December 22, 2022
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The holiday season can feel stressful when you live with migraine. Preparing ahead and sticking to a routine can help.
Despite the holidays being a joyful time for many, it can be a challenging time for those of us living with migraine. Holiday events can come with many triggers, and often, I feel pressure to be merry and join in on the fun.
It’s also easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing, especially when friends share so much of what they are doing on social media. Know that it is OK to go at your own pace. Remember that the way you feel during the holiday festivities is so much more important than how fun you look in pictures on social media.
Here are my top tips for getting through the holidays and avoiding a migraine flare.
If you haven’t already, gather a bag of all the things you need during a migraine attack. Include anything that could help abort the attack itself, such as acute medication or a neuromodulation device. Add anything else that will make you more comfortable, such as earplugs, migraine sunglasses, or an eye mask. Having your migraine tool kit organized and in one place makes it so much easier to reach for when you feel an attack coming on.
Make sure you refill any medication you may need over the holidays, charge up any devices, and you will be ready to go. A migraine tool kit can really come in handy over the holidays, especially if you are traveling or visiting family and friends.
This one can be really challenging, especially if you are traveling or staying with family over the holidays.
For me, managing migraine means relying heavily on routine. This means going to bed, waking up, eating, drinking, and exercising at the same time every day. The holidays often disrupt this routine and sometimes can trigger an attack.
When possible, try to stick to your normal routine. Sleep is a big factor for many of us living with migraine. Set yourself up for success by trying to avoid late nights or sleeping in late and sticking to your normal schedule as much as possible.
If anyone gives you a hard time for “being boring” for going to bed early, try to use this as a moment to educate the ones around you about what it is like to live with migraine.
If you are visiting relatives or friends over the holidays, try to advocate for yourself in advance and ask for any accommodations that may help you manage migraine during your visit. For example, if flashing lights are a trigger for you, ask in advance if they could put the decorative lights on a steady or even dimmed setting.
Similarly, if there are certain foods that trigger attacks for you, let the host know in advance and offer to bring alternatives or snacks that are safe for you.
If strong scents are a big no-no for you, kindly ask that people refrain from wearing perfume or aftershave and take a moment to explain why. Asking people for accommodations in advance can really help eliminate the stress and make everyone feel much more relaxed on the day.
Going at your own pace, and resting when you need to, are important when trying to avoid a flare. Listen to your body and try to pace yourself with activities. If you need to sit out on an activity or from going to a party or drinks in the evening, remember that this is OK.
You’re doing the best you can.
If you are visiting friends or family for the day, ask if there is a room you can use if you need to take a break and rest. Family or friend gatherings can be so much fun but are often noisy and high energy, especially when children are around.
You don’t need to shimmy down the fire escape, but having an exit plan for if an attack strikes can be reassuring. Many of us living with migraine fear that we will get an attack while away from the safety of our own homes. It is a great idea to have a plan for if this happens.
An exit plan could involve asking someone to drive you home or explaining where your migraine tool kit is and what they can bring you to help.
Asking for help isn’t always easy, but it’s so important to speak up so that you can help others help you manage migraine.
Navigating the bustle and change of pace that can come with the holiday season can be stressful if you live with migraine. These tips can help you manage migraine while making the most of the joyful time of year.
From one person living with migraine to another, I wish you all a joyful, low pain, and symptom-free holiday season.
Medically reviewed on December 22, 2022
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