by Katie Mannion
Medically Reviewed by:
Heidi Moawad, M.D.
by Katie Mannion
Medically Reviewed by:
Heidi Moawad, M.D.
It can feel impossible to get things done when a migraine hits. But there are ways to minimize stress while taking care of yourself, too.
Fellow migraine sufferers, tell me if this sounds familiar:
The day started like any other. I woke up, ate breakfast, and scrolled through social media while drinking my coffee. I had a freelance article due at noon that needed some finishing touches. After that, I’d planned on getting some more writing work done before heading to the gym for my Tuesday night exercise class.
Halfway through my morning routine, I realized I could feel a migraine attack coming on. I finished my coffee and took some Tylenol (acetaminophen), hoping one of the two might take the edge off. Neither worked. Still, I had an article to write, so I had no choice but to power through.
As I was emailing with my editor, tossing ideas back and forth, I could feel it getting worse and worse. I drank some water, put an ice pack on the back of my neck, and pressed onward. Finally, my article was complete.
I shut off my computer and massaged my temples, trying to combat the pain in my head. It didn’t work. I took a hot shower, thinking that might help ease my symptoms. Again, it didn’t work. I dimmed the lights, went to lie down, and tried to focus on my breathing instead of all the writing I wasn’t doing.
Soon enough, the nausea and vertigo hit. At that point, I knew I needed something stronger than acetaminophen and turned to my trusty migraine prescription, Rizatriptan.
Triptans, like Rizatriptan, usually work well for me, but they also leave me exhausted and slightly lightheaded. And while the throbbing in my skull had lessened, it hadn’t completely evaporated. Now I was dizzy with a dull headache. Not exactly the best state to be in for a high impact workout. I ended up canceling.
Most of my nonurgent writing was also pushed to the back burner. The rest of my day and night was spent maintaining a minimal level of physical comfort and trying my hardest not to stress over my lack of productivity. For those who struggle with migraine, the emotional toll can be as difficult to deal with as the pain. Here are my best tips for dealing with both:
While it’s tempting to try and call in sick every time migraine hits you hard, for most people living with migraine, that’s just not feasible. So, instead, think about the most important parts of your day.
Whether it’s a meeting, a deadline, or an important conference, there are certain things that you just can’t miss. Other things — that growing load of laundry, your after-work happy hour, the workout you were looking forward to — can more easily be saved for another day.
If you have a migraine, you’ll need to prioritize the can’t-miss tasks. For everything else, you can go ahead and procrastinate guilt-free.
This is where a ‘To-Do’ list will also come in handy. On one sheet, write down everything you absolutely need to do. Then, make a separate ‘To-Do’ list with everything you’re able to save for another day.
It can be really difficult not to stress out over your perceived lack of productivity, but by separating your ‘To-Do’ lists, you can minimize that. Now, you can focus solely on what you need to do today while knowing that you’re not forgetting about anything else.
Dealing with migraine pain while also trying to get work done is excruciating. But if you can’t fix the pain, you can at least try and mitigate it with environmental comforts.
Avoid bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. For those working in an office who can’t necessarily control that, try wearing headphones or sunglasses (Yes, even indoors! Comfort before fashion).
Some people find certain types of lighting, such as green lamps, helpful. And if you’re working in front of a computer, you might want to consider migraine glasses, which help filter out the blue light from screens.
Another tip is to make sure you have physical comforts that work for you. Ice packs, heating pads, and essential oils (peppermint and eucalyptus scents have been known to help with migraine episodes) are good items to try.
The day after a migraine, I normally feel exhausted (even if I don’t take my prescription Triptan.) But I also tend to feel stressed about what I’ve procrastinated on. There’s a sense of, “I need to catch up and be extra productive today.”
While that might not seem bad, stress can actually trigger more migraine attacks. So, following a migraine day, make sure to give yourself plenty of TLC instead of trying to cram missed work into one afternoon.
Make sure to hydrate well and get enough rest. Going outside for fresh air, exercising, and practicing meditation can also be good ways of indulging in self-care without feeling unproductive.
Finally, when you’re suffering from migraine, enlist help from friends and family members. Maybe someone can make or pick up dinner for you — that’s one extra thing you can cross off your ‘To-Do’ list. Ask for help with laundry, grocery shopping, or other errands. Even asking for emotional support, patience, and understanding is helpful.
Migraine attacks can be extremely disruptive — to your overall well-being and day-to-day productivity. As
much as you might want to push through the pain and get everything done, sometimes your migraine
will make that impossible. It’s important to find ways to minimize that disruption while letting yourself take the time you need.
Medically reviewed on May 27, 2022
Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
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.