The holidays are a fun time filled with our favorite three F’s: Family, friends, and food.
And while these are all tons of fun, it’s easy to get off track with your migraine prevention plan.
Tis the season for migraine trigger overload.
Stress, fatigue, trigger foods, and free flowing alcohol can all lead to a head pounding, tear jerking migraine.
Who has time for that?
We don’t want a migraine to ruin your holiday fun, so we reached out to some of our friends, professionals, doctors, wellness coaches, dieticians, chiropractors, naturopaths, and yes, some migraineurs, to see what tips they could share for striking a good balance between the festivities of the season and smart migraine prevention.
This is what happened.
Following is the awesome advice that they shared with us. Now we’re sharing it with you.
Right here you’ll find some of the best migraine holiday survival tips on the internet!
Manage your noise triggers.
Noise is a migraine trigger for many people and when combined with other potential triggers and stressors that come with the holiday hustle and bustle it can quickly turn your holiday cheer into a painful mess. Angie Glaser of Chronic Migraine Life has some tips for managing noise triggers at your family gatherings.
“Whether your loved ones are yelling at a football game, arguing over a burned side dish, or cooing over a new family member, the noise level at holiday gatherings can be deafening. To keep your brain as calm as possible, try to find a quieter spot you can camp out in or retreat to that is away from the main chaos of the festivities. Keep a pair of earplugs in your pocket, too, just in case.
The goal is to participate as much as possible in the celebration without asking too much of your Migraine brain. You can’t turn the volume down on your family, but you can take steps to minimize noise and reduce the risk of triggering a Migraine attack.”
Angie Glaser, Content Editor of Migraine Again and author of the blog Chronic Migraine Life
Eyelid Exercise to Ease Light Sensitivity and Tension.
Migraineur and CEO of Rejunve Inc., Cynthia Rowland has learned how to manage her holiday migraines with a simple exercise that helps with tension and light sensitivity.
“As a migraine sufferer myself, I have used this holiday survival tip many times. As you mentioned, holiday migraines can be triggered by a number of events. When I feel a migraine coming on from holiday stress and lights, I do this all-natural, gentle upper eyelid exercise from the Facial Magic facial exercise system. It brings oxygenated blood to the head, just what we need to soothe a migraine.”
Cynthia Rowland, Migraineur – Certified facial fitness trainer, founder/CEO, Rejenuve, Inc., creator of Facial Magic
Give yourself a break.
Many people feel like they have to do it all, especially during the holidays. Then when they get stressed out, they feel guilty. Wellness coach, Rachel Wall reminds up that it’s not only OK to give yourself a break, it’s necessary.
“Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge the fact that the holidays can be a stressful time. When you can feel the tension building, honour the importance of your own health and needs by taking some time out in a quiet space. It can help to write down on a piece of paper what it is that is causing you stress and overwhelming you. Ask yourself – “Is there anything I can do about any of these things?” This process can help to stop the stressful thoughts from racing around and around in your mind.”
Rachel Wall, Wellness Coach
Set boundaries as part of your stress management strategy.
It often feels like everyone wants something from you and during the holidays, that feeling can be multiplied. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing for everyone without taking care of yourself. Alice Stevens from Best Company reminds us that it’s important to set boundaries so that you can more effectively manage your stress level.
“One trigger over the holidays is stress. Sometimes dealing with extended family members, especially after significant changes like divorce, can be stressful. Participating in family activities over the holidays is often an enjoyable part of the holidays.
However, make sure that you have good boundaries. Figure out a way to take a break, find some quiet time alone, and get enough sleep. It’s also a good idea to have an excuse ready if you need an out. (Coincidentally, having a migraine can get you out of a lot of things without hurting anyone’s feelings.)”
Alice Stevens, Migraineur with light sensitivity, Content Management Specialist, Best Company
Maintain a stable blood sugar.
All the activities of the holidays can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. That steamy mocha might be a fast, convenient, warming treat on a chilly winter day, but it’s not a replacement for an actual meal. Mark Canadic, manager for Migraine Professional, gives some great guidance on keeping your blood sugar stable.
