Migraine can be as unpredictable as a blind date, and is most likely to make its unwelcome appearance just when it’s most inconvenient. Important events like work meetings, job interviews, weddings or engagement parties can be especially scary for migraineurs and many avoid making commitments for fear of letting people down.
Unless you’re prepared to become a hermit though, you can’t avoid every event, so it’s good to have some coping strategies up your sleeve.
Voice Your Concerns
If a social event is coming up, like a friend’s wedding (or even your own!), speak to the most important people and let them know what’s worrying you. You can explain how important the occasion is to you, how much you want to be there, and discuss how you will manage the day so it goes well for everyone.
Feelings of guilt often accompany migraine attacks, with sufferers imagining those around them think they’re making excuses or, even worse, seeking attention or avoiding responsibility. You can help yourself and those closest to you if you can be honest about your limitations.
Simplify If Possible
One of the best ways of coping is to have a simplified version of the event in your mind. For instance, if you have agreed to play a major role in a friend’s wedding, several hectic activities may be happening on the same day with high excitement levels that can trigger migraine. If a shopping trip in the morning and bridal shower in the afternoon is too much to cope with, discuss the possibility of attending just one of the activities. If that’s not possible, a second alternative is to cut your attendance short, allowing time to rest in between.
Know Your Triggers and Be Extra Vigilant on the Day
Make sure you know your triggers inside out well ahead of the event. Triggers can come from multiple sources, from light and sound to taste or smell, and they can be hard to avoid at social gatherings. However, there are ways to minimize the damage in some situations. For instance:
- At daytime gatherings, choose outdoors over indoors if perfume triggers pain. The breeze from outside will help neutralize concentrations of scent.
- Avoid alcohol if necessary. Hard when everyone’s drinking, but if it keeps you pain-free, sip mineral water instead of champagne.
- Indoors, sit with your back to the wall if possible. In busy or noisy venues, this helps cut down on sound and on the sensation of too much peripheral movement (which can cause feelings of vertigo) because people can’t pass you on all sides.
- Outside, wear sunglasses if you can and if it’s socially acceptable, especially if flashing sunlight triggers migraine.
- Take regular breaks. Go outside, sit somewhere quiet, meditate for a few minutes, calm your mind and relax before rejoining the party.
Not all minimizing tactics are possible all the time, so pick your moments and educate yourself beforehand about what you can and can’t do to stay safe. It may even be worth visiting a venue in advance to locate quiet areas and seating arrangements.
Take Abortive Measures
Drink plenty of water, eat regularly so you don’t get hungry, and be ultra gentle with yourself on the days leading up to the event. As well as being gentle, be firm in not allowing yourself those little indulgences that can be enough to bring on an attack, such as chocolate or caffeine.
Once you thoroughly understand your migraine pattern, you’ll recognize when you're in the prodrome phase. This very early phase of migraine can last for hours to days, and once you recognize it, it can be an effective early warning signal. Signs to look out for include:
- Feeling irritable
- Craving certain foods
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Being extra thirsty
- Mood changes such as feeling unusually excited or depressed, or more energetic
- Feeling sleepy, or yawning more than usual.
If any of these symptoms indicate migraine is on the way, you can take whatever actions or medications will help ward it off.
Speak to Your Doctor
Because migraine is such a complicated condition, often just knowing there is a day in the future when you simply must not get a migraine can be enough to bring it on. Take your concerns to your doctor, and discuss whether there may be alternative medications that can help you avoid pain. There may be something you haven't tried yet, or which you can take in the short-term.
Make sure you take your medication with you to the event so it’s to hand the moment you need it.
It can seem a little hit or miss, but with control, understanding and sympathetic friends or colleagues, it’s not necessary to avoid the important events in your life.