With the holiday season fast approaching, many people who live with migraine conditions will rejoice at the thought of shopping for presents, enjoying time with loved ones, traveling to visit family, taking time off work, receiving nice gifts and enjoying festivities where tasty food and seasonal alcoholic beverages are served in generous amounts. Alas, the holidays are also filled with triggers that could make a migraine patient feel like the Grinch of the popular Dr. Seuss tale. Here are the 10 most common migraine triggers that lurk around the holiday season, in no particular order:
- Travel - Some patients are filled with anxiety over travel plans while others suffer from sinus pain when flying
- Strong perfumes - Because everyone wants to smell nice during the holidays
- Caffeine - Coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages tend to flow freely in the holiday season
- Liquor - Some holiday cocktails such as eggnog are known triggers, and drinking too much is akin to asking for migraine episodes to take place
- Holiday lights - These are particularly uncomfortable for patients whose migraines are preceded by visual auras
- Disruption of sleep patterns - Catching up with friends and relatives often means staying up late at night
- Holiday foods - Cheese, baked ham, turkey seasonings, mayonnaise, chocolate, etc.
- Stress - Holidays tend to put pressure on our senses and emotions
- Change in nutritional habits - People who usually stick to a certain diet for most of the year tend to break habits during the holidays
- Change in exercise habits - People who usually stick to a certain exercise regime tend to stray during the end-of-year holidays
How to Avoid Migraines during the Holiday SeasonStress is the number one migraine trigger for most patients, and it does not necessarily have to come from adversity or an unpleasant situation. Some migraine patients find the holidays to be a little overbearing in the sense that too many things happen at once. There is quite a bit of sensory stimuli that takes place during the holiday season: Colorful flashing lights, strong scents, and certain foods are some of the most common migraine triggers towards the end of the year; then we also have travel, family reunions, shopping and other things to worry about.
Since the holiday season presents a veritable attack on the senses and emotions, migraine patients who are sensitive to sensorial and emotional triggers should be prepared to avoid them. The best way to accomplish this is by planning in advance, which is something that patients who suffer from chronic migraines with aura should pay special attention to.
As the holidays get closer, it helps to review or make a list of known migraine triggers that can be easily controlled and avoided such as food, beverages, staring at bright lights for too long, drinking too much liquor and not sleeping enough. Patients whose migraines are triggered by colds and bouts of influenza should take vitamins C and B12 well before the weather starts to turn colder. It also helps to be in good shape for the holidays, and thus increasing the intensity of workouts and eating healthier about a month before Thanksgiving can go a long way in preventing headaches.
Asking Others to Help
Family arguments and quarrels often seem to have a way to intrude upon the holidays. These situations are normally not easily avoided; however, migraine patients would be surprised at how effective it is to explain to relatives that holiday stress can trigger episodes in them.
The hullabaloo of Black Friday and of the holiday shopping season in general can be stressful for many people. To this end, migraine patients can enlist the help of their spouses, close relatives and friends to select and purchase presents on their behalf. When traveling to visit relatives and in-laws, asking them to provide the quietest and darkest bedroom in their homes can be of help, as well as requesting a space where a yoga mat can be practiced in solitude for an hour or two.
*Image courtesy of JD Hancock