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What It’s Like During the Holidays With Migraines
photo of woman's hands on christmas gifts

Riddle me this: What is your least favorite song during the holiday season? I'll go first. “Migraines for Christmas.” Let's be honest: Trying to 'tis the season as a migraine warrior without losing your “fa la la la” can be downright excruciating. To keep my health in check and handle holiday stress, I recommend the following tips. 

Be mindful of sensory overload. Bright lights, loud music, screaming children, food-induced comas, last-minute shopping, and staying up late -- what could possibly go wrong? I still remember as a child not feeling so well after my dad hoisted up a beautiful Christmas tree in the family room. It started with the sniffles and ended with flu-like symptoms and body aches. It didn't take long before my parents realized the culprit for my illness -- the pines needles from the fresh Christmas tree. Fortunately, we learned to embrace the beauty of fake, beautifully decorated holiday trees, and it ended up being a true miracle for the migraines that surfaced years later. 

Try not to procrastinate. I still haven't mastered the art of capitalizing on Black Friday sales or sending holiday cards on time. But I also don't beat myself up about it anymore. I create a plan for errands and gift buying, and I do what I can when I can. The return on investment as it pertains to my health is priceless.

Stay at “om.” Do not underestimate the power of “woosah.” I set little reminders on my phone to remind myself to breathe and stay calm. Meditate if that's your thing, but don’t sweat the small stuff, and give yourself time to decompress from family time and holiday gatherings.

Keep a migraine diary. I’m a writer, obviously, so I like to track my migraine triggers, intensity, and frequency in a bedside journal. Try sticky notes to document your episodes if you prefer the Cliffs Notes version. I admit I was initially skeptical, but visually tracking your migraines in a diary is a great way to give professionals insight into your symptoms and treatment plan.

Practice mindfulness. Don’t get on the emotional roller coaster of comparing yourself to others. While the holidays can bring joy, they can also remind us of those who are no longer with us. Train yourself to be mindful and positive. Low vibrations can mean danger is ahead.

Try to stick with consistent sleep patterns. As a proud night owl, I’m not a fan of regular sleep patterns, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I feel better and manage my migraines better when I'm well-rested. Giving yourself downtime is just as important as the perfect stocking stuffer.

Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake. I eliminated red wine (and the pain it causes me) from my diet years ago, but it sends chills down my spine to imagine a world without coffee. I'm one of those rare breeds who favors a “cup of joe” to wake up and go to sleep. And if you drink decaffeinated, we can't be friends. But seriously, when it comes to alcohol and caffeine, remember moderation is key. As for a festive mocktail, don't knock it till you try it! 

Exercise and get some fresh air. I live in Florida, or as I like to say, I live where people vacation. While I love getting a daily dose of “vitamin sea,” I'm not a strenuous exerciser by any stretch of the imagination, but I have more energy for what seems like a never-ending holiday to-do list when I'm more active. 

You don't have to do it all, and no one expects you to. Did you know that “no” is a complete sentence? You don't have to say “yes” to every holiday party invite. Prioritizing will help keep your mental health and migraines in check. 

So, there you have it, some tips that should keep you sane through the coming weeks, no guarantees, of course. Remember, it's the thought that counts. Light some unscented candles, turn on the festive music, and cheers to the most wonderful (hopefully migraine-free) time of the year!

Tap into a community of fellow migraineurs on Facebook. Learn, share, connect in our Migraine Support Community.


Photo Credit: Maca and Naca / E+ via Getty Images

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Naki Carter

Naki Carter

Diagnosed since 2001

For nearly 20 years, Naki Carter has been living with migraine. Formerly an award-winning journalist, she is committed to ending the stigma around the invisible illness. Carter lives in South Florida near lots of family and friends, where she enjoys a daily dose of “vitamin sea.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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