How To Cope With A Migraine

How To Cope With A Migraine

Migraines are not fun. They literally are a pain  in the *ss. Anyone who ever went through a migraine will confirm that they could do without. Because when they happen, they are not like a headache. No, paracetamol will not suffice. The migraine will knock you out for a day. Even more, depending on the strength and trigger. Migraines can be scary, especially when you have one for the first time. That’s why I decided to share my tips on how to cope with a migraine.

I  shared my experience of migraines previously and detailed how migraines actually feel. They have several stages, i.e. the auras and the hangover. Migraines have a genetic component. If someone in your immediate family is prone to them, you may be too. And you may suffer from them quite frequently. If this is not your first rodeo, you will indeed have developed ways to cope with a migraine that are personal to you.

If you are new to them however, they can be scary. And for good reasons. Mostly because they are unpredictable, you can’t get rid of them “like that” and also because the symptoms look so much like a stroke that everybody around you may get just as freaked out as you. If stress is your migraine trigger and that everybody around you freaks out, that may make things worse. Stress is after all contagious. That is my personal experience.

As I am now used to migraines – although I will always and forever find them very annoying – I  know what they do to my body. However, I find it very stressful when people around me freak out even more than I do. The thing also is, you may take as many medicines as you want, the migraine will not go away in five minutes. You will have to go through it, whatever you do. The best think you can then do is to create an environment that will help you cope and recover from a migraine.

Top tips to help you cope with a migraine

1. Write Everything Down As Precaution

The firs time I had a migraine, my symptoms looked like those of a stroke. Thus, my mother panicked. Now, imagine if someone outside your family witnesses you having a migraine. They are likely to panic too. As far as I am concerned, migraines take away my ability to think and speak. Thus, it becomes very difficult to explain what is happening to me in order to calm people down.

The first time I moved abroad, in New Zealand, with a close to zero level of spoken English (I could write and read but who cares), I faced the possibility of being in an unknown thus stressful environment. An environment where I would not necessarily be able to first, express in the proper language what I was going through and second, explain it at all. Thus, to avoid a state of panic around me if I ever was to have a migraine, my mum suggested that I write in English on a piece of paper a summary of my symptoms. A list detailing what was happening to me, what I was going through and what I needed to do next.

I would have this list on me at all time and just hand it over to whomever would be with me if I ever what to have a migraine outside my home or need help while having one. It does sounds like a small thing, but  it did help quite a lot. Especially as I had a 48 hours long migraine in New  Zealand and was unable to tell my flatmates I needed to see a doctor. That little piece of paper was very useful. And it tells people around you what to do.

2. Do Not Panic Over The Migraine

Migraines are unique to each individual. Each person has a different trigger as well as different level of tolerance to it. I have had extremely stressful periods of my life where I did not have any migraines for instance. Intense months at work that I slid trough with no complication. On the other hand, I have had times where I was convinced everything was good and fine, where I thought I was not stressed and bam! a migraine hit.

Then, the first thing that comes to mind is “Oh f*ck, what did I do this time?!“. Frustration and annoyance. Then, comes the “Oh f*ck, I can’t have a migraine now, I have so much to do at work” or “I can’t have a migraine, I don’t get sick days.” The first reaction to having a migraine is to think how it will disrupt your life and stress about it. Which may worsen the crisis, especially if the trigger is stress.

I know it is easier said than done, but when having a migraine, you need not stress about it. Do not panic or think of all the things you need to do. Forget about all those and focus on how to cope with the migraine.

3. Tell And Reassure Your Loved Ones

People who are part of your “inner circle”, i.e. your partner, your family or very close friends know that you are prone to migraines. Ideally, you will explain to them what it does to you long before. Your partner and family will know anyway since they are likely to have been witness to a crisis. Telling people around you that you have migraines sometimes is the best way to keep them informed and teach them what to do when you do have a crisis. That’s how they will not stress out when they witness one.

Even though I do think it helps to isolate yourself to better cope with a migraine, I also think it is a good idea to let your partner or family know that you are going through a crisis. If the crisis worsen and you need help, they will then be best able to intervene. Beyond that, it is always reassuring to have a soothing attentive presence around. The moment I feel a migraine is coming, I text my husband so he knows and can provide help if need be.

4. Remove Anything That Prevents You To Cope With A Migraine

Migraines create a lot of side effects that you better protect yourself against. Again, as migraines are different for each person, the symptoms will be too. And it is possible that side effects will also be very different. As far as I am concerned, light becomes a huge hindrance when I have a migraine. Thus, one of the first thing I do is to close the blinds and turn off all lights.

