The Mighty Logo

8 Self-Care Strategies for My Migraines You're Welcome to Steal Right Now

Recently, someone called me “The Self-Care Queen.” It’s one of my favorite compliments I’ve ever received.

Self-care is absolutely necessary if we want to have the bandwidth to fully show up for others. As a chronic migraineur, I have to be especially vigilant about my self-care because if I ignore it, I will end up in the pain cave, of no use to anyone (and, y’know, in pain). I hope this list A. gives you permission to make self-care a larger priority for you and B. gives you some inspiration for your own self-care.

Here are 8 self-care things I do that recharge me, without spending lots of money or spiking my blood sugar.

1. I light tea candles before I hop in the shower. Sometimes I do this because I’m sensitive to light (#migraines), but sometimes I do it just because it feels indulgent and luxurious. Shower time? More like spa time.

2. I make dates for walks and talks. I’m an extrovert who spends several days a week working from home. That isolation sucks for my mood. So I schedule dates with friends for us to chat on the phone or Skype while I walk around Central Park. That connection + exercise is dynamite for nurturing my joy.

3. I tell my doctor what I need to be comfortable. Every two weeks, I get nerve block injections in my face and head. I have a strong preference for getting the face ones first because they hurt the most and I want to get them over with. Sometimes my doctor forgets my preference for this order, so I gently remind her what I like. Now she’s started asking other patients in what order they prefer their injections. Sometimes advocating for your own self-care paves the way for others.

4. I set my phone to Do Not Disturb from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. You know that little moon symbol on your iPhone? That’s a self-care feature built right in. I enjoy taking responsibility for how much communication I receive at a time. I’ve got friends and clients in many time zones, and I love that they can text or call me whenever, without worrying about whether it will wake me up.

5. I know where the migraine-friendly coffee shops and restaurants are. If I have a work meeting or a friend date, it becomes much more likely that I’ll be able to follow through if the café isn’t loud or lit with fluorescent lights. I have my favorite places starred in my Google Maps app for later reference. This map notation has helped others, too. I once had a work meeting with some researchers I hadn’t previously met. It turned out that one of them was hearing impaired, and she was enthusiastically grateful that I’d chosen a place that was quiet enough for her assistive listening device to work. Again, sometimes your own self-care strategies enable others’.

6. I keep a “noticing” journal. When I’m feeling stressed, I take five to 10 minutes to just jot down everything I’m noticing about my emotional state. It’s a kind of active mindfulness meditation, and I find it super helpful for managing my feelings as well as anchoring my gratitude.

7. I say “no” to a lot of things, even if I’m feeling OK at the time. For work-related requests, I’ll sometimes say, “Thank you for the kind offer, but my plate’s a little too full right now.” Or sometimes, I’ll ask someone to circle back in a few weeks. I love when people ask me to circle back because I can trust I’m contacting them in a way that makes their life easier. For social invitations, I have to keep in mind that my migraines tend to be worse in the evening. I will rarely accept invitations for events that go past 7 p.m. at night because it’s more likely that I’ll have to cancel. My friends know I’m a brunch-and-tea date kind of gal.

8. I maintain empathetic relationships. One of the best self-care strategies I know is reaching out to someone who will just empathically listen, without offering any unsolicited advice. I nurture relationships with folks who can do this for me. For some of my relationships (particularly family), I’ve taught them how to be more empathetic. When I support them, I model what that kind of listening looks like, which makes it easier for them to add it to their communicative toolbox. I teach a workshop on this kind of communication too.

What does your self-care look like?

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Conversations 1