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5 Simple, Essential Tips to Reduce Migraine Anxiety

Chronic migraine and anxiety used to go hand in hand for me, whether I liked it or not. I never seemed to have one without the other. But the million dollar question is, what comes first?

Does the anxiety trigger the migraine or does the migraine trigger the anxiety? Honestly, who knows? But from personal experience, I found that when I addressed my anxiety and tackled it head-on (excuse the pun), my migraines seemed to become more manageable and less painful.

So today, I am going to share with you five simple yet essential steps to help you reduce your migraine-related anxiety.

1. Set realistic limits for yourself. 

We all want to attend every birthday, wedding or party as much as the rest. Unfortunately, as a person living with migraine attacks, we need to pick our battles strategically. So, being realistic and honest with yourself about what you are currently able to achieve is key in managing anxiety. There is no shame in saying, “This is too much for me to handle right now.”

By not putting yourself in unachievable situations, you will eliminate your anxiety from the get-go. I have learned over the years to always listen to and trust my gut, as nine times out of 10 it’s right! I would simply ask myself, “what do I need in this present moment?” And sure enough, deep down, that little voice would speak up and give me the answer, always with my best interest at heart.

2. Learn it’s OK to say no.

As migraineurs, we are used to struggling with the guilt of letting people down. However, what we need to understand is that every time we say no, we are actually choosing to put our health first. This should always be our number one priority.

There were so many times when I attended special occasions but ended up just wishing I could be transported back in time to my bed with an ice pack across my brow. This happened over and over until I started to put myself first and doing what was actually right for me in that moment — saying no. It felt hard at first, but with practice, it got easier and easier.

Over time, I realized saying no was an act of self-love and self-care. My top tip is: be honest and upfront from the word go, because letting someone down last minute only prolongs your anxiety and has the ability to upset someone you care about. So, get used to saying no nicely and respectfully in advance.

3. Don’t forget to breathe.

Did you know that by deep belly breathing, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system that reduces tension in the neck and shoulders and helps to ease anxiety?

I personally used to find this especially helpful at the onset of a migraine when I was in the “panic zone.” Breathing deeply would help to calm me down and reduce my discomfort. I realized the more I focused on my breathing and the more I meditated throughout a migraine, the less pain I experienced and the shorter my migraines would last. Sometimes this could reduce their duration by several days.

Deep breathing is an amazing tool we can use anytime, so don’t forget to use it!

4. Visualize the best outcome.

A lot of the time, anxiety is focused on the fear of the unknown and the outcome of a certain event. A simple, 10-minute visualization every morning can help with that.

Simply play the day’s scenario out ahead of time, visualizing only the best possible outcome. This allows you to take on your day with an air of confidence and therefore reduces your anxiety. Not only would I visualize my day ahead, but I would also envision my life completely migraine-free.

This meant seeing myself traveling the world, finding a career I loved, and most importantly visualizing myself being a mother to a gorgeous little girl whom I called Florence. Tears of joy would roll down my face as I basked in the bliss of my perfect future.

5. Make mindfulness a regular practice.

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression whilst also improving mood and decreasing negative thinking.

By focusing your attention (commonly on your breath), you are forced to be in the present moment and aren’t left with any room for anxiety or worry. I began my meditation journey with a great free app called Headspace, which I highly recommend. I then progressed to guided meditations on another free app called Insight Timer.

Both are fantastic tools to ground you, reduce anxiety, and leave you feeling calm and in control.

Photo by Pablo Charnas on Unsplash