There is this public perception that between migraine attacks, life is “normal.” Few people outside the migraine community understand that even episodic migraine can impact life between migraine attacks. There are things we do or avoid doing every single day in the hopes of preventing even one attack.
Here are 10 things to do every day to live well with migraine:
Consistent sleep and wake time are essential to maintaining the homeostasis needed to minimize the risk of migraine attacks. It is also important to get enough sleep, but not too much. The migraine brain functions best in that mythical “Goldilocks Zone” — not too much, not too little, but “just right”.
Carry a water bottle all the time. Dehydration is a common and preventable trigger, so it’s important to stay hydrated. It isn’t just about getting enough water. When it’s really hot outside or we’ve been sweating, alternate water with Gatorade or other electrolyte replacement drinks to keep everything in balance.
Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and even some medications contain caffeine. In small, regular quantities, caffeine is helpful to some. However, too much can trigger an attack. Everyone responds differently. Some people cannot tolerate any amount of caffeine. Headache doctors recommend limiting caffeine intake.
Life between migraine attacks requires good nutrition. It isn’t always easy though. The prodrome symptoms of food cravings and lack of appetite difficult to overcome. One of the ways to do this is by preparing smoothies full of wholesome produce. When we can’t tolerate the thought of eating solid food, these nutrition-packed drinks give us the vitamins and minerals we need. Many common food triggers are not wholesome anyway, so stocking the refrigerator and cabinets with healthy options eliminates the need to watch for food triggers at home. The bigger challenge is eating frequently enough to avoid triggering an attack from low blood sugar. Carry wholesome snacks with me when away from home, too.
Use pill boxes, alarms, and other reminders to prevent missing doses. Many of us take multiple medications 2-3 times every day. Putting off or skipping a dose is really not a good option. This is especially true with bedtime doses, which must be taken at roughly the same time each night to ensure we maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Not every pill is a prescription medicine. Sometimes our doctors will recommend vitamins or other supplements. They’re just as essential to migraine attack resistance as any other treatment.
7. Eye protection
Whether it’s sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, or a pair of FL-41 tinted glasses, protecting our eyes from strain is important. Eye strain can be a potent trigger. Avoid looking directly at bright or flashing light. Protecting our eyes is an essential part of life between migraine attacks.
8. Ear protection
Some of us experience phonophobia even between migraine attacks. Instead of constantly asking others to speak quieter or lower the volume, we may get relief from silicone ear plugs. A pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones can be even better when the noise of life gets too loud. They’re not cheap but well worth the investment.
Sometimes we push ourselves too hard. When we finally make the choice to slow down, our loved ones may react negatively. That’s because we’ve given them permission to expect the unreasonable from us. When we stop ignoring the need to pace ourselves, there will be resistance. Accepting our limits means learning to live at a slower pace. Set reasonable goals, even if that means doing only one important thing each day. Given time, even our loved ones will appreciate the slower pace.
Watching out for potential triggers can be anxiety-provoