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A Migraine Specialist on Coping With Migraine During the Holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching. While they serve as a great time to get together with family and friends, they also carry a variety of migraine triggers that can present challenges. From the stress related to party planning to something as simple as the weather changing, migraine triggers can be found everywhere.

The holidays are a wonderful part of the year, but they often involve loud, crowded and bright environments that can be very harmful to people with migraine. With that in mind, it’s important to plan ahead for the holiday season.

How to Prepare for the Holidays With Migraine

While stressors may trigger unwanted migraine symptoms, there are strategies that can be used to help manage migraine during the whirlwind associated with the holidays.

For starters, make sure that you have talked with your neurologist or headache specialist about an effective treatment plan. This will help you understand what actions to take when specific circumstances arise. Keep milder medications on-hand to take if you have moderate pain, and make sure to have a rescue plan when severe pain arises. Having a strategy in place will help you feel more comfortable and prepared for what the holidays might throw at you.

When migraine comes on at an inconvenient time, relaxation techniques can be helpful. Deep breathing exercises, meditation and biofeedback are proven to be very effective for the prevention of migraine when implemented as a practice and done consistently. When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, taking deep breaths and going to a quiet place to meditate can help you avoid the effects of migraine triggers. So, as the holidays approach, getting into a habit of practicing these techniques and using them when necessary can help prepare you for stressors during the holiday season.

How to Talk About Migraine With Loved Ones

You may have other people with migraine in your family. If that’s the case, then they will understand where you’re coming from and why you may have to plan around your migraine during the holidays. But if your family is not familiar with migraine, you will have to have a discussion with them to explain what you go through.

Sometimes, providing them with appropriate resources — like patient-advocate websites such as the American Migraine Foundation and The Mighty — can go a long way. Hearing firsthand from experts and patients can help your family and friends better understand what migraine is like and why the holidays present a number of challenges.

Celebrating the Holidays Blame-Free

The holidays present so many uncontrollable triggers for people with migraine. As the season approaches, people with migraine need to remember that they can’t blame themselves or take blame from others for having migraine. People with migraine shouldn’t feel guilty about prioritizing their health and taking the necessary steps to make sure they’re ready to deal with potential stressors and triggers.

At the same time, families and friends of people with migraine should not blame someone who has migraine. Allow them to do what they need to do to manage their symptoms and try to enjoy time with their loved ones.

Dr. Berk is a neurologist and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology and Division of Headache Medicine at NYU Langone Health. He works closely with the American Migraine Foundation to educate others about migraine.

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