Managing Migraine Through the Holidays

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | November 24, 2021

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us. While there is so much to be grateful for and to celebrate, this time of the year can feel quite stressful, especially for those of us living with chronic illness. From bright lights and over-stimulating crowds to the decadent treats and time-intensive traditions, migraine triggers are everywhere. However, there are ways to enjoy the season without overdoing it.

We put together the following tips to help you enjoy the holidays, painlessly.

1. Adjust your expectations.

Your house doesn’t have to look like a magazine. Not every dish has to be homemade. Make a list of the things you do each holiday season and see if there are any you can remove. Can you skip sending holiday cards this year? Put up fewer decorations? Go out for a meal instead of cooking? Cook fewer dishes? Taking even 1-2 things off your plate can make things feel more manageable.

2. Do what you can, when you can.

Start preparing early and get things done a little at a time. This may mean you put your Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. Or you start shopping before Black Friday. Do what you can when you’re feeling well, and if you’re not feeling well, give yourself grace to let some things go.

3. Be up front with your guests/hosts and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Discussing your limitations with family and friends ahead of time can take the anxiety out of the situation for all of you. Explain that you may need time to rest alone, or that certain scents or foods are triggers for you. Be open and honest with your loved ones (and yourself!) about how you’re feeling. Ask for help with decorating, shopping, cooking and clean up. Together you can come up with a plan or compromise, and create new, more manageable traditions that still create great memories.

4. Schedule time to rest.

Skip the late-night outings or wrapping sessions and be sure to prioritize sleep this time of the year. Down time is as important as all the busy holiday festivities. Add rest to your to-do list and give yourself ample time to decompress even if that means things don’t get done the way you’d like or you need to say “no” to people.

5. Stay active.

When we’re really busy, exercise is often the first thing that gets put on the back burner. During the holidays it’s more important than ever to make movement a priority. Exercise will help you keep your stress in check, sleep better at night and have more energy for that never-ending holiday to-do list!

6. Don’t skip meals and watch out for food-related triggers.

With so many rich treats at every turn, food triggers are all around. Plan ahead and try your best to stick to a well-balanced diet. Don’t get too busy so that you miss meals or snacks. Keep hydrated and consider substituting mocktails for alcoholic beverages or even try sulfite-free wines. Also, watch out for anything you know is a food trigger for you.

7. Say no.

This time of the year gets jam-packed with social events and activities. Remember that you don’t have to attend every get-together. Prioritize the ones that are most important and that will bring you the most joy, and politely decline the others so you can carve out time to rest.

8. Focus on simple rituals.

Admitting that you may not be able to do all the seasonal things you used to is hard. But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the season. Turn on some holiday music, light some (unscented) candles, watch a favorite holiday movie, play a family board game. Focus on taking it easy and finding the simple joy of the season.
christmas tree and fire

Remember that what is most important at this time of year is you being present with those you love. They won’t remember your perfect gift-wrapping or your spotless floors. What they will remember is you being there to enjoy your time together!

Do you have any tips for beating stress and staying healthy this time of the year? We’d love to hear how you manage migraine through the holidays!

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