“My one big tip for surviving the holiday season with migraines is keeping a stable blood sugar.
When your blood sugar balance is upset your body rushes in with stress hormones to try and restore homeostasis. But these stress hormones are two sided because they contribute to neurodegeneration in your brain and the leaching of your body’s resources.
To maintain a balanced blood sugar always have protein and fat with meals, avoid meals that are too large or have too many simple carbohydrates and do not put your body into states of fasting by eating as close to bed as possible and again right after waking. Even a small protein snack between meals can be amazing to keep energy up and head pains at bay.”
Mark Canadic, Holistic health coach and manager for Migraine Professional
Try CBD Oil for migraine pain.
Ben Rollins, a founding partner for Axon Relief, knows how migraine can stop you in your tracks. He offers this advice for warding off holiday migraine attacks.
“During the holidays you’re going to parties and visiting friends and family. You are probably more active, both physically and socially, than you are during other times of the year. This can lead to stress and less sleep which can lead to a holiday migraine attack.
CBD Oil has become a major topic of interest for health and wellness and the FDA recently approved CBD-based drug for the treatment of seizures.
Although no clinical studies have been specifically carried out on CBD and Migraine, preliminary studies suggest that it may be good for certain types of pain like arthritis. Moreover, CBD/THC has been shown to reduce migraines, it’s only a matter of time for additional studies to come out on CBD and migraine. Anecdotally, many people have found it to be effective on migraine pain.”
Ben Rollins, Founding partner Axon Relief
Manage sugar and sodium overload (and a little acupressure doesn’t hurt either)
Certified corporate wellness specialist, Annabel Mendez, had learned a thing or two about managing her migraines at the office. Sugar and sodium triggers can be effectively managed by making a few plans ahead of time.
“During the holidays we build up stress in the neck and shoulder area that may trigger a migraine. When at work, get up from your desk and massage your neck and shoulders. Plus, press on a trigger point located in the fleshy space between your index finger and thumb. Do this a few times a day to prevent the migraine before it stops.
My migraines are also triggered by too much sodium or sugar and during the holidays people bring in a lot of snacks to the office. Keep green tea or spicy black tea at your desk and if everyone is gathered in the break room, sip on your tea and avoid the snacks, or eat less of them. The tea will help your body get rid of the sodium or sugar excess.”
Annabel Mendez, Migraineur and Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist
The holiday season brings with it so many fun beverages, and amid the festivities, water may get shoved to the back burner. Health and Wellness expert, Caleb Backe, reminds us of the importance of good hydration for preventing and managing migraine.
“The holiday season can be a blur of parties, events and, most importantly, alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic which means that it promotes water loss that can lead to dehydration. Make sure to stay adequately hydrated so that you can have fun without worrying about possibly triggering a migraine.”
Caleb Backe, Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics
Manage your caffeine and alcohol intake.
Can’t get through the day without your daily cuppa joe? Holiday fun with friends and family could lead to increased or decreased caffeine consumption – and maybe a cocktail or two. Dr. Heather Finlay, a fellow migraineur, offers some advice on how to handle these changes to routine.
“Caffeine and alcohol are migraine triggers for many. Drink the same amount of caffeine as you typically do. Consider abstaining from alcohol.”
Heather Finlay-Morreale, MD, Migraineur and Doctor – Pediatrician, UMass Memorial Medical Group, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Univ of Massachusetts Medical School
Plan ahead for potential food and alcohol triggers.
When you are caught up in the excitement of the holiday fun you may be tempted to reach for certain foods that you know will likely trigger your migraine. Registered dietician, Ana Reisdorf, has some suggestions that will allow you to still participate in the fun without possibly bringing on a migraine.
“Watch the alcohol. It can be easy to get swept up into celebration mode, but if you know alcohol is a trigger for you (wine can be a trigger for many people) then stay away. Or if you want to enjoy some, choose something that you know won’t trigger a migraine and be sure to drink a lot of water.
