Having to cope with migraines can throw your life out of balance when these attacks strike. It can affect our routine and make you feel like your life is on pause. Medication is a proven way to both treat and prevents migraines- however, medication is just one part to avoiding and dealing with migraines. It is also very important to take care of yourself and understand how to cope with the pain when it attacks. Here are a few suggestions on how to manage and reduce the number of migraines that may occur.
They are lifestyle choices that promote overall good health and well-being it can help you reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines, combing medication from your registered GP and these lifestyle measures can often be an effective way to handle these attacks.
TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO SUFFER WITH MIGRAINES
1. FIND A CALM ENVIRONMENT
At the first sign of a migraine attack, you should take a break from what you are doing if this is possible.
Dim Or Turn Off Your Lights – Migraines often increase sensitivity to light and sound. Relax in a dark, quiet room and sleep if you can.
- Temperature therapy – This is when you apply hot or cold compresses to your neck and head area. The cold (icepacks) has a numbing effect which can dull the sensation of pain. The hot compression or a hot bath/ shower can relax tense muscle areas.
- Drink a caffeinated beverage; caffeine in small amounts can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain relief from any medication you may have taken for example aspirin. But take caution as having too much can lead to withdrawal headaches later and if you have caffeine late in the day, this can interfere with you sleeping pattern.
2. GET SOME SLEEP
Migraines may keep you from falling asleep or wake you up at night. Likewise, migraines are often triggered by a poor night’s sleep.
- Establish a regular sleeping pattern; try to get a good routine of waking up and going to bed at the same time every day – even on weekends. If you decide to take a nap in the day – keep it short, naps that are longer than 20 to 30 minutes can interfere with your nightly routine
- Unwind at the end of the day; try to do something that can help you relax and promote better sleep, for example, listen to soothing music, have a warm bubble bath or read a book you enjoy, light candles and relax.
- Watch what you digest before bedtime; it is important not to overdo it with exercise before bed and avoid having any heavy meals and caffeine, nicotine at this time alcohol can also deter you from a restful nights sleep.
- Minimize distractions; try your best to associate your bedroom to only sleep and intimacy, try not to watch television or take work to bed. Close your bedroom door and use a fan or background music to muffle distracting noises.
- Don’t try so hard to sleep. The harder you try to sleep, the more awake you’ll feel. If you can’t fall asleep, read or do another quiet activity until you become drowsy.
- Check your medications; it is important to check any medication you may be on to see if it contains caffeine or any other stimulant – some medicines for migraines also have stimulant contents which can interfere with your sleep.
3. KEEP A DIARY/ JOURNAL
A journal can help you determine what your triggers may be. Take note when your migraine starts, and what you were doing at the time, what you were eating or drinking, take into account the environmental factors such as light, smell, weather etc. How long the migraine lasted and what if anything provided you relief.
By taking note of these – you may start seeing a helpful pattern between your lifestyle and your migraine attacks. A useful approach may be that you may want to start to gradually expose yourself to these triggers and learn to cope with these migraine triggers by using behavioural management techniques.
This can include identifying and challenging negative thoughts, relaxation training, and stress reduction. Until recently avoiding migraine triggers was considered the best advice however exposing yourself to triggers is a developing technique in handling migraine but does need more research to understand if this is a more effective tool in managing migraines.
4. DIET CONTROL
You’re eating habits can influence your migraines
- Be consistent with the time of meals you have in the day
- Avoid skipping meals – fasting can increase the risk of migraines.
- Keeping a food diary – track the foods and beverages you have in the day when you experience migraines you can identify potential food triggers
- Avoid the foods that trigger your migraines – if you feel that a certain meal or snack such as chocolate or coffee or even a glass of wine is triggering your migraines do try to eliminate or decrease these from your diet and see if this has any effect.
When we exercise or do physical activities, our body releases certain chemicals that block pain signals to our brain. These chemicals can help alleviate anxiety and depression and these two conditions are known to make migraines worse.
Obesity can also increase the risk of chronic headaches. Maintaining a healthy weight through physical exercise and diet can provide additional benefits to managing these migraines.
If your GP agrees, choose an exercise you can enjoy, for example, swimming, walking and cycling are often great choices to start with. Do remember to ease into these exercises as strenuous and vigorous exercises may trigger migraines.
Migraines and stress often cohabitate, you cannot avoid daily stress, but you can often control stress to help you manage your migraines;
- Simplify your life; try to avoid adding in activities and chores for the day, instead manage them or leave them out where possible.
- Manage your time; update your to-do list every day both at home and work. Delegate what you can and generate small tasks to manage large projects.
- Take regular breaks; if your feel you are overwhelmed – take a few slow stretches or a quick walk to refresh your energy for the task at hand.
- Change your attitude; try to stay positive if you find your thoughts wandering to “This can be done”. Snap out of it and try to think “This may be hard but I can do it”
- Enjoy your time; try to find 15minutues in the day and do something that you enjoy. It could be anything from having your favourite brand of coffee, playing a game, pursuing a hobby. Do it is a natural enjoyable way to combat the stress.
- Relax; try to relax during the day, try deep breathing exercises, focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply for 10minutes a day. It may even help you consciously relax your mind and body when you are done take a moment or two and enjoy the serenity you have achieved.
STRIVE FOR BALANCE
To live with migraines is a challenge, but making healthy positive lifestyle changes and choices can help you achieve balance. Ask you, family and friends, to support your journey.
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counselling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain. Talk with a therapist. They can help you better understand your emotions. (sign up on our website www.makingways.co.uk/getstarted to book a consultation if you feel ready to talk to someone).