How to SURVIVE the Holidays When Living With Migraine

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How to SURVIVE the Holidays when living with Migraine

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."  The holidays are full of magic and wonder.  The Christmas tree is lit and the star sparkles at the top.  It is a time for family and friends to get together and spend quality time together.  It is a time to reflect on the past year and give each other gifts.  

But, for those with chronic illness, it can easily go from "such a wonderful time of the year" to the most STRESSFUL time of the year.  Even I find myself cringing at all of the family gatherings.  I find myself stressing about: What will people ask me? What will there be to eat? Will the lights be too bright? What potential migraine triggers could be there? and the list goes on and on.  

However, I have found strategies over the years that I can easily implement to help make this a "wonderful time of the year" for me too.  Because let's be honest, we all want to have stress-free holidays that we actually enjoy!

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7 Tips to Survive the Holidays When Living With Migraine

  1.  Rest

Holiday season can be non-stop.  Society has normalized being busy, running on empty, and putting pressure on getting each other the perfect gifts, and to make it the picture perfect holiday.  First of all, release yourself of all this pressure.  The holidays will not be perfect, something is bound to go wrong. Once you take the pressure off of the holidays, that simple trick in itself, can already make them more enjoyable and stress free.

Now that we have established that, let's talk about rest.

A huge migraine trigger can be ignoring your body and pushing yourself too hard.  In doing this, you are going to make this holiday season miserable. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. I know, it’s easier said than done.

Listening to your body can be as simple as buying all gifts online.  This can save you from tackling the stores in the busy season and to help you save energy from the hustle and bustle.

Another way to listen to your body is to plan ahead. If you are in charge of making the holiday dinner, try to make things ahead of time. A good rule of thumb is to make desserts and side dishes that day before. That way they can be reheated on the day of the holiday and all you need to make the day of, is the main dish. By doing things ahead of time, you will have more energy to enjoy the day.

Sleep is another HUGE part of rest.  It is so easy in this holiday season for your sleep schedule to be compromised. Remember, for people with migraine, staying on a consistent sleep schedule is key for more migraine free days. Personally, I aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. I wake up at 5am for work and on my days off I try to wake up at 5am on those days as well.  This way, I am always keeping myself on a consistent sleep schedule even during the holiday season.

If you are having problems sleeping or staying asleep, consider adding Melatonin or CBD into your nighttime routine. I personally love taking CBD before bed. It helps to calm me down and allow me to fall asleep easily and to stay asleep. My favorite is Blue Key CBD.

For a full article on all the benefits of CBD, click here.

Use code THEMIGRAINENURSE for 10% off your purchase of Blue Key CBD.

Click here to learn more!

  2.  Hydration

Staying hydrated can be tough during the winter season.  It is cold outside, so we naturally do not think to drink as much water as when it is hot outside. Always be aware of how much water you are drinking because dehydration can easily trigger a migraine attack.  In general, you should try to drink between 1/2 an ounce and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight.  I typically drink 80 ounces per day, so I tend to aim more towards the 1/2 ounce per body weight.

I like to take a water bottle with me wherever I go.  Especially when running errands or visiting with friends, you never know how long you are going to go without water. By taking water with me everywhere I go, I ensure that I am staying hydrated.

Click here to purchase my favorite water bottle.

 3.  Food Triggers

Food triggers can feel like a huge pain, especially during the holiday season. But thankfully, there are things we can do to help alleviate these feelings and still enjoy the holiday season fun!  The best advice that I have incorporated into my own holidays is bringing a dish whenever I attend holiday gatherings.  This ensures that there will at least be one food that is not a migraine trigger for me and I can enjoy the night like everyone else.

Personally, my biggest food trigger is gluten. Most of my family and friends are aware that I eat a gluten free diet.  However, they do not understand what gluten is. So normally, I just plan on bringing a side dish and a gluten free dessert.  For the main dish, my family normally does some sort of grilled chicken or steak, so I just ask them to season my portion with salt and pepper. I keep it easy and simple! To be honest, the meal isn't the most important part to me. It is the quality time spent with friends and family and creating lasting memories.

