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9 Ways to Manage Moving Stress and Make Your New Home Migraine-Friendly

Living Well

February 13, 2024

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Photography by Bojanstory/Getty Images

Photography by Bojanstory/Getty Images

by Katie Mannion


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI


by Katie Mannion


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI


Planning ahead and getting help for the heavy stuff can reduce migraine symptoms when moving. It’s important to monitor air quality, fix bad lighting, and deodorize as you make your house a home.

It’s no secret that moving can be stressful.

Whether you’re buying your first house, upsizing, or relocating for an amazing new job opportunity, moving is a Big Life Event™. That means stress is par for the course.

This is bad news if you have chronic migraine.

As someone who regularly experiences migraine, my recent move taught me that, yes, moving is an intensely stressful experience that can easily trigger headaches, illness, and even depression.

Luckily, there are ways to deal so that you can not only avoid a migraine but actually enjoy your new home. Here’s my story, plus how I learned to manage migraine during a big move.

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On the hunt for a home

My partner and I had been house-hunting for a while, and to be honest, we were getting a bit discouraged.

If you were out of the real estate loop, the housing market was rough in 2023. Mortgage rates were over 7%, home prices were sky-high, and inventory was low. Plus, competition among buyers was fierce — people were even opting to waive their inspection.

From day one, our realtor warned us that it was a rough time for home buyers. He wasn’t wrong. Needless to say, we weren’t all that hopeful.

Then, we found it: the perfect home.

Four bedrooms, a must-have for our blended family; a home office, ideal for my work-from-home situation; and a spacious backyard, perfect for my partner’s dog and green thumb.

We couldn’t believe our luck when our offer was accepted!

Then we had to get to work packing his house, packing my house, moving all of our stuff, and unpacking. It was A LOT — and it’s not exactly “finished.”

If you’ve ever moved, you know that it’s a long process.

All that work inevitably led to a ton of stress. Along with a few migraine episodes, I ended up getting COVID-19 for the first time, likely because stress can lower the immune system.

Out of all of it, I learned a lot about managing migraine and moving simultaneously. Here are my best tips for how to cope with the stress of moving house, plus how to set up your new home with migraine in mind.

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Tips for managing a big move with migraine

These simple tips can help you reduce the potential for migraine during your move.

Plan ahead

The whole process of moving starts well before moving day. After the house-hunting extravaganza, closing is a whirlwind.

From inspections and appraisals to mortgage loans and insurance, there’s a lot to do before your final walkthrough.

Closing typically happens 30–45 days after your offer has been accepted. While that might sound like a long time, trust me — it’s not!

Remember, on top of all the logistical steps you’ve got to deal with, you’ll still have to find time to pack. My advice? Start early. And whatever timeframe you’re thinking, double — even triple — it!

Think you need 2 weeks to pack? Give yourself 4. A good rule of thumb here is to allow 1 full day (meaning 6–8 hours) for every room in your house.

For instance, if you live in a 3-bedroom house with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and basement, it’ll take around 56 hours. That’s 7 full days, 14 half days, or 28 2-hour days, depending on how you want to divvy up your time.

Personally, I’d rather do a little bit every day to prevent overwhelm, but to each their own.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is essential anytime you’re doing something stressful or working up a sweat. It’s especially important for those who live with migraine.

Dehydration can trigger headaches (after all, there’s a reason people get a headache when they’re hungover!) and migraine episodes.

In a 2021 study, 256 women with chronic migraine had reduced frequency, severity, and duration of migraine attacks if they drank at least 8 cups or 2 liters of water a day.

Don’t do the heavy lifting

Regular exercise can be extremely beneficial for those with migraine, but there’s also something known as an exertion headache.

Exertion or weightlifter’s headache can happen to anyone doing strenuous exercise, but migraineurs are at even greater risk. Lifting heavy boxes on moving day can trigger an exertion headache, especially if there’s no warm-up beforehand.

Do yourself a favor and hire a moving company or enlist family and friends to help with the big stuff.

Keep emergency supplies on hand

It’s easy to misplace stuff on moving day, so it’s a good idea to keep a migraine first aid kit on hand.