Bring your own dish. If you know certain foods will be served that trigger a migraine for you, consider offering to bring your own food. Ask your host before imposing, then try to brainstorm a dish that will meet your needs and fit into the overall plan.
Avoid the appetizer platter. Aged meats and cheeses can be a migraine trigger for some. Instead, opt for a veggie platter or avoid the appetizers all together.”
Ana Reisdorf, MS. RD
Opt for some all-natural mind-body medicine to help you unwind.
Physician and yoga teacher, Monish Bhanote, offers some great advice for relaxation – remember to breathe.
“Studies show relaxation techniques are as effective as preventative meds. Try some mind-body medicine to help you manage your migraines this holiday season. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and follow your intentional inhale and exhale with some guided imagery exercises.”
Monisha Bhanote, MD, FASCP, FCAP, triple board-certified physician and yoga teacher
Try herbal and nutritional supplements to ease tension and help combat dietary triggers.
Dr. Steven Zodkoy, a chiropractor and nutritionist, notes that alcohol and stress are some of the biggest triggers for migraines during the holidays. His advice on herbal and nutritional supplementation is spot on.
“The biggest triggers for Migraines around the holiday season are stress and alcohol. Luckily both of these issues can be handled with dietary changes and nutritional supplements. It seems that stress is unavoidable around the holidays with travel, family and expenses. Nutritional supplementation with Adaptogens; Ashwaganda, Licorice, Rhodialo, and/or Ginseng is a great way to keep your energy up and your stress down.
Alcohol seems to flow everywhere during the holidays. Migraine sufferers would do best to avoid all alcohol but if you feel you want to partake than clear alcohol is best. Clear alcohols, like Vodka, have less impurities, sugar and tannins that trigger migraines. Herbal supplementation with B vitamins, milk thistle and essential fatty acids will help process the alcohol and reduce the chances of a migraine. These tips are great for the holidays and all year round.”
Dr. Steven Zodkoy, Nutritionist and Chiropractor
Director of Monmouth Advanced Medicine
Have multiple strategies in place to stop or reduce your migraine.
Chiropractor Bruce Godfrey has a multi-level plan of attack when a migraine strikes. He shares his strategy and offers some ideas for tools to drop into your migraine kit.
“I suffer migraines myself and I am a chiropractor. If your doctor isn’t available, I find relief sometimes by drinking as much water as I can stomach as soon as the aura starts. I also take Magnesium Citrate, since magnesium relaxes muscles and lowers blood pressure. Another supplement to try is 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). Caffeine can stimulate blood vessel dilation and restore blood flow to the brain. Of course, avoid known triggers including foods, aromas, perfumes, certain alcoholic beverages. Take a nap. Convince someone to give you a neck rub. You can look up acupressure points for migraine and give yourself an acupressure treatment.
If all else fails, try a call to your chiropractor. An adjustment can provide rapid relief!”
Bruce Godfrey, Migraineur and Chiropractor, Godfrey Chiropractic
Use Migraine Glasses to Protect Against Light Triggered Migraine
The holiday season is a season of colorful, blinking lights – everywhere. It seems every display, business, and yard has some type of colorful, blinky, bright decoration. Unfortunately, light is a significant migraine trigger for many people. Dr. Bradley Katz, Neuro-Ophthalmologist at the University of Utah and co-founder of Axon Optics has some great advice for venturing outdoors.
“Migraine glasses are an effective preventative measure against light triggered migraine. Get a pair for inside and one for outside. That way you are covered no matter where you go. You shouldn’t have to sit out on holiday activities that you enjoy just because you are afraid you might get a headache. Migraine glasses are one way that you can take control of your migraine.”
Dr. Bradley Katz, Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Utah Medical Center, Founder, Axon Optics
What’s your favorite holiday migraine tip? Tell us about it!
Don’t let a migraine ruin your holiday fun. Plan ahead for potential triggers and while you are taking care of everyone else, remember to take care of YOU.
Happy holidays from Axon Optics!