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Healthy ways to enlist help with trigger avoidance

Healthy ways to enlist help with trigger avoidance

Do you have difficulty asking others to accommodate your need to avoid migraine triggers?

Trigger management has been covered here many times before. We all know that limiting our exposure to triggers is a crucial part of effective migraine management. This is easier to do when we control the environment. It gets trickier when we are socializing with others. By learning to apply the basic principles of boundary setting, we can feel confident in asking for and expecting accommodations in situations we never thought possible.

These principles are based on the book, Boundaries, by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

1. There are no mind readers.

Friends, family, and co-workers probably already know that you have migraines. That doesn’t mean they know your specific triggers. You need to educate them, carefully explaining how they can help. It is also helpful to inform them what can happen if you are exposed to a trigger so they understand the risks. If you never ask for accommodations, how will your loved ones ever know?

2. You can’t control other people.

Despite your best efforts, some people might not ever make an effort to limit your trigger exposure. The harsh reality is that you can’t control other people. All the diplomacy in the world won’t have an impact on everyone. Sometimes the best choice is to avoid situations and people who refuse to even consider your health needs.

3. Limits strengthen relationships.

Setting limits is healthy for relationships. You probably do it already. If you didn’t have any limits, your friends might stop by unannounced, enter your home without knocking, help themselves to your food and money, and take your kids out without asking. Everyone has limits. Asking friends to be considerate of your need to avoid triggers is no different.

4. Setting limits improves assertiveness.

What makes it challenging is that talking about migraine triggers is not a common part of our culture. Because is it uncommon, talking about them feels awkward. We question whether it is worth the trouble. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we resist speaking up. “Suffering in silence” is not healthy. By learning how to ask for what we need in this area, we become more assertive in all areas. This builds our self-respect and earns us the respect of others.

5. Put your needs first.

Assertive people are able to recognize their own needs. They take the necessary steps to ensure their needs are met before they use their resources to help others. This isn’t selfishness. It’s good self care. When we take the time to think about potential triggers and ask for accommodations in advance, we are taking responsibility for our own health.

6. Prepare in advance.

Before you accept that invitation, think ahead. Ask the hostess some questions about potential triggers. Then imagine yourself participating in the activity. What do you need in order to participate without exposure to triggers? Maybe it’s as simple as bringing your own trigger-free dish to a potluck. In some situations, you may not be able to avoid triggers. Then you must decide if accepting the invitation is worth the risk of a migraine. If not, it is perfectly acceptable to decline the invitation. Depending on your relationship with the host, you may or may not offer a reason.

7. Don’t be a martyr.

Sitting quietly while being assaulted by someone’s potent perfume, cigarette smoke, or giving in to peer pressure to eat or drink something you know is a trigger isn’t being polite. It’s being a martyr. Don’t do it. There are polite ways to insist on protecting yourself. Despite what others might say, you are not “being a party-pooper”.

8. Don’t be afraid to offend.

Not everyone is going to understand or accept your need to avoid triggers. They will roll their eyes and make comments to your face and behind your back. Some people will be offended if you decline an invitation, have to leave early, or refuse a bite of this or sip of that. Their hurt feelings are not your problem. If you have been polite, but firm, you have done all that is necessary. Taking care of your health is the priority. People who can’t understand that don’t deserve your time or attention

9. Don’t give in to fear or guilt.

It is understandable to be concerned about another’s reaction. However, don’t let your fears control whether or not you protect yourself from triggers. Also, resist the attempts of loved ones to “guilt trip” you into doing something you know will bring on a migraine.

10. Expect some resistance.

What if your “no thank you” is met with a negative response? What if your mother piles on the guilt? What if your best friend continues to burn incense despite your requests to avoid it? Change is never easy. You are asking others to change their behavior for your benefit. People are creatures of habit. We fight change, only relenting when the results of not changing are so uncomfortable that we have no choice but to change. Hopefully your loved ones will value your presence more than their air fresheners, loud music, or cigarette smoke.

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.

