Friday, December 11, 2009

Migraineurs: Have Happier Holidays with Routines

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Just to be clear, stress does not cause migraines. However, it can make you more susceptible to your triggers and compromise your ability to cope with your symptoms. One of the most important things you can do to reduce your stress and minimize your triggers is to maintain your normal routine as much as possible. Migraine brains hate almost nothing more than an interruption of their regular routines. Unfortunately, the holidays can throw your normal schedule for a loop. From eating at abnormal times to racing around on last minute grocery store and gift shopping trips, as migraineurs we put ourselves at greater risk of having our happy times ruined by migraines by not respecting our needs and limits.

  • If you'll be a guest for the holidays or will be trying to get a big dinner on the table it is easy to miss your regular meal times. Many people who experience migraines find that missing meals or not eating on a regular schedule makes them more susceptible to experiencing an attack. To avoid this make it a point to grab a snack at regular intervals and bring snacks with you if you're going to someone else's home. Some people may raise their eyebrows, but taking care of your health is the most important thing so don't let judgmental people make you feel uncomfortable. Bring enough for all the guests if it makes you feel less self-conscious.
  • You may be tempted to consume more alcoholic beverages than you ordinarily would when you're attending holiday parties and dinners. Some migraineurs can indulge in the occasional drink without suffering an increased number of attacks. Many of us, however, find drinking alcoholic beverages is one of the surest ways to bring on a migraine. Carefully consider whether and how much you want to drink given your unique set of triggers.

  • Try not to put undue pressure on yourself to have a perfect house, be the perfect host or buy your family tons and tons of awesome gifts. The best part of the holiday is spending time with people you love doing simple things like playing board games, putting up the tree, watching holiday movies and making cookies. None of these things are expensive or complicated and if you get your family and friends to pitch in they won't drain your energy, either.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. You have got to respect your limits before you can expect anyone else to. You alone are the best judge of how much you can realistically take on, so don't feel bad that you can't do everything asked of you.
  • Be flexible with your expectations. It's good to plan ahead, but don't get upset if things don't always go according to that plan. You'll only ruin your fun and chances are good no one else will even realize things aren't exactly the way you thought they would be.


The holidays are definitely not the time to stop taking your daily medications. It can help to put your pills in divided containers. Setting an alarm to remind you it's time to take them can also help. Also, make sure you remember to bring any treatment medications you rely on with you, even if you'll just be gone for the day.


Fitting exercise into your holiday schedule can be hard, but it's well worth it to make it a priority. Exercise helps greatly with migraine prevention and also reduces stress. Even something simple like gentle stretching will go a long way toward reducing your trigger threshold. Make it a family activity by inviting others to go on a walk with you or play an active game together. Exercise doesn't have to be a drag, and doing it with someone else always makes it easier.


Many of us stay up later than usual when we're spending time with family and friends during the holidays. There's nothing wrong with this, but be aware that interrupting your sleep routine makes some migraineurs more likely to experience an attack. Make sure you don't sleep in so long the next day to compensate that you wake up with a headache. Also, try to save those late nights for the really special times like Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.