Those of us living with chronic illness face so many challenges. On top of dealing with daily pain, the number of things we must balance to keep up with a healthy lifestyle just to maintain a baseline can often feel really overwhelming and, at times, downright unfair. And then of course, there is the guilt we so often feel for missing out on things, or the frustration of not having the energy to do everything we once could. We also must frequently process the misunderstanding and disappointment from our friends and family.
Yes, living with migraine can be incredibly painful, frustrating, and lonely. It’s no wonder anxiety and depression so often come along for the ride. But there may be ways we can refocus our thinking and keep our hopes high. Keeping in mind that what works for some may not work for all, here are some ideas to add to your treatment toolbox:
Don’t Ignore How You’re Feeling
Depression and anxiety are real and recognizing the signs is an important first step to feeling better. If you’re struggling, it’s important to talk to your doctor. You should also open up a dialogue with your friends and family so they know how you’re feeling and can have a better understanding of how to support you.
Connect for Support
Living with migraine is tough, but being informed and connecting with a community makes a huge difference! Join social media and in-person support groups and find people who “get it.” You can ask questions, learn from and support each other, and see that you are not alone.
Manage Your Mindset
When we’re in pain it’s easy to focus on the negative and fixate on all the things we can’t do. However, starting off the day with positive thinking, even when it seems impossible, can go a long way in helping to shift our perspective. First thing in the morning, before you get out of bed, make a mental list of three things you’re grateful for and one thing you CAN do. Then, each time things feel challenging throughout the day, revisit and focus on that list. It may feel overly simply, but gratitude training can slowly help you teach your brain to let go of unhelpful, negative thoughts.
Mindfulness Beyond Meditation
Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be a powerful way to clear your mind and find peace. There are several great guided meditation apps that can help—try Calm, Unwinding Anxiety or Headspace. You can also try the biofeedback app for migraine, Juva Health (use promo code: HFMpromo for a 1 year free subscription). Practicing mindfulness can be more than clearing your mind and deep breathing. It can really be any activity that breaks your normal thought pattern and allows your brain to focus on something else. Anything that requires you to be present and fully in the moment counts! Some activities may include:
- Getting outside and enjoying nature
- Playing with or petting animals
- Creative activities such as sculpting, painting, drawing, coloring, or writing
- Listening to music
- Doing a jigsaw puzzle
Be Kind to Yourself
Get in the habit of talking to yourself the way you would talk to a loved one. Create daily positive affirmations, like “I’ve gotten through this before and I’ll do it again!” Or “I am strong and I know I CAN do this.” Be sure to give yourself grace when you’re not at your best and carve out time for self-care activities that relax you. Some ideas include:
- Taking a long bath
- Watching a calming movie
- Treating yourself to your favorite food
- Talking with a friend
Reframe Your Pain
Is there a way to use your pain for good? By telling your story and speaking out, you raise awareness and make others feel less alone. There are several other ways you can get involved in migraine advocacy as well. Some include:
- Taking action to change policy
- Volunteering and contributing your talents
- Attending events
- Starting local support groups
- Sharing posts and articles on social media
- Donating to a migraine organization
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone.
For those with chronic illness, therapy can be a very effective part of a treatment plan. A qualified therapist can work with you to manage stress and navigate and cope with limitations. Ask your doctor for a recommendation, or check out GoodTherapy.org for a listing of therapists in your area. If you’re feeling like your mental health is not at it’s best, don’t wait to get help.