How Do I Manage Migraine Symptoms?
Last updated: August 2023
I believe every person who has suffered a migraine attack will ask themselves, "How am I going to stop this?" That's all I ever want during an attack cycle.
How do my symptoms make it harder to stop an attack?
For me, the problem with that is the symptoms that occur during an attack. First, they are not always the same symptoms, or the severity fluctuates during the attack cycle. Secondly, only some symptoms are manageable for me. Over the years, I have found that I can only exercise a certain amount of control over specific symptoms. Not every symptom is well controlled equally either. I use my limited energy to control what I can based on how my body reacts. My most effective areas to control are temperature, light, sound, and scent.
How have I overcome these obstacles?
I understand that some of these areas are difficult to impact for many of us. When you are working, for instance, you may have limited or no control over lighting, ambient noise, temperature, or scents. This is where your coping skills need to really shine. People living with migraines are tough and resilient, and we find ways to overcome obstacles. Along my migraine journey, I have tried dozens of non-drug therapies. Biofeedback, along with mindfulness and meditation, are the ones I found were most effective for me.
How have mindfulness, meditation, and biofeedback worked?
Mindfulness/meditation and biofeedback are tools I can use wherever I am. It's all part of controlling what I can at the moment. Depending on the situation I am in will determine the level and length of these tools. We all breathe. Breath is a foundational aspect of these three tools. I have a few simple breathing exercises I can use to help me focus my mind on something other than symptoms or pain. Another aspect, in addition to redirecting our focus, is visualization. When I was still working, I could take time to use these. It surprised me when I realized how much a three to five-minute break impacted my attacks. It allowed me to push through. I was also able to control, to some extent, lighting and ambient noise. I was fortunate to be able to take time away from work-related stimuli most days.
How have I controlled my home environment?
At home, I have more control. I can adjust the temperature of my body with air conditioning, ice packs, or warm packs and blankets. My temperature regulation gets wonky during an attack, so having multiple controls is a good fit. I also have complete control over lighting. In my bedroom, I use layers of blackout window coverings and lights that can be dimmed as needed. Ambient noise and other unfriendly sounds are controlled with noise-canceling headphones. I often listen to music that I find calming or guided meditations. Again, layers of control are helpful to me. In my home, I can isolate myself from the strong scents of cleaners or air fresheners, which won't bother me outside of an attack. Staying isolated isn't always practical or feasible with life whizzing by me. I want to be part of life, not just a bystander!
What hacks do you use?
There are so many life hacks and ways that people living with migraine and other headache disorders use. I am happy to share some of the ones I have found effective. The mindfulness app I use is called Aura, ironically. Many insurances will help cover the cost of a biofeedback therapist.
I would love to hear what you use to help manage your attack symptoms. Feel free to share them in the comments.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?