To cope with a migraine, I also make sure I switch off all devices, put my phone on silent and also turn off any source of light, even the tiniest. I put my pajamas on and get in bed. I also try to remove any source of noise, even if this one might prove more difficult. 

5. Follow Your Doctors Orders Or Take Drugs Against Migraines

If you have had migraines for quite some time, you have probably already seen a doctor. Although there is no miracle treatment against migraines and migraines cannot be “cured”,  you can still take drugs to try reduce the effects and go through the crisis faster. Then, your doctor will have prescribed you some medication that may not be available over the counter.

If this is your first migraine, paracetamol is the best course of action. But again, if it is your first time, you may not know what it is happening. If it is not your first time, you know that migraines can really hinder your ability to speak. Thus, you may not be able to clearly communicate what you need. However, if you start feeling that a migraine is coming, run to the pharmacy and ask the strongest drug against migraines they have. And ingest it as soon as possible. As far as I am concerned, drugs mostly help to cope with the migraine hangover, not the crisis itself.

6. Rest For As Long As You Need

There is a lot of misinformation about migraines out there. For a very long time, migraines were considered a small inconvenience in a woman’s life. As you may well know, everything that is even remotely related to feminine health has for a very long time been dismissed. As a result, a very few people actually know what migraines are. And the majority thinks they are simple headaches. Which of course they are not.

But still, this common misconception makes it very hard to justify taking a sick day. Why would you take a sick day over a headache after all? However, a migraine is much more than that and a crisis can be so exhausting, it can knock you out for a day (or more). A migraine really often is also a way for your body to tell you that maybe something is going on and that you need to change your lifestyle. Like stress for example.

Thus, when you have a migraine, the best way to recover is actually to rest. To cope with a migraine goes way beyond getting through it. There is a reason you had a migraine. You need to rest to fully recover, even if that means taking a sick day. It is your health that is at stake. A proper recovery is also the best way to prevent a new crisis.

7. Identify The Trigger And Remove It

A migraine never happens for no reason. It is very often the only way your body found to tell you something. Sometimes you were aware, some other times the migraine takes you by surprise. Either way, it makes you think. Why did you have a migraine? Why did you have to cope with a migraine? The response is simple: something triggered it.

Now, the difficulty is to find your trigger. Indeed, they are unique to each individual. As far as I am concerned, my trigger is stress. Thus, when I have a migraine, I know that I am stressed. If it is your first migraine or that you are still new to it, it may be harder for you to know your migraine trigger. The best way to know it, is to analyze what went on in your life recently. You can even go back a month if you think it can help you.

For some people, the trigger can be food. There is a list of food that can trigger migraines. Then it might be worth having a look at those and compare to what you ate that day. If it is stress, look at the past weeks. If they were intense and stressful, then you need to act on that. Migraines can  have many different triggers and knowing yourself is the best way to find out which one is yours.

When I have a migraine, knowing my trigger really helps make changes in my life. Maybe I had a deadline that I could not meet and that stressed me out a lot. Why could I not meet the deadline? Because I did not manage my time well enough or was not organized. Maybe I am overwhelmed with my work and social life. Then, it is up to me to make sure that I don’t end up in such situation again and avoid a future migraine. If your trigger is alcohol, avoid alcohol.

8. Take It Slow To Cope With A Migraine

A migraine goes beyond the aura and the crisis. There is also the migraine hangover as well as the aftermath. It would be too easy otherwise. A migraine will knock you out for at least a day, so you will have to rest that day anyway. However, I recommend to take it slow even the days after. Of course,  I am not saying you should skip work any longer. I am talking of other things in your life.

For example, when going through and after the migraine hangover, stay way from screens and any bright sources of light. Do not do anything that requires strong efforts. For example, event though working out helps me relax a lot, I still avoid going to the gym a day or two after a migraine. I try to reduce as much as possible my screen time. In general, I take it as slow as I can, partaking in activities that are relaxing yet not too demanding.

One thing I was not aware of until my previous migraine is that sensitivity to light can carry on until a few days after. This also applies to any white surface that is very bright. As a result, I had a hard time focusing while reading novels or on screens. I also forced myself to not work in my free time, i.e. blogging, Instagram, etc. Indeed, I needed a break and to take it slow to get back in the swing of things.

Migraines are unique to each individual. Thus, how to cope with a migraine will also vary with each person. I had my first migraine at nine years old, thus I had to develop pretty early on coping mechanism that would help me through a crisis. I am very aware that migraines can be scary and I hope those tips will help you if you ever suffer through one.

How To Cope With A Migraine How To Cope With A Migraine How To Cope With A Migraine

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Are you prone to migraines? What is your trigger? How do cope with a migraine? What do you do when a crisis hits?

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