Most of us experience a connection between stress and migraine disease, whether it is the migraine attack that comes during an intensely stressful period or the let-down attack that comes when the stressful period is over. That connection may or may not be a direct link, but almost all of us have experienced it enough times to assert it exists. So, how do we deal with that connection, especially during the holidays – a particularly stressful (and migraine-filled) time for many of us?
Perhaps by taking a different perspective on stress management than usual.
Managing stress can be a crucial migraine survival tool, for chronic migraineurs in particular, and it often leads to reduced severity or frequency of attacks. But, despite how we often talk about it, stress management is not always about simply reducing stress levels with yoga, meditation, more sleep, less work, etc. Sometimes, it is about keeping those stress levels consistent.
A migraineur’s brain is sensitive, and this sensitivity means it does not do well with change. It likes stability, be that with meal times, sleep schedules, or stress levels. Changes in these areas affect our hormones and our bodies, and they can throw our brains off track and straight into an attack – even if the change is a good one (such as a sudden reduction in cortisol, one of the major stress hormones). One way to manage stress then, is to keep our schedules as consistent as possible.
Get up and go to bed at the same time. Eat at the same times, as much as possible. If you like yoga, or another meditative practice or exercise routine, try practicing it daily. If you are like many of us, and your Mondays and Tuesdays are often stressful and filled with work emergencies while your Thursdays and Fridays are more low-key, see if you can’t spread your obligations out more evenly. Try moving regular deadlines or giving yourself 48 hours to respond to requests, whatever works for you and moves some of the pressure from the beginning of the week to the end.
Such consistency can be more difficult during holiday seasons, with all the extra obligations and celebrations. You may be able to reduce the season’s impact on your health by restricting parties and outings to no more than one or two per week, especially if you can do so by substituting another event or activity you usually attend or enjoy during the week. If you are on vacation, you may also consider tackling a personal obligation, errand, or task during the day when you would normally be handling a stressful work project. This can help keep stress levels consistent, while still enabling you to enjoy personal downtime and time spent with your loved ones.
By including consistency as one of your stress-management techniques, you may be able to avoid some of those dreaded stress-related and/or let-down migraine attacks. Like most things for us migrainuers, it is at least worth a try.