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Migraine and Stress: How to Cope

Migraine and Stress-Unhealthy Brew

Some surprising things can trigger migraine, and figuring out how to manage those triggers can change the quality of your life. Taking back your life may sound like an unattainable dream, and I have sometimes felt that defeat.  However, with the right plan, support, and strategies, migraines and stress will not overtake your life. You may find you handle stress better than some out of the need for survival.  Through pain, you may develop strength and resilience. It may not always be how we would have planned to gain those attributes, but we must look for the positive in all things.

Migraine Brewing: Let Down Headache

An unexpected yet common time for a migraine to occur is actually after the stress has decreased.  The American Migraine Foundation calls this a letdown headache. As your stress levels decrease, the migraine attack strikes, and according to the American Migraine Foundation, this is backed by science. My husband used to call this my “migraine brewing stage,” as it occurred over the busy school week. As a teacher, I would be in “go mode” all week, and then it seemed that the migraine hit me once I sat down.  

It is surprising to many that the relationship between migraine and stress does not always mean you have a migraine attack at the most stressful moment.  Another example was when I had a student I had been worried about. She and her family had suffered a loss.  I can be a worrier and when I finally got to see she was ok, I experienced some relief.  Ironically, that is when my migraine spiked.  This migraine life does not play by any expected rules and is a process that can be ever-changing.

Migraine and Stress: When Things Amp Up

Woman with migraine caused by stressed sitting with head in hands

A person who has migraine may see an increase in episodes or severity due to the current level of stress in his or her life. There are times as the stress rises, I can start to feel the pain.  That is both painful and infuriating at the same time. The pain itself not only hurts but typically adds more stress because of what I am not able to do because of it.  This makes daily life challenging and can be very discouraging at times. This is where gratitude and a strong support system can help.  You can read more about those in Migraine Patient Journey: Gratitude and  Chronic Migraines and Relationships.

Coping with Migraine and Stress

You must do some things to survive on some days, and in the storm of a migraine, you may have no choice.  The National Library of Medicine reports that stress is a trigger for about 70% of people with migraine. So, take the time to rest, sit out of the next meeting or event, and ALWAYS be prepared with what you need.  

Be prepared by having all meds with you at all times and any relief aids that could be helpful.  I keep my migraine stick and cream with me. Read about those in my post-Migrastil Migraine Stick Review. I use my migraine cap and/or eye mask at home.  These are two things I can’t live without. We must be diligent about our health and we use all the strategies we can. When you find what works for you stick with those things because they will be the ones that change your quality of life. 

Migraine Stick

Rest for Healing

Rest for healing is so important, and if you don’t give yourself this, chances are the migraine attack will return.  No one wants that.  Allowing yourself to rest is good for everybody and means you are prioritizing what everyone needs—you at your best. These words sure are easier to type than to live.  So, I am here telling you I am on this journey with you.  You may not get this right every time and what matters is we keep going. Mindset will keep us on the right path, so we must choose our thoughts with intention.

Stepping Out or Taking a Back Seat

Stepping out or away from things is sometimes a way to provide additional rest and healing and allows the potential to prevent additional stress.  This doesn’t mean it is easily done. I know I struggle to sit out or take a backseat.  If I commit to something, it is very hard for me to change and I struggle terribly with letting people down.  

Woman with head in hands at steering wheel with migraine

However, people will respect you for setting boundaries and creating limits that allow you to stay at your best and, ultimately, not take you out of commission. I often have to think, I may not want to step out of this commitment or task, but if I don’t, what will happen? Will I miss even more? Will I be asking more from others? How will this affect my family? The answers to these questions help me to move in the right direction.  

Support System to Decrease Symptoms

The Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation explains that your support system helps you through the most difficult times with migraine. When the pain is high, and it is hard for me to think, I need good people around me to help me think clearly or work through these decisions.  At work, I desperately wanted to make it through the day and/or school events.  However, I had to listen to my teammate, school nurse, and other staff as a voice of reason.  Sometimes you cannot do what you want to do, and in those times, you must make peace with letting go.

Learn through me, friends. Pushing yourself won’t win you anything or achieve big goals. In the end, it may cause others more stress than your own.  So, as hard as it is, take the time when you need it. Come back stronger and focus on moving forward. That strength and positivity can be your mantra. The people who love and respect you will still be there to support you. 