Some more amazing tricks to incorporate this holiday season so that food isn't a trigger is to pair sugary snacks and dessert with a protein.  This helps to keep things balanced and to not allow your sugar levels to spike in your body. 

Also, make sure you are eating three meals a day and do not skip any meals.  It can be so easy for your meals to get off during the holiday season, but we all know that migraine likes us to be consistent and does not like changes in our schedule. So even if dinner is at 4pm, try to make sure you squeeze in a lunch beforehand.

 4. Alcoholic Drinks

Yes, you can still drink an alcoholic beverage even if you have migraine! Alcohol is a potential migraine trigger for some, but not for everyone.  For me, it can be a trigger but by incorporating simple tricks, I can make it something that I can still enjoy.  

A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of alcoholic beverages. For some this may be one, for others it may be 2 or 3.  Always pair each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, so that you stay hydrated.

There are alcohols that are better tolerated more than others for those with migraine.  Alcohol is normally fermented and aged and that's what makes it a potential migraine trigger.   The best tolerated alcohol is vodka, gin, and silver tequila.

If you love wine, there are wine wands! Wine wands are a great way to remove sulfites and biogenic amines like tyramine and histamine.  These all can be migraine triggers, but by incorporating a wine wand, it can get rid of all of this and make it easy to enjoy a glass of wine without the dreaded migraine after.

Click here to purchase Pure Winx Wine Wand.

5. Coping Strategies

With all of the hustle and bustle the holiday season brings, it is always a good idea to incorporate coping strategies.  These can be things that you already do daily or new habits that you can start to incorporate to make good, healthy lifestyle changes.

One thing that I have started to incorporate into my daily routine is Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. These can be as simple as taking deep breathes when you are stressed or even practicing mindfulness. 

Another coping strategy that has really helped me with the stress and anxiety this holiday season is CBD. I take half a dropper in the morning and half a dropper before bed.  This has helped me so much to keep my stress and anxiety at manageable levels as I navigate this busy season.

For a full article on all the benefits of CBD, click here.

Use code THEMIGRAINENURSE for 10% off your purchase of Blue Key CBD.

6.  Okay to Say No

It's okay to say "No."  Let me say it again for the people in the back, its okay to say "no!"  This is a lesson that I am constantly learning over and over again.  I am a natural born people pleaser.  I love to put everyone else before myself.  But by doing this, I am not listening to my body and I am setting myself up for a major migraine attack.  So basically by being everyone's "yes person" I am hurting myself.

Before saying “yes” to another commitment, check in with yourself and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I have the time?

  2. If I do this, what will I be saying “no” to somewhere else?

  3. Do I have the skillset?

  4. Does this fit with my goals?

  5. Am I the only person who can do this?

 7. What to Say When People Ask You About Migraine

It can be so daunting when people ask you about your chronic illness.  When people ask how you are doing, it's easy to say "I'm fine."  Oftentimes, the truth takes too much effort and would require the other person to actually listen.  So how do you go about these tricky questions during the holiday season by still being your most authentic self?

The best advice I can give you is to be yourself.  If someone asks how you are doing, gage the situation.  Is this someone that I know and I can trust? Or is this someone that doesn't seem to be interested in a long conversation? Make your best judgement and do what you feel comfortable with in the moment.

A thing you may be asked this holiday season is 'What is Migraine?' If this happens and you feel like they may listen, take the time to explain it.  The more people that learn and understand about migraine, the awareness we are bringing to this disease that is often times not talked about.

Here are a few pointers when explaining ‘What is Migraine?’

  • Migraine is a complex neurological disease

  • Migraine is not “just a headache”

  • Migraine is head pain (insert what your head pain feel like) and has accompanying symptoms (add in your symptoms)

  • This disease can be very debilitating and it affects every aspect of my life

Always be honest with people about where you are at.  It takes a lot of courage to open up to people, so go at your own pace and speed.


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