Migraine and parties

Migraine & Holiday Parties

Over 100 of our Migraine.com community members recently participated in the “Handling the Holidays” survey; Thanks to everyone who took the survey! As we know, the holidays can be a wonderful time to celebrate, spend time with friends and family, and hopefully enjoy some much needed rest. In fact, survey respondents noted that they expected to celebrate an average of four holidays during the season, making it a busy time for parties and events.

Although parties are often a much needed ‘excuse’ to spend time with the ones we care most about, they can also be especially challenging for those who suffer from migraine. In fact, being able to attend parties was the most frequent struggle during the holidays noted by respondents (78%) and almost everyone reported that they would skip a party or event (96%).

What makes parties and events so challenging? Commonly cited issues with parties were the holiday lights (especially blinking), holiday smells, and noise levels.  Not surprisingly, nearly 40% noted that food and alcohol could also present challenges for them at events.  Adding to the complexity – many respondents noted that traveling long distances was a challenge, in addition to struggling with the cold weather.  Although stress, changes in schedule/routine, alcohol, bright lights, scents, and sounds are common migraine triggers, 79% of survey respondents indicated that friends and family don’t understand why they miss out on events. This certainly does not help with the guilt those with migraine already feel about missing out on special occasions. Almost everyone said they will put on a happy face and try not to let others know how they are feeling (96%). Much of this may stem from the worry individuals have about disappointing others during the holidays (93%).


So how can you enjoy the holidays while still giving your body the rest and/or routine it craves? Although it’s easier said than done – many respondents suggested getting better at saying “no” without the guilt.  Pick the activities that are most important to you, or most feasible to attend, and focus on making the most of a few special events. Try to plan in some breaks so you can get much needed downtime your body needs to recover. Others recommended packing a “holiday survival pack” with earplugs, sunglasses, a migraine-friendly snack, and anything else that might help you stave off an oncoming attack when exposed to unavoidable triggers.  Given the unpredictable nature of some migraine attacks, plan well in advance – especially if you are the host!  Taking care of shopping and meal preparation in advance when possible can help make things more manageable if a migraine hits.  Last but not least, sometimes honesty really is the best policy.  Try telling loved ones in advance if you have restrictions that limit your ability to partake in activities.  With advance notice, many people might be happy to turn down the music a few notches or put away the cinnamon candles!

Tell us – how do you participate in holiday parties without triggering a month-long migraine? Do you feel guilty missing out on events, or are your friends and family understanding of your limitations? Do you have tips for making the most of the holidays while taking care of your health? Please share!

The 112 migraine sufferers surveyed were followers of Migraine.com; 96% were female and 4% male, ranging in age from 23 to 68.  Most of those surveyed were diagnosed with migraines more than 5 years ago (80%).  Among those surveyed, 63% were married or in a committed long-term relationship and 71% had children.  Of those with children, half had children all over the age of 18.

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