Fall should be a carefree time of year, what with family Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas parties and the splendor of nature at this time.
For migraine sufferers, though, fall is often more misery than marvel. All the things people love most about the season are the very things that can herald pain, seclusion, guilt and depression.
Is there a way to navigate Thanksgiving and the rest of the season and not feel like the world’s biggest party pooper? Maybe these tips will help you deal with fall in general, and Thanksgiving in particular:
Learn From the Past
If you keep a migraine diary, you have a ready made forecaster that can inform you of what you need to avoid. Look back through old entries for this time last year to remind yourself how you felt, what triggered a migraine and what you did to cope.
Because each attack is so awful, we think we’re bound to remember what brought it on. But like any intense pain, we can easily forget causes and consequences and this leads us to repeat mistakes. Checking your diary will help you avoid previously discovered triggers. And remember to note down what happens this year, since that might help you when next year rolls round.
Weather Change Triggers
Not all the migraine triggers lying in wait at this time of year revolve around food, drink or bright lights, although those things are a hazard.
Many people find changes in the temperature and air pressure trigger migraine attacks. If you’re one of them, prepare early so you’re not caught out without preventive medication. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts (an app on your cell phone is really handy for spotting approaching barometric changes when you’re out and about) so you can medicate early when necessary.
Allergies, too, often raise their heads at this time of year with fallen leaves spreading mold spores, adding to circulating allergens from grasses and trees. Arm yourself with antihistamines if sinus pressure or asthma contributes to your migraine frequency. Nasal sprays and drinking plenty of water can also help.
Coughs and colds can lead to sinus headaches that can turn into migraine, and sudden temperature changes are known to exacerbate sinus pressure. When it’s cold outside, remember to wrap up warm even if you’ll only be outside for a short while. Sudden cold causes muscle tension, and if you’re already under the weather with a cold, you’re doubly susceptible. Controlling what you can, such as warm clothing for physical protection can put you ahead of the battle.
Getting Through Thanksgiving
If you’re dreading the rounds of family gatherings, noise, children and rich food, maybe these tips will be helpful:
- Prepare Early - If you’re hosting a family dinner, prepare the menu and do the shopping well in advance. Cook what will freeze ahead of time, so there’s not so much to do on the day. Get help with shopping, and delegate tasks as guests arrive. You could, for instance, put someone in charge of drinks, get one of the kids to take coats as people arrive, or even ask all the guests to bring along a food contribution so everyone shares the cooking burden.
- Avoid Migraine Foods - One of the advantages of being the host is that you get to choose the menu. Of course, you won’t deprive guests of rich favorites, but if aged cheeses give you a headache, make sure you have a supply of your favorite alternative. The same goes for snacks like nuts or chips. Have some chopped fruit as an alternative nibble option, and maybe some of your guests will appreciate a healthier choice.
- Offer Reminders - Family and friends won’t mind you reminding them to please avoid heavy or strong perfumes.
- Take Time Out - Ditch feelings of guilt if you need some time alone. Migraine can come out of nowhere if you neglect the signs, so as soon as you start feeling warning symptoms, do what you need to do to look after yourself. Far better to take an hour’s rest in the afternoon to recover than risk a full-blown attack that will put you out of action for days.
- Stock up on Medication - Make sure you have plenty of preventive and abortive medication to hand.
Taking a little extra care can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season. But if you do still get a migraine attack, be kind to yourself and do what’s necessary to recover. Your family and friends will understand.