Even informal mindfulness practice can help migraineurs
Last updated: November 2022
While I and many of you rely on abortive meds to kick a migraine to the curb once it shows up, daily care even when a migraine is not threatening to show up is of the utmost importance as well.
There are also things we can do to feel a little better in the long term. I’m talking about gentle exercise, yoga, eating well, staying hydrated, getting regular sleep (and enough of it), and the like. While these measures don’t necessarily help you feel better once a migraine is already here, they can certainly improve your quality of life as well as the attitude you have toward your migraine attacks.
I’m not one to preach about lifestyle changes: I adopt something new, become a disciple, and then drop it without resuming it again for awhile. But I can say that my relationship with migraine changed for the better once I started taking care of my mental and physical health more proactively. One of the best things I ever learned? Mindfulness meditation (which is not religiously affiliated in any way, meaning if you are an atheist or a devout believer in your religion of choice or somewhere in between, it won’t conflict with your values).
Here’s the cool thing about mindfulness meditation: it can be with you all the time, no materials or money required. While formal practice will deepen your skill and lower your stress levels more consistently, even infrequent dips into mindfulness can help you out. Are you at a stoplight or stuck in traffic? Concentrate on your breathing and see how many three-part breaths you can complete before you can get moving again. Tired of sitting in your work chair, feeling achy in your neck and back? Close your office door, close your eyes, sit up straight, and concentrate on one body part at a time.
This is just a cursory description of mindfulness—I encourage you to read my colleague Diana’s piece on mindfulness, one of my favorite migraine.com posts. Once you read her piece and learn a little bit more about basic mindfulness techniques, you’ll find that you can use what you’ve learned every single day. Checking in with yourself can not only keep your stress at manageable levels but also make you more aware of how you are doing that day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who “suddenly” got a migraine only to realize, in retrospect, that the signs were there earlier in the day—they were just ignored. If you use mindfulness to check in with yourself from time to time, you’ll be able to sense even small changes in your body—sometimes you may even be able to to detect an approaching migraine so early you can nip it in the bud before it becomes serious.
Have you ever tried mindfulness? How has it been for you? Do you, like me, find that using it in small doses can help you stay in tune with your body and keep your anxiety lower?
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?