I was officially diagnosed with migraines in college, but I started experiencing symptoms my sophomore year of high school. I was secretly battling more than a dozen episodes a month, also known as chronic migraines.
Why the secrecy? Despite coming from the closest-knit family in the world (my parents and little sister are for real ride-or-die), I didn't want to be a burden. I believed I could work through my health issues on my own. I was ashamed of the invisible pain I was experiencing for some strange reason.
Do migraines cause mental health anxiety? I'm not a doctor, but I have drawn parallels from my own experiences. I'm an active, high-producing person, so it’s easy for depression and anxiety to creep in when I can’t keep my usual pace.
Another double whammy: My migraines would strike after classes, work hours, or weekends. Do you know how demoralizing it is to wake up with a migraine attack on Saturday morning? My episodes have also put a damper on more vacations and retreats than I care to remember.
I was adding to my anxiety by constantly worrying about when the next attack would come and feeling helpless about the unpredictability of my symptoms. As a type-A personality, migraines took a sense of control away from me, making me panic.
As I reflect on the self-destructive way I chose to handle the onset of my migraines, I realize how I was creating an unnecessary world of stress and anxiety, which was creating the perfect storm for an unhealthy mental health cycle. If only I could roll back the clock and tell a younger me to speak up and "ask for help."
Over the years, in addition to a solid treatment plan, I have also learned one fundamental way to manage my mental health and migraines: stress reduction. I agree with health experts who say food is the most abused anxiety drug, and exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant. As someone who will never enjoy exercise (but understands the benefits), I have to admit working out is the perfect form of physical and mental therapy for me.
I want to encourage you to move beyond high-impact exercise like running. I’m a team mind, body, and soul person and prefer exercise that’s gentler on the body like walking, yoga, and swimming.
As an extroverted introvert, I also love my "me" time. I'm also someone who struggles with immense guilt putting herself first. I never thought of myself as a "pleaser," but here we are. While the concept of de-stressing is easier said than done, I've found a foolproof way to make it happen. I set reminders on my phone. Yes, I'm setting reminders to make "me" time for myself.
Please don't judge me because I know (at least I hope) I'm not alone. You're not being selfish to make time for yourself. It's an essential quality of life ingredient.
Finally, I've learned to be intentional about the company I keep and mute people in real life. If someone brings negativity and low vibrations around me, I mute them (within reason, of course). It's called setting boundaries, and it can bring balance to your life and work wonders for your mental health.
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Photo Credit: Robin Gentry / EyeEm / via Getty Images
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