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Stress: A Migraine Trigger

A challenge around dealing with migraines pertains to the individuality of every aspect of the disease. Elements such as triggers, symptoms, and even the effectiveness of treatments. There are so many possible things that can trigger a migraine. One trigger that affects many people is stress. This is also one trigger that is painfully familiar to me.

Migraine triggered by stress

When my migraines first started, I only had them when I was under a lot of stress. These episodic migraines were not much of a concern to my family because we have a family history of migraines. Several women in my family have been known to occasionally get migraines from hormonal changes or stress. Due to this when my migraine frequency increased, everybody simply assumed it was due to increased stress. I was finishing two bachelor’s degrees and working at the time. Unfortunately, once that level of stress decreased my migraine frequency did not decrease.

Is stress a common migraine trigger?

While my migraines are chronic, stress is still a major trigger for me. According to the American Migraine Foundation, about 70% of individuals with migraine are triggered by stress.1 This is a very large percentage of people having their migraines affected by stress.

I get stressed when things are out of place

I am somebody who has a tendency to get stressed out pretty easily. Part of my personality has always been slightly obsessive-compulsive. In my mind, everything has a place it should go and the disorder of things not being in the right place or my surroundings being dirty strongly bothers me. I am also inclined to worry about how things will play out. I easily picture a bunch of different outcomes for something and go over them in my head a bunch. I realistically know that this is useless, but I cannot help it. This results in me stressing myself out unnecessarily at times.

Home-related stress

Another major stressor in my life ends up being my home situation. Like a large percentage of those with chronic migraine, my current significant other does not understand my health problems. He seems to truly believe the doctors can just change my medicine and I would be fixed. Considering I have been dealing with chronic migraines since 2009, having him feel this way is upsetting and stressful. This is something that creates additional tension for me to manage. It is hard to deal with chronic migraine yet pretend to be ‘normal’ and get everything done while having a migraine. I also do not deal with confrontation well; therefore, when another person frequently finds things to have a disagreement over, it adds a lot of extra stress.

Managing stress to reduce migraine attacks

Managing stress is important for everybody but it becomes extra important when stress causes a migraine. The American Migraine Foundation suggests using “biofeedback, relaxation therapy, meditation, exercise, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule” to reduce stress.1 While there are a lot of suggestions on how to manage stress, I completely understand how difficult it is to manage. I still deal with stress-induced migraines because I cannot process all my stress. I am currently working with a therapist and learning about mindfulness. It is important for those of us dealing with migraines to try to determine our triggers. While some triggers may be easier to avoid, such as red wine, it is essential to try to manage all our triggers.

How do you manage your stress?

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