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6 Gentle Reminders for Bad Migraine Days

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People always seem shocked when I tell them that migraines have been a regular part of my life since my teens. For me, though, it’s just a normal part of life. I don’t think much of it, except when it comes to those especially painful days.

When I wake up with an especially “bad” migraine, I often beat myself up and try my best to “push through.” But what good does that do me (or anyone)? Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. I think lots of us try to “power through” our pain and other symptoms, even if it’s harmful to our health.

I feel like it’s time we change that narrative and start treating ourselves the way we’d treat a loved one experiencing the same thing. In case you need some help with that (because I know I do), here are six gentle reminders for those bad migraine days.

1. Be gentle with yourself today.

On those days when I wake to a migraine, I often start engaging in negative self-talk right away. What I forget, though, is that no amount of negativity and self-hatred will make the physical pain and other symptoms I experience go away. So instead of beating myself up from the get-go on those worst days, I really just need to be more gentle with myself.

When you show yourself some compassion, your stress levels will typically decline. While this won’t make your migraine disappear, it will help your body relax so you can focus on your basic needs and get some much-needed rest. You can even take a moment to remind yourself that your migraines aren’t in your control, and therefore there’s no reason to be harsh with yourself when a migraine flares up.

2. It’s OK to put your immediate needs first.

Even when my migraine pain is to the point that I can barely function, I usually try to push myself to take care of everyone else. I’ll still try to do my usual routines, like making my girlfriend’s coffee or hopping on my company’s weekly virtual team meeting. Unfortunately, trying to continue my daily routines and putting others first not only makes my migraines even worse, it makes the recovery time afterward take even longer.

So instead of trying to take care of everyone and everything even when the pain you feel is unbearable, remember that you can put your needs first every once in a while. Most people will understand if you skip a meeting or don’t answer your phone when you’re battling a migraine. You don’t need to apologize or make excuses either — just take care of your needs as best you can while you ride the waves with your migraine.

3. Taking care of your health doesn’t make you lazy.

Society sends us the message that if we aren’t constantly in motion, we’re lazy. We catch lots of flack for taking time off work, and we place impossible expectations on ourselves both professionally and personally. Unfortunately for those of us who experience migraines on a regular basis, there are days when we do need to cash in a sick day or put off that load of laundry another day.

While it’s hard to differentiate between what’s considered “lazy” and what’s vital for our health, it’s important. Prioritizing your health does not make you lazy. In fact, it makes you that much more attentive and assertive. So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and set some boundaries — you are anything but lazy.

4. It’s OK to ask for help if you need it.

Many people who live with health conditions like migraines and other forms of chronic pain try so hard to not burden other people. Personally speaking, I go out of my way to avoid asking for help if at all possible. Even on my worst migraine days, I try to downplay my symptoms when others are around because I don’t want them to feel obligated to help me.

But here’s the thing: We all need help sometimes and that’s OK! Believe it or not, you can ask your partner to bring a glass of water and your medication to your bedside or you can ask a friend to run a quick errand for you because you can’t drive. Most of the time your loved ones are not only willing but more than happy to help you out during your time of need — all you have to do is ask for help.

5. Your worst migraine days don’t define your entire existence.

Unfortunately, chronic health conditions like migraines often come with lots of emotions and negative self-talk. On those days when we already feel awful because of the pain and other symptoms our migraines cause, we end up feeling even worse because that critic inside our head starts telling us how lazy and hopeless we are.

Believe it or not, though, that voice inside your head isn’t true at all. In fact, you’re so much more than your migraine days. Yes, migraines are a part of your life and sometimes they impact your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, but we all know you still get things done and kick some butt on the days when your symptoms are low. When you start beating yourself up on those high pain days, remember to look at the big picture instead of just the snapshot in that moment. Trust me, it really helps.

6. Even if it doesn’t feel like it now, your pain will eventually subside.

Some mornings I wake up feeling like my migraine symptoms will never go away no matter what I do. In fact, I sometimes question if living with migraines even makes life worth living at all since the pain and nausea are so excruciating that I can barely even move. Yet, within a day or two of those migraines, I feel relatively fine again.

In the heat of the moment, I think we all forget that our worst days only make up a small percentage of our entire lives. However, remembering that cliché of “this too shall pass” is the very thing we sometimes need on our darkest days because it reminds us to keep going. No matter how much it hurts or how hard your migraines affect your ability to live your life, the fact of the matter is that nearly all of us have good days and bad days. The worst pain days eventually subside, they really do.

Getty image by bruniewska.

Originally published: September 6, 2021
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