Sign it's ok to take a break: migraines and stress note

Don’t Miss These

For more tips read Exercise Tips and Migraine and Migraine Lifestyle Changes.

Reach out through the email or other socials below and share a topic you would like discussed. I wish you all the best on your journey. You are welcome here for more encouragement anytime. 


American Migraine Foundation. (2022a, November 29). Migraine “let down” headache. American Migraine Foundation.,phenomenon%20is%20backed%20by%20science.

Maleki, N., Becerra, L., & Borsook, D. (2012, October). Migraine: Maladaptive brain responses to stress. Headache.

Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation. (2020). How to build a stellar support system for your migraine-riddled life. Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation.


Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the medical and health area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any medical or health-related decisions. For your health-related questions, please seek the advice of a licensed physician or any other qualified healthcare provider immediately.

27 thoughts on “Migraine and Stress: How to Cope”

  1. Pingback: The Amazing Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness + 10 Insanely Powerful Mindfulness Journaling Prompts to Get You Started - LaToya Rachelle

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts. I learn so much! Stress is so bad for our bodies. I let it affect me all the time! These are great tips… taking breaks during the day or just in life is so important.

  3. Stress can have such an awful affect on the body and if someone suffers from something such as migraines it really can make it so much worse! Letting go of control and stepping back to rest can feel worse initially but the body adapts and soon will be thankful of the rest it craves! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Ooh the let down headache. I feel like with my MS I can relate to that. Maybe not in the form of a headache but definitely with some intense symptoms. You do need to find your triggers and be ok with letting yourself rest. Definitely not always easy but totally necessary. Your journey resonates with me in many ways.

  5. As a fellow migraine sufferer, I never leave home without my meds. There is nothing worse than trying to calm a migraine after it is full-blown. Do you get full relief from the products in this post? Just curious as it may be something for me to consider.

  6. I love your article on how to cope with migraines and stress. You explain it so perfectly and I agree with you that having an action plan on how to manage your stress in order to reduce your migraines is important. I appreciate your suggestion of taking breaks as well as having a support system. If you’re struggling with stress at work, I put together these helpful tips to support you on your self-care routine

  7. This was so informational and helpful. I can understand the symptoms coming after you start to relax. Our bodies are funny in the way it responds to stress. I can definitely agree on the rest for healing. Rest brings so much rejuvenation. Thank you for your post!

  8. Pingback: Migraines During the Holidays - Migraine Road

  9. It’s so important to take time to decompress. Unfortunately, there’s so much pressure to be on all the time that pausing to relax is seeing as being lazy and at the end you pay the consequences. We have to choose our priorities wisely.

  10. Great tips! I deal with migraines a couple of times per month and these are the exact things I do to help them. Thanks for confirming I’m doing the right thing!

  11. I’ve learned some good tips and methods for managing migraines from reading this. I have a couple of family members who need this info and now I can help and support them more effectively.

  12. Charlie-Elizabeth Nadeau

    Thank you for this informative read! I hadn’t heard of migraines occurring after stress but it makes sense and makes it all the more important to manage stressors. Something definitely easier said then done. It’s great to be able to talk about migraines and head aches and get different perspectives and tips to help. Not an easy journey. Appreciated this read!

  13. I don’t have migraines often now but I used to always have them growing up. Articles like this are so helpful in helping people cope! Wish I had resources like this back when it was a nightmare!

  14. This was such an interesting article! Luckily I don’t deal with migraines as often but I’ll definitely forward it to my friends who suffer from migraines daily. I think the migraine stick seems helpful and maybe they can look into that!

    1. The migraine stick is one piece of my toolkit I am not willing to part with that is for sure! I still need my medication, but it is so nice to have other things that can help too. I use it on my temples and the back of my neck to relieve pain and tension. I also use it as an odor blocker from strong smells. That has saved me many times from some odor triggers from causing a migraine!

  15. My stress related migraines generally manifest as the ‘let down headache’. Great reminders to take it easy, especially when I’m under a lot of pressure.

  16. Super important topic with some great tips. I really like the idea of using your support system and think thats really great. Thank you so much for sharing! I also think taking a break is great too.

  17. Great tips, I have not experienced both at the same time. That would more painful. You have some good tips and will keep them in mind for future reference. Thank you for sharing!

    1. This is a great post full of wonderful tips! Most importantly to know your body and what you can and can’t do. Sometimes its hard to step back but needs to be done. Thanks for sharing

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