The holiday season is a challenge for everyone, with too few hours in the day and no let-up in everyday demands and commitments. Add on the frenzy of gift buying, food and drink shopping, event organization and the expectation that you WILL have a good time, and migraine sufferers often feel extra pressure and apprehension.
Naturally, you want to be able to join in the fun and celebrations, and you don’t want to let people down or feel you’re shirking your fair share of the work involved.
But you need to take care of yourself. The added pressure of the holiday season can spell disaster simply because there are so many situations and circumstances that can trigger a migraine attack.
A Personal Survival Kit
One thing that can really help migraineurs, both practically and in giving some peace of mind and confidence, is putting together an emergency kit and making sure it’s with you wherever you go. Some advisors recommend having more than one so you can keep one at home, one in the car and another at work. Here’s what you need:
- A container to hold all your medications.
- Prescribed medicines or over the counter alternatives that help.
- Medications for side effects, such as nausea.
- Instructions and dosage information.
Add to these basics any other items that help you deal with approaching attacks. You could include:
- Dark glasses
- Bottled water (this helps you swallow pills or simply slake thirst and prevent dehydration)
- A washcloth or a small towel that you can dampen and use as a cold compress. Dark colored fabrics are most beneficial as you can also use them to shield your eyes if the light levels are painful.
- Earplugs. Pop them in for respite from loud music or shrieking crowds.
Your Migraine Journal
Keeping a migraine diary is one of the most valuable actions you can take, as it helps build up a picture over time. It provides a practical record of what happened, how painful it was, the duration of the attach and what helped you.
In the throes of an attack, thinking or concentration is often difficult, if not impossible, and the diary removes the need to think. Did taking an over the counter painkiller early on help abort a threatened attack? Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, and knowing the difference can help with prompt action. Refer back and remind yourself which medications helped in the past, especially ones that warded off pain when taken during the aura phase, and include those in your emergency kit.
If you haven’t maintained a journal, make some notes before the New Year’s parties and celebrations get underway. Jot down your meds, dosages, and any supplements that help, as well as favorite avoidance tactics, such as going somewhere quiet or covering your eyes.
If you do have a journal, pick out the most useful information and make separate notes. They don’t need to be extensive, just memory joggers you can include in your emergency kit. Notes like this may also enable friends to help out in case of a sudden attack when the pain can really knock you sideways. It’s also a good idea to include your doctor’s contact information.
Practical Tips for a Migraine-Free New Year’s Eve
Tip #1 - Stay Hydrated
This is especially important if you’re drinking more alcohol than normal. Alternating alcoholic beverages with a glass of water really helps you avoid over-indulgence. Remember that certain drinks are more likely to trigger migraine, such as red wine, whiskey, or champagne. One suggestion is to take along your own non-alcoholic drinks if you’re partying at a friend’s place. That way you don’t feel like you’re missing out when everyone raises their glasses, and allows you to limit your intake more easily.
Tip #2 - Avoid Food Triggers
Good food and tempting morsels are part of the problem during celebrations. It’s all too easy to nibble a bit too much chocolate, over-indulge in nice cheese or snack on cured meats and other common migraine triggers. It’s the tyramine that forms in mature protein foods that does the damage, but another potential hazard is cold foods such as ice cream or frozen drinks. Those triggers affect up to 80% of migraine sufferers.
Tip #3 - Avoidance Strategies
Carry your migraine kit everywhere you go. If you feel an attack starting, drink plenty of water and take your abortive medications. If possible, find somewhere quiet and dark to lie down for half an hour to give the meds time to kick in. This isn’t always possible but should be if, for instance, you’re at a friend’s house.
And finally, be kind to yourself. Don’t deny yourself all celebrations just in case a migraine starts, but instead, take things gently, monitor your feelings, and take abortive action if it’s called for.