.
Dr. Lorenzo attributed an increase in the number of patients presenting with headaches, migraines and insomnia to the coronavirus pandemic. “Certainly, I’m seeing a lot of patients coming in with worsening migraines and new-onset headaches,” said Dr. Lorenzo. “There’s also a lot of depression and isolation out there right now.”
Asked by Ms. Kaplun what the difference is between a headache and a migraine, Dr. Lorenzo responded, “A headache can be caused by many things – eye strain from too much screen time or an old vision prescription; temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ); a sinus problem; neck disk disease, or just a standard tension headache. A migraine headache, on the other hand, is a primary neurologic disorder that affects the meninges, the fibrous membranes that cover the brain and spinal column.”
Migraines can be triggered by any number of things, according to Dr. Lorenzo, from diet and sleep deprivation to uncertainty and disruption of routines. But stress, she says, is one of the biggest triggers of migraines.
Other types of headaches, such as “thunderclap headaches” or those accompanied by fever, can indicate a serious medical condition and should be immediately evaluated by a doctor.
Ms. Jimenez said that area residents who feel they or a loved one might benefit from mental health counseling but don’t know where to turn can start by calling 211, a regional resource for references, referrals for counseling, group discussions and more. “Or, ask your child’s physician or teacher – they have access to all sorts of resources.”
For those who prefer a consultation from the comfort and safety of their own home, Ms. Jimenez recommended using a telehealth service such as Baptist Health Care On Demand, which offers online video consultations with licensed therapists.
“Telehealth is great option for people of all ages – from college students and parents of young kids, to working professionals, seniors, and anyone with chronic health issues that limits their ability to leave their home,” Ms. Jimenez noted. The Care On Demand app is free, and you can receive $10 off your first consultation through Dec. 31, 2020 with code WELLBEING.