How To Keep Migraines Away During The Holidays

Holidays can be the "most wonderful time of the year," or however the song goes. But it can also be very stressful, which means that for many, this is also a prime season to get migraine attacks. Living with chronic migraines or even being more susceptible to them can be scary, stressful, and upsetting when it comes to social events or holiday get-togethers. You're always on the edge, wondering if it's going to hit while at Christmas dinner or out shopping for the perfect Hanukkah gift. You might even plan around your migraines, which can make the holidays a bit of a downer.

"Anything that gets you out of your normal routine can cause a headache because the migraine brain likes to be as steady and stable as possible," Katherine Hamilton, MD, an assistant professor of clinical neurology and a headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, told Everyday Health. This makes sense why migraines can really flare up during the holidays' thanks to jam-packed days, late nights, intense socializing, and traveling. But migraines aren't something that should put your life on hold if you can help it. Here are some tips on how to be prepared for and deal with migraines during the holidays.

Be prepared and know what helps your migraines

According to Self, making sure you are as prepared for anything migraine-related (and more) as possible can help with stress and triggers later on. First off, make sure you're well taken care of and that your body is as stable as possible. This means hydrating and getting enough sleep so that a lack of either of those things won't cause a migraine. Also, make sure that you're not eating any food triggers, like salty things. Plenty of ice packs ready and rearing to go are a must as well, along with any and all headache medication you'll need. This can mean over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen or naproxen or prescribed pain meds, and even preventative pills. Self also suggests sticking to a routine because not eating on time or not going to bed at your regular hour can provoke a migraine.

A massive trigger can also be stress, according to the American Migraine Foundation, and unfortunately, the holidays are full of that. Do what you can to reduce the amount of stress you're taking on. This can come in the form of planning ahead for everything and doing so very early on. If that means that the festive preparation starts in September, so you can get everyone's gifts, decorate, and prep for the big dinner, then so be it. They also say that shopping online when you can will help since you won't have to deal with the wild in-person rush.

Keep travel and the holidays as stress-free as possible

As stated before, travel can be especially harrowing for people who suffer from migraines. WebMD says some of the best things to do in cases where traveling is a must is what we've already mentioned — stay hydrated, keep to your regular routine as much as possible, try to reduce stress, have your meds on hand and eat well. Make sure to get to the airport as early as possible, so there's no reason to miss your flight and cause undue stress. And even though the airport bar is very tempting in times of stress, be careful with your alcohol intake, as that can also be a trigger. 

We've suggested reducing stress many times, but we know it's easier said than done. The American Migraine Foundation says relieving or reducing stress can start with a headache journal. Not only is it a way to track migraines, which will be helpful to notice patterns and unknown triggers, but it can also be a place where you can journal and list things, such as priorities. The foundation said that this can help get a bigger picture of what is important and what isn't worth the unwanted stress. They also wrote that you should be your biggest advocate, "protect your time," and put people that are important to you first. WebMD also gave tips that aren't so mental, such as exercising (but not overdoing it), having a balanced diet, and sleeping enough.

Celebrating with understanding people is key to enjoying the holidays with migraines

Unfortunately, as much as you plan ahead and try to reduce stress and triggers, migraines happen. What can you do other than ice packs and medication? The American Migraine Foundation wrote that knowing your limits is truly important. It's typical to want to say yes to every party and holiday event during this time. And only you know yourself the best, so make sure that you only attend what your body can handle or leave when you can feel a migraine coming on. Again, be your own migraine advocate. They also suggest pacing yourself; you can have as much festive fun as you'd like but knowing not to do it all consecutively is also crucial.

Whenever you have to set boundaries, having understanding people around you is a game changer. Not only does this allow you to pick and choose your holiday gatherings without consequence, but it also means that if you do have a migraine attack while out with others, those around you just get it because they care. The American Migraine Foundation shared the story of Rachel, a member of their Move Against Migraine Facebook group, who makes sure to just spend the holidays with caring family members. She said, "When I know I won't need to explain myself for laying down or leaving an event early, I'm actually able to endure more with less pain."