Migraine Minefield – Holidays in Review

For most of us, the holidays give us a much-needed break from rigorous work and school schedules. I yearn for this time of year, sometimes forgetting that having a break from my routines (my eating, sleeping, working, exercise, and leisurely routines, to name a few) tosses me into a minefield of potential migraine triggers. I stay up too late hanging out with friends, ignore the alarm clock in the morning, overindulge in sweets, and skip walks. I’ve gotten a better hold on those potential problems over the last few holiday breaks, but what I tend to forget about is the way my movie, music, and reading binges can have a profound effect on my migraine brain.

I love watching TV series on DVD. It’s great to have zero commercials to contend with, and it’s great to not have to wait a week or more in between episodes. I am not good at restraint, though, and will watch up to five episodes of a show at a time, finally walking away from the TV past my bedtime, bleary-eyed and tired. Not surprisingly, overindulging in screen time–be it a movie marathon, checking Facebook excessively, or reading on my iPad’s backlit screen–can trigger a migraine for me.

During Christmas and New Year’s, I traditionally have a lot more time I dedicate to what I think of as “goof off” time. Playing online, going to the movie theatre, and watching TV for hours on end. Apart from being on the computer frequently, these activities are not common for me, and during holiday or vacation breaks, my overindulgence often leads to eye blurriness and migraine episodes. Of course it doesn’t help that this time coincides with major shopping time, when most of us are standing under bright fluorescent lights in big stores waiting in long lines to the beat of blaring Christmas tunes. Americans tend to go over the top over the holidays, and it stands to reason that all this extra sensory input–lights, sounds, flashing screens, and more–can increase the likelihood of migraine attacks.

It took me years to realize that many of my holiday-time migraines are due in part to this sensory overload that comes like clockwork every single December. This year, I had the best intentions of trying to keep tabs on just how much time I was looking at friends’ pictures online or how many episodes of that addictive TV series I was watching. I wasn’t so successful at limiting Facebook and screentime, but I did do a pretty good job of avoiding the harsh indoor lighting of shopping centers. More than once, I opened up a good, old-fashioned book for a bit in lieu of watching a second movie on DVD. I tried to take it easy on my body so that my body would do its best to take it easy on my migraine brain. For the most part, I did pretty well in migraine land, feeling pretty great in that realm for weeks (even during my period I didn’t have as many days affected by migraine as usual!). I was achy and sick otherwise, but all went fairly well in terms of my migraine.

How’d you do this year? What will you resolve to change about next year’s migraine minefield we call the holidays?

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