Person laying back with ice pack over head and cool waves behind her.

5 Migraine Coping Tools I (Try Not To) Take for Granted

It's easy to fall into the habit of focusing on the pain and difficulty of living with migraine, so I wanted to share 5 coping tools I have access to and make use of that I am grateful for. I know it's easy to take many of these tools for granted, but I realize that I shouldn't.

Air conditioning

It's a hot day and the migraine attack has started; luckily it's time to go home. The attack isn't yet so bad that I can't drive, so I get in my car and blast the AC. I point the cool vents on my head and it provides a small bit of welcome relief.

We take AC for granted

I haven't always had air conditioning in my house, car, or workplace. I've worked as a teacher in rural Japan where the classrooms are sticky and hot. I've lived in various apartments with window units that sort-of worked or dorm rooms in college with no cool air and only a single window. My childhood home didn't have air-conditioning until I was older. AC units weren't even a staple in cars until the 1970s1, and many people throughout the world live without or simply cannot afford to run it. So when that cool air hits my face, I try not to take it for granted.

Meditation

I am lying in bed at the end of a long day. My head hasn't enjoyed the day, and my back and neck are tense. I pop in my headphones and listen to a guided meditation. The soft voice instructs me on how to breathe, scan my body, and relax. It's not a cure for my attack, but it provides a gentle push for my body in the right direction.

Embracing meditation for migraine

I started to learn about meditation in my 20's but didn't fully embrace it until I started experiencing chronic migraine attacks. I know that not everyone has been introduced to it, and I feel fortunate that it's something I can turn to.

Ice packs

My head is throbbing and the medication hasn't helped. I get some ice packs from the freezer and put them all over my head. The pain isn't gone but it's dulled a little; just enough to make it bearable. Instant ice packs (the ones you squeeze and they become cold) often give me this relief when I'm at work or on the road. They weren't even invented until 1959!2 It's portable relief I can't see living without, but of course, many people with migraines before then wouldn't have had this resource.

Theraspecs for light sensitivity

It's been hours of staring at the computer, and the work isn't done. Normally, looking at a screen for hours would be a migraine trigger, but I'm okay because I'm wearing my Theraspecs. They're rose-tinted glasses that help filter out the light that can trigger attacks or worsen the light sensitivity during an attack. I also have a pair for outdoors, which I can wear on those bright, sunny days. Okay, let's be real, I wear them even on cloudy days.

The time I forgot my Theraspecs...

These glasses have only been in my toolkit since 2012, and that was the first year the company was selling them!3 Once I forgot to bring them to work, and I had to turn the computer screen brightness way down, and my eyes (and head) still hurt. I once spent time outside in the sun without my outdoor pair, and a migraine quickly followed. I try not to take them for granted, but I don't know what I'd do without them!

Sleep

Sometimes all I can do to deal with an attack is to sleep. Migraines make me very tired. My brain is sluggish, my body feels heavy, and my patience is shot. So I sleep when I can. This may feel like a funny thing to list since sleep is universally accessible, but I don't take my ability to rest for granted. I'm generally a decent sleeper, only get insomnia occasionally, and I have family support that allows me to rest. I spent a few months parenting with my husband away, and that was hard as I often couldn't rely on someone else for backup when I needed to lie down. I know there are single parents out there, or people with less sick or vacation time. So I no longer take the ability to rest for granted.

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