Studying and headaches: two incompatible things that when combined create tension and stress where you absolutely don’t need it. Studying Japanese takes willpower and discipline. When you have a headache, that willpower and discipline float out the window. You either try to cure your headache, or focus on anything that will get your mind off of it. So what do you do when studying Japanese causes that headache?
I grew up getting painful headaches more frequently than the average person. So when I started to get headaches studying Japanese, I was worried. Taking something you love to do and putting headaches into the mix can cause disastrous results.
I found headache triggers in two areas:
1. Kanji Headaches
Reading kanji requires focus and concentration. You are sorting through thousands of similar characters, all combined and mixed together. Once these start becoming words and sentences, your mind goes into overdrive in order to keep up with this assault of new information.
2. Listening Immersion Headaches
Listening to Japanese as much as you can throughout the day pays a heavy toll on the mind. Even when it is just passive, you are introducing tens of thousands of unfamiliar words. Your brain is doing its best to create meaning out of them.
Using your brain in a completely new way, for hours on end, creates headaches.
When this first started happening, I assumed it was just me. Being headache prone, I saw a new unfortunate challenge I didn’t want to face. It was frustrating because I wanted to study as much as possible throughout the day, but a headache does everything in it’s power to make sure the opposite happens.
Some good news though.
Japanese study headaches go away with time
I originally feared that these Japanese study headaches would be with me forever. They would make it impossible to progress at the rapid pace I desired. I could deal with pain, but for how long? Luckily my stubbornness was superior to my headaches. I kept pushing forward despite the pain trying to push me back. And then one day, the headaches went away.
As your Japanese gets better, the strain on your mind fades away. In the beginning, everything requires concentration the likes which you have never seen. As time passes, what originally took maximum effort becomes easier. Less mental effort, less headaches.
While you are waiting
“One day the pain will go away!” While this may be true, it doesn’t help you right now, so here are a few tips I used that eased the pain until it naturally faded away.
1. Take eye breaks every hour while reading.
2. Take short listening breaks.
3. Lower the volume sometimes on your music device.
4. Save the complex passive listening (ex. news) when your study headaches have already started to fade away. In other words, listen to what you can understand more of.
5. Sometimes use speakers instead of headphones.
6. Get enough sleep (really).
7. Stop worrying so much about your Japanese studying. A cloud of self-doubt adds to your mental burden.
Things get better
Japanese study headaches are just another varying difficulty setting that I and others have had to face.
Anyone else get headaches when reading or immersing in Japanese? Did they go away eventually? Do you have any tips to suppress them while you are a beginner?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.