Feeling the Strain? Common Headache Mistakes Lawyers Make

  • Your diet is integral
  • The computer screen is not your friend
  • Posture can make a big difference

There are few better targets for a headache than a busy lawyer.

Between a high-stress workload, constant computer screen use, and squinting over the fine print, your typical day in the life is just begging for pounding head pain.

But when your deadlines are enough of a headache already, how can you avoid that real-life head pain without swapping in a law career for an alpaca farm?

If you’re feeling that familiar dull ache behind your temples all too often, read on to see which headache mistakes you might be making—and how to avoid them.

Your Diet

Skip breakfast, run to work, grab a coffee, fill up with a granola bar…and find yourself popping two Ibuprofen by 2pm.  While we all have days that feel too busy to eat right, a headache is guaranteed to make a difficult day feel much worse.

Studies show that hunger and dehydration are common triggers for headaches, as is all the sugar often found in processed and on-the-go snacks we turn to in a hurry.  Make sure to keep your body well fed and hydrated by eating complete meals, snacking on healthier alternatives, and drinking water throughout the day to keep headaches at bay.

Keep in Mind: Drinking smaller amounts of water throughout the day is more beneficial than guzzling a whole bunch at one time—and will help keep your appetite under enough control to reach for high-fiber, lower-sugar snacking instead of the vending machine’s finest.

Your Computer

It’s probably no surprise to you that the harsh glare of your computer screen can make your head hurt—but it’s not just the lighting you have to worry about. By looking at screens up close for long stretches of time, we tend to strain and fatigue our eyes. The combination of lighting and eyestrain is a deadly one, giving us headaches and migraines that are hard to shake.

But making your desk a headache-free zone isn’t all that complicated. To begin with, try reducing the glare by dimming overhead lights and lowering (or raising, occasionally!) the brightness of your screen. At the same time, don’t be embarrassed to zoom in on any documents you’re working on. It might take a little getting used to, but your eyes will feel the difference instantly—and so will your head.

Keep in Mind: Creating a well-lit environment for your eyes can fill an article of its own. If you’re finding yourself particularly sensitive to your screen or office lighting, ask your eye doctor for further methods to improve your lighting or lessen eye strain. Doctors often recommend natural light positioning, tinted computer glasses, and focusing eye exercises to start.

Your Desk

You might think your expensive leather office chair is as comfortable as it gets, but positioning yourself poorly (especially slumping forward) on any seat can cause long-term strain on your body—leading to tension pain in your neck, shoulders, and head.

To begin with, maintaining a straighter posture will take weight off of your neck and shoulders, instead distributing it throughout your spine. Keep yourself sitting pretty with post-it note reminders and by raising or lowering your computer screen so that you can easily view it from your new higher viewpoint. And, of course, give yourself many breaks throughout the day to get up and walk around to move your muscles—or, at the very least, take a few minutes to stretch your neck and roll your shoulders to relieve headache building tension.

Keep in Mind: There’s a science to sitting—even though science would rather you stood in the first place. But for those of us who dread the idea of a standing desk, look into ergonomics to find out how to keep your body as comfortable as possible throughout the workday. Keeping your feet firmly on the floor with straight posture and a comfortable keyboard is a good first step.

Stop right now and take stock of the way you’re sitting at your desk. Are your feet flat on the floor? How’s your posture? How is your keyboard positioned? Take a moment to adjust these things.

Your Night Before—and Morning of

What’s worse than a lawyer running on little sleep? A lawyer who also drinks three cups of joe during the day. Although it feels harder than ever to get a good night’s sleep, rest is crucial for avoiding headaches the next day. And, of course, it’s all too tempting to rely on coffee to fill in for those missing hours—adding the common headache trigger of caffeine to the mix.

If sleep is out of the question this week (as a lawyer can sometimes expect), minimize the damage by limiting your caffeine intake. When you find yourself drifting off, try taking a quick walk around the block, an ice-cold cup of water, or a healthy snack to give yourself a pain-free boost instead.

Keep In Mind: Sleep isn’t just about quantity—quality counts, too. If you find yourself headache prone even after a full eight hours, take a closer look at your bedroom to see if other factors may be disrupting your night. And remember, going to sleep earlier leads to a better doze than a later bedtime, even if you wake up later.