Work and Migraine: A Juggling Act
Last updated: February 2023
On most days, dealing with a serious migraine means leaving work early. Some days it means not going in to work at all. The inherent problem is finding the proper balance. It is often difficult to know when you should throw in the towel and call it a day. If you fight it for too long, you end up miserable for much longer than necessary. If you give up too quickly, you become unreliable in the eyes of your employer.
I am fortunate in the fact that I rarely miss work due to migraine. Perhaps one out of every six or seven attacks force me to leave work early. I understand that for many people, the numbers are far worse. Try as you may, there will always be some trigger or habit (good or bad) that you forget along the way.
How do I balance migraine and sick days?
I was raised with a strong work ethic. I believe that if you are physically able to go to work, then you should go. On the flip side of that, you also have a responsibility to keep yourself as healthy as possible. In previous generations, there was a thing called job security. Unfortunately, today job security is almost non-existent. This is where that juggling act comes into play. If you miss one too many days at work, companies will simply replace you with someone else. However, if you spend too much time at work ignoring your symptoms, you will eventually run yourself down to the point of exhaustion.
Can I complete my workload for the day?
Much like deciding when to take your migraine medications and when not to, deciding when to stay at work or go home can be just as intimidating. Although I am not always successful, I always try to make sure I have completed my workload for the day before leaving. That is the only thing I can do to make sure I am not leaving someone else in a bind in my absence.
How do I minimize time missed at work?
Whenever possible, I even try to schedule any appointments with doctors at the end of the day or as close as I can get, so I minimize the time I miss at work. Please don’t misunderstand my statements here. I cannot speak for anyone else. Everyone’s pain is their own, and we all have to deal with it in our own ways. These are simply my most common experiences. When I have a bad episode with migraine, I am down for the count immediately.
What do I have control over?
The primary focus here is simply finding some level of balance in your daily life. There will always be certain things that are outside of our control, such as weather and perhaps work schedules. There are also plenty of things we do have control over. Maintaining good habits can play a large role in how we feel every day, such as trying to keep to a consistent sleep routine, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Which lifestyle changes work for migraine?
It is tough to determine which lifestyle changes will have the biggest effect on how you feel. I have met people who had their migraines basically completely go away simply by removing gluten from their diet, while at the same time, I also know vegans who suffer daily with migraine. To this end, there seems to be no clear-cut answer on what a person should or shouldn’t do to get relief. The one thing I would recommend to anyone trying to find balance is to keep a log of different things you have tried and how you felt when you tried them. Maybe thing “x” didn’t get rid of your migraine, but perhaps it made the migraine a bit less painful. In doing so, you may eventually be able to find combinations of different things to try together.
Do you struggle with juggling your work schedule and your migraine pain? Have you ever tried keeping a log of meds or daily practices you have tried? Did you learn anything from it?
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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