Working from home can seem like the perfect solution for a migraineur. When a migraine strikes, you are already in an environment where you have ready access to dark rooms and medication. However, if working from home is not a normal part of your routine, you may feel more stressed than usual.
Also, at a time when the country is partially shut down due to COVID-19 quarantines, feeling “stuck” at home increases the stress and may impact your daily routines and how well you eat.
Dealing with migraines when working from home is simplified if you follow some basic self-care protocols.
A General Word about Migraines
Migraines affect 12% of the U.S. population. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Around 20% of migraine attacks begin with aura — the experience of seeing halos, sparkles, wavy lines, bright or flickering lights, or even temporary vision loss.
Many migraine attacks are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, watery eyes, a runny nose, and congestion, along with throbbing or pulsing pain. Migraines can last from four hours to 24 hours.
Migraines differ from tension headaches. A tension headache is typically caused by tight muscles in the shoulders, scalp, jaw, and neck. It can also be caused by anxiety, depression, alcohol use, erratic meals, or stress, rather like some migraines. However, tension headaches are less intense than migraines, and they don’t last as long.
Know Your Triggers
If you are prone to migraines, keep a migraine diary. Track the incidence of migraines, including when they begin, how long they last, and what provided relief (if anything). Also, track the food you eat each meal. Since certain foods tend to trigger migraines, a migraine diary that includes food tracking can help you identify any triggers related to diet.
Common food triggers include an increase or decrease in caffeine intake, red wine, aged cheese, cured meats, processed food, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and chocolate (a bummer, we know).
Other triggers include changes in the weather, bright or flickering lights, high altitude, strong smells or loud noises, insufficient sleep, and hormonal changes. Fatigue, stress, and anxiety are often involved in triggering migraines.
The best way to treat migraines is to avoid them in the first place. If you can prevent migraines through some fundamental self-care changes, you can maintain a better quality of life. Here are a few tips:
- Maintain the proper environment
- Get the appropriate amount of sleep
- Eat properly
- Stay hydrated
- Manage stress
- Avoid your triggers
You have total control over your environment when you work from home. Create a workspace with a calm atmosphere that allows you to work without interruption. If you work in front of a screen, make adjustments to the brightness of the light, the size of the print, and the position. Sit upright with proper posture, so you don't strain your neck and back.
Keep a regular sleep routine. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Too much or too little can cause problems. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Use a fan to muffle noises, close the door, and leave the electronics outside.
Read or pick another quiet activity at bedtime until you are drowsy. Also, check your medications for caffeine or other stimulants.
Watch your diet. Eat balanced meals with plenty of vegetables and fruits. Don’t skip meals since that can trigger a migraine. Magnesium and Vitamin B2 have been shown to reduce migraine attacks. Magnesium is found in dark green vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, while B2 is found in milk, cheese, fish, and chicken.
Drink plenty of fluids - just watch the coffee intake. Not only does coffee contain caffeine, a potential trigger, it is also a diuretic. Diuretics cause your body to expel fluids more quickly than usual; you can become dehydrated even though you drink a lot.
Get some exercise. Yoga is quite beneficial for most people since it is gentler than some other forms of exercise. Aerobic exercise is also recommended — walking, running, cycling, and swimming are all excellent forms of movement. Do check with your physician before beginning an exercise routine.
Exercise causes your body to release certain chemicals that block pain signals to the brain and may help calm anxiety and depression.
Manage stress. Unwind at the end of the day with soothing music or reading. Some find peace in journaling or meditation. Simplify your life by cutting out unnecessary or stressful activities. Manage your time and take plenty of breaks. Enjoy yourself, and if you find negative thoughts whirling in your head, make an effort to adjust your attitude. Replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
Relax. Breath deeply from your diaphragm, focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. Perform breathing exercises at least 10 minutes each day. Consciously relax muscle groups, and when you are finished, sit quietly for a minute or so.
Find something you enjoy doing, and spend at least 15 minutes a day on that activity. And avoid those triggers we talked about earlier.
If you develop a migraine, start treatment as early as possible. If you decide to take vitamins or natural supplements, check with your doctor first. Here are some additional remedies:
- Medications - pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen may help. Small amounts of caffeine may be beneficial.
- Supplements - magnesium, B Complex vitamins, feverfew, butterbur, and ginger powder have been found helpful.
- Essential oils - lavender and peppermint oil can soothe migraines.
- Massage - scalp, neck, and shoulders are places where migraines can begin. Acupressure and acupuncture may be beneficial.
- Environment - turn off the lights and relax. Sleep, if possible. An ice pack on the forehead, neck, or scalp can help. Some people respond better to a hot compress instead. Take a warm shower or bath.
Try each remedy to see what helps relieve your migraines. Keep pain relievers in the house, so you don't need to wait for a delivery or shopping trip.
Migraines affect a significant portion of individuals every day. If you are a migraineur, working from home can make self-care easier. However, if it breaks your routine, migraines may strike from stress or anxiety.
Manage your environment, sleeping and eating habits, and take time each day to relax. Do what you can to minimize your exposure to triggers, then treat as soon as you realize a migraine is coming.
In the meantime, enjoy working from the comfort of your own space. And if you have any questions or concerns, give Migraine Relief Center a call.