Migraine and Stress-Unhealthy Brew
Migraine can be triggered by some surprising things 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 at times I have felt that defeat. However, with the right plan, support, and strategies migraines and stress will not overtake your life. In fact, you may find you handle stress better than some out of the need for survival so to speak. Through pain, you may develop strength and resilience. It may not always be the way we would have planned to gain those attributes, but we must look for the positive in all things.
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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 once I sat down that is when the migraine hit me.
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 of this was when I had a student I had been really 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
A person who has migraine may definitely 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 actually 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
There are some things you simply must do in order 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 whatever the next meeting or event is, 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. At home, I use my migraine cap and/or my eye mask. These are two things I can’t live without. It is important that we are 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.
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.
However, people will respect you for setting boundaries and creating limits that allow you to stay at your best and in the end don’t 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 as a result? 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. There have been times at work specifically when 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. There are times you cannot do the things you want to do and in those times you have to 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 in addition to 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.
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American Migraine Foundation. (2022a, November 29). Migraine “let down” headache. American Migraine Foundation. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-let-down-headache/#:~:text=What%20is%20a%20%E2%80%9Clet%20down,phenomenon%20is%20backed%20by%20science.
Maleki, N., Becerra, L., & Borsook, D. (2012, October). Migraine: Maladaptive brain responses to stress. Headache. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3475609/
Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation. (2020). How to build a stellar support system for your migraine-riddled life. Will Erwin Headache Research Foundation. https://cureheadaches.org/2020/06/08/how-to-build-a-stellar-support-system-for-your-migraine-riddled-life/
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.