If you take certain prescription medications during a migraine attack, make sure you don’t toss them in one of your moving boxes.

Keep your migraine meds close along with anything else that might come in handy during an attack, like a heating pad, noise canceling headphones, and more.

Improve your in-home air quality

Poor air quality can cause a host of health issues.

These include:

  • fatigue
  • bronchial issues
  • sinus issues
  • nausea
  • headaches

Not so great if you have chronic migraine! Older 2017 research shows that certain indoor allergens like dust, pet dander, and mold can all trigger or worsen migraine symptoms.

There are two primary sources of indoor air pollution:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature, like formaldehyde and ethylene glycol. VOCs can come from common household items like paint, pesticides, and cleaning products.

Particulate matter (PM) consists of tiny particles of solids or liquids in the air, such as dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. Common household sources of PM include pet dander, cleaning products, candles, burning wood, and even cooking.

You can easily improve the air quality in your home with air purifier.

One 2020 study found that air purifiers were more effective in reducing PM while plants were more effective at absorbing VOCs.

Since VOCs and PM are present everywhere, it’s a good idea to add some greenery to your new home and invest in a high quality air purifier, especially if you experience migraine.

On top of that, change your air filter immediately after moving in and consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned.

Give everything a good cleaning — twice

It’s always a good idea to do a thorough house cleaning when moving into a new place, but that’s especially true if you tend to get migraine.

Since some household cleaners can contain migraine-inducing chemicals, be sure to purchase natural, unscented cleaning products.

You can check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database for third-party-rated cleaning products that are good for the earth and your health. They even have a handy app that lets you scan barcodes in-store!

If the idea of cleaning itself gives you a headache, consider hiring a professional if it’s in your budget. Many companies offer eco-friendly options.

Fix bad lighting

Harsh fluorescent lights can be a major migraine trigger, but so can LED lights. If you’re especially sensitive to lighting, make sure to change the lights in your new house so that they best suit your needs.

Here are some of the best lighting options for people with migraine:

  • halogen lights
  • human-centric lighting (HCL)
  • dimmable lights
  • warm, soft LED lights

Deodorize for a fresh scent throughout

If the previous owners smoked or left behind a musty smell, try adding a fresh coat of paint. Certain paint and primers, like Kilz brand, are actually made to help block odors.

Of course, painting can also be a migraine trigger, so you may want to consider hiring a professional painter if it’s affordable for you. If you can’t, that’s what friends and family are for!

If you have to do the paint job yourself, follow the safety tips below:

  1. Wear a mask or paint respirator.
  2. Use water-based paint (oil-based paints have higher levels of VOCs).
  3. Keep the area well-ventilated with fans or open windows.
  4. Take frequent breaks.

Fragrant or fragrance-free?

Another tip is to use the right type of fragrance for you. We all want our house to smell good, but many with migraine are sensitive to scent.

Instead of candles or an air freshener, try an essential oil diffuser. Essential oils smell great, and many can actually help during a migraine episode.

Choose your colors wisely

If you’re planning to add a fresh coat of paint anyway, it’s a good idea to consider choosing colors that are migraine-friendly.

Soft, neutrals and calming colors like grays, blues, and greens are good choices, as are darker shades. Bright colors, on the other hand, can easily make migraine attacks worse.

While you’re at it, make sure to be mindful of your decor. Bold patterns or high-contrast looks can trigger migraine. Even if you love Art Deco in theory, it may not be right for your home.


Stress may be unavoidable when moving house, but migraine doesn’t have to be.

Take steps to make your move more manageable by being well-rested, well-hydrated, and well-fed. Enlist help if you can and keep a bag of essentials readily available.

Once you’ve settled into your new place, you can create the most relaxing space to call home.

Medically reviewed on February 13, 2024

Join the free Migraine community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Katie Mannion

Katie Mannion is a freelance writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. She works as an Occupational Therapy Assistant. Through both her professional work and her writing, she’s passionate about helping people improve their health, happiness, and activities of daily living. You can follow her on Twitter.

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