7 Migraine Coping Skills to Help Manage COVID-19 Stress

As the fear and uncertainty of COVID-19 began to overwhelm me, I realized that the coping skills I’ve learned to manage life with migraine could be an incredible resource for managing stress related to the pandemic.

Here are my coping tips, learned from a life with chronic migraine. Please share your own in the comments below.

1. Find a soothing spot

Within your home or yard, find a place that is soothing to you where you can go when you need to recharge. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or even secluded, it just needs to be a place where you find solace. My spot is far from glamorous—it’s on the floor in the narrow space between my bed and the wall. For some reason, I have found comfort from sitting in a confined space like this ever since I was in a deep depression years ago.

2. Go outside

Being in nature, even in the smallest way, can be an emotional balm. If you’re able to go for a walk, then do it—moving is an excellent way to release tension. Even if you aren’t up for a walk, just stepping outside and looking at the sky can be incredibly calming.

3. Create a daily ritual, even if it’s only for a couple minutes

Listen to your favorite song, drink a cup of tea in your favorite chair, let yourself lie in bed an extra two minutes before getting up, spend a few minutes thinking of things you’re grateful for — this ritual doesn’t need to be elaborate, it just needs to be something you enjoy and look forward to. In the year that my migraine attacks were at their worst, I was so sick that I could only shower once a week, but treating brushing and flossing my teeth as a ritual was a soothing act of self-care.

4. Allow yourself to grieve

When my migraine attacks first became disabling, I wouldn’t let myself grieve. I was afraid that if I let myself feel the grief, I’d never get out of it. But the grief was always there, pounding at the door. Even when I tried to keep it out, it would creep in. I eventually learned to let myself grieve the losses, even those that seemed minor. I quickly learned that my grief had much more power over me when I was fighting to keep it at bay than when I let myself feel it.

5. Seek out beauty

Identify what beauty fills you with joy and seek that out each day. For me, it’s nature and springtime puts that beauty front and center. For you, it could be watching a Broadway performance, seeing great works of art, hearing a child laugh, or attending a church service. Now that the world is basically shut down, all these things are available through the internet. Even in small doses, beauty helps boosts your spirits.

6. Ask yourself each day, “What’s been good today?”

This doesn’t need to be a written or formal gratitude practice. It doesn’t even need to be three good things. Just think of at least one thing that was good each day. It can be tiny—when I asked my husband this recently, he said that the weather has been nice enough that he could work with the back door open—but finding something, anything, good when we’re surrounded by such uncertainty and stress is soothing.

7. Stay connected the best you can

With migraine, I’ve gone months at a time where I didn’t even have the energy for a phone call. I learned the value of sending texts or emails that say, “I miss you, but don’t have the energy to connect. Know that you’re on my mind.” When people don’t hear from you, they start to wonder if you care. Reminding them that you do, but are too weighed down by life to say more, often provides enough nurturing that you’re able to pick the relationships back up when you feel up to it.

When I know loved ones are struggling, I often send messages that say, “I’m thinking of you, no need to reply.” Those are the kinds of messages I loved to receive when I was sick. There was no expectation or obligation, but it was so encouraging to know people were thinking about me. Those messages are even more valuable now that the world is in a state of collective grief. If someone does reply, I often ask what’s been good about their day. I can’t tell you how many friends in the last few weeks have been delighted by being asked that question.

Now that everyone is isolated and looking for connection, there’s a lot more opportunity to connect virtually. That’s a boon for those of us isolated by illness. So if you’re able to join a friend’s Zoom happy hour, take advantage of it. But if you’re not, remember that there’s a lot of value in just saying hi, even if you aren’t up for more.

What migraine coping skills are you putting into use to manage the stress of COVID-19?

 

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