Last updated: October 2020
What do holiday traditions and migraine have in common? If you’re someone whose migraine attacks are triggered by stress or you wear yourself out trying to ensure that all traditions are adhered to, keeping up with traditions could mean you’re laid up in bed rather than enjoying the festivities. Instead of jeopardizing your health, take some time now to reflect on your traditions before you get swept away by them. It’s possible to uphold traditions and have a great time while still scaling back, asking for help, and taking care of yourself.
The first step of planning is to ask yourself: What holiday traditions do you make sure to recreate every year? Which traditions are most important to you personally? Which ones don’t matter too much to you? Which traditions do you hold tight to because you don’t want to disappoint your mom or kids or partner?
If a particular tradition is of vital importance to you personally (not to your grandkids or your sister, but YOU), then you should definitely work it into your holiday plans. But be sure to consider how you could best enjoy the heart of the celebration without all the hassle. For example, hosting a gingerbread house-making party is one of my must-do holiday events. While I’d prefer to make all the house parts myself, make dinner from scratch, and save my friends the hassle of cleanup, I’m learning to let go. Last year, I bought the houses from Ikea, made soup well in advance and froze it so all I had to do was defrost it the day of the party, and let my friends clean up when building was over. I got my gingerbread party, everyone had a great time, and I didn’t get a migraine from it. Whether you scale back your grand plans, cook ahead of time, or enlist the help of family and friends, there are many ways to make any tradition a little less stressful.
The traditions we hold tight to for the benefit of other people are a little more complicated. After you make a list of those traditions and the people for whom you believe they are vital, talk to everyone on your list. You may well find out that they don’t care all that much about the tradition, but go along with it because they believe it’s important to you!
If your loved ones are deeply wedded to a particular activity or event, ask them what the most important parts of the traditions are to them. Maybe they love making latkes, but would rather you had them at a small family dinner instead of an annual open house. Or they love gathering on Christmas Eve, but would rather have a simple dinner of finger foods or tamales instead of the elaborate meal you usually make. Try to figure out a way to keep the most important parts of a tradition for each person, then enlist their help so all the work doesn’t fall on your shoulders.
Holidays are often synonymous with stress, but they don’t have to be. Start planning now so you can enjoy this time with your family and friends. Keep the important traditions after tweaking them to be less stressful and let go of the traditions that don’t matter as much. Ask for help. Let your loved ones know that you want to have a nice holiday celebration, but need to take care of yourself so everyone—including you—can have a great time.
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