Five Ways to Manage Holiday-Season Triggers without Medication

I love the holidays, but everything that makes me love them – the bright lights, the changing weather, the time with family and friends, the much-needed break from everyday life – also makes me fear them.

As a migraineur, any departure from my typical schedule often sends me straight to bed with vertigo, nausea, and ice-pick-like pain. I can’t talk correctly, I can’t think correctly, and any chance of enjoying the holiday spirit is gone. What’s worse, medication generally doesn’t work for me, so once I’m hit with an attack, I’m down for at least two days. Thankfully there are a few ways I (and you) can increase the odds of enjoying the season migraine free:

1)   Drink more water. Whether you’re traveling, hosting family, or simply bustling around town shopping, you’re probably not getting enough H2O. Carry a refillable water bottle with you everywhere, preferably in view so you’ll remember to take a sip. If you’re indulging in caffeine or alcohol, make sure to drink an extra glass of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic drink.

2)   Stick to a regular sleeping schedule. An inconsistent schedule leaves you groggy and prone to increased migraine attacks. (It’s like giving yourself jet lag every single day, usually without the benefit of traveling across the world.) This is easiest to do when you’re at home, but try to go to bed and wake up within about 15 to 30 minutes of your normal time no matter where you are. Bring an alarm clock with you, if necessary.

3)   Enlist help. If you’re traveling to someone else’s house for the holidays, let them know in advance about your regular triggers and mention ways they can help make you more comfortable. Asking them to swap out the light bulbs in the guest bedroom, guest bathroom, and anywhere else you’re going to spend a lot of time is a reasonable request if fluorescent lighting always sends your head into overdrive. If strong smells cause you pain, ask everyone to refrain from using any heavy perfumes or air fresheners while you’re in the house. Most of the time, people are more than happy to accommodate you. If not, consider rethinking your travel plans.


4)   Pencil in some you time. No matter how enjoyable I find the holidays, they’re always stressful, and extra stress often means extra migraines. To decompress, I make sure to take my yoga mat with me when I travel and to spend at least five minutes a night meditating. Find whatever helps you unwind, and figure out how to make it portable. Then, make sure to do it. The mat doesn’t help stave off the migraines if I keep it curled up in my bag.

5)   Take a breather. It’s natural to want to squeeze in as much fun and family-togetherness as possible over the holiday season, but overexertion and fatigue are common triggers that can bring your entire vacation to a roaring halt. Grant yourself permission to take it easy. Consider planning only one or two big activities a day, and don’t overcommit. If no one else feels like slowing down, sneak off at some point to rest and recharge.

Hopefully, by following the above tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays without your migraines getting in the way.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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