  • http://www.cloudtownsend.com/
  • http:/www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200805/field-guide-the-people-pleaser-may-i-serve-your-doorma
  • http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-care-personal-awareness-0108134
  • http://migraine.com/blog/the-riskiness-of-stacking-triggers/
  • http://migraine.com/blog/when-migraines-endanger-our-friendships/
  • Comments

  • Tammy Rome author
    5 years ago

    I no longer practice as migraine, cluster headaches, and fibromyalgia have left me totally disabled. Now I do a few hours of work here at Migraine.com and offer my knowledge via a blog and various online support groups. I keep my license active just in case a miracle happens and I can one day practice again. I used to have a private practice from my home in Olathe, KS.

    You might also enjoy the new series that started today on The Four Agreements. The first post is at http://migraine.com/blog/4-agreements-impeccable/.

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Thank u for taking the time to respond to my questions.

    I am so sorry you’re disabled from all the ailments listed. I can pray for you as I do for everyone here that I’ve “met” on migraine.com

    Your article has helped me think about a lot. I humbly thank you for that.

    Blessings
    Janet

    Forgot to proof my first reply to you and some of it isn’t quite right…I apologize for that…hard to be coherent when the migraine is in charge.

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Great article Tammy..excellent suggestions. As you say you can’t make anyone understand let alone comply to any requests….that’s my problem…my family (siblings) doesn’t care about migraines and told me years ago they were sick of hearing about them. Pretty easy because I don’t live in the same state as they do..but none the less hurtful ..our parents are elderly..one has Parkinson’s and lives in one facility, while the other has Alzheimer’s in another facility. I have to travel from Atlanta to Chicago to see my parents and avoid my siblings 🙁

    My son and family is why we moved to Atlanta after 21 years in Las Vegas…and son and why have complete disregard for migraine..complete…so I bring my own food and get dirty looks from my daughter in law…if they didn’t have a baby we would have never moved. Atlanta rain and humidity has increased severity and frequency of migraine.

    Great great article and wonderful awesome book your reference ..

    Not sure if you can answer this…but where do you practice???

    Blessings
    Janet

  • msruff
    5 years ago

    I find the hardest thing to do is to speak up, for fear of alienating others. I am now learning that if I don’t speak up, no one will do it for me. I am tired of suffering – by taking action, my life (and everyone else’s) becomes that much more bearable.

  • easterli
    5 years ago

    Can you recommend some “polite ways to insist on protecting yourself”? I’ve yet to find any that are polite AND effective…

  • msruff
    5 years ago

    I think it depends on the situation and what you’re trying to protect yourself from. For example, if I’m in someone else’s car, and they have the radio blaring, I might say something like, “I know it’s your car and you love your music, but it’s very grating for me and might trigger a migraine. Would you mind at least turning it down very low, if not completely off? That would help a lot.” Most people are happy to comply. If you could give me some specific examples, maybe I can help you through them.

  • Tammy Rome author
    5 years ago

    Think about what it would be like if you had a severe allergy. How would you protect yourself? Our triggers are a lot like an allergy (thanks, Paintchip, for the reminder!).

    Let’s take the perfume issue as an example. It comes up a lot. How you approach someone depends a lot on their relationship to you and how valuable that relationship is. To a co-worker you might be firmer than to your husband.

    Workplace scents are frequent complaints, so let’s use that as an example and assume you have already asked the person multiple times to stop bathing in perfume. Now, it’s time to “explain the consequences”. Not only will you get sick, other consequences can include you filing a complaint with HR for workplace discrimination and the creation of a hostile working environment. The key is to follow through. It might go something like this…

    “I have asked you politely many times to stop wearing perfume at work. Perhaps you don’t understand how dangerous this is for me. Any time I am exposed to perfume, I get a migraine attack that causes pain, nausea, dizziness, and vision problems so bad that I cannot continue to do my work. Your perfume is a health hazard for me. I can’t just “not smell it” when you are sitting across from me. If you do this again, I will have no choice but to discuss the issue with our supervisor and perhaps have a meeting with HR. Having migraine is a disability that is protected by federal law. It is reasonable for me to expect a scent-free workplace so that I am able to work.”

  • Paintchip
    5 years ago

    It’s interesting that most people don’t think twice about asking for accommodations for something like peanut allergies. And if asked to accommodate for such a thing, most people won’t balk at the request either.

    However when it comes to our migraine trigger requests – well there’s still much stigma attached.

    I enjoyed your article Tammy. Thanks for the share. Good info!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    Thank you Tammy for reminding us that we ARE worth it and shouldn’t feel bad about our needs.

    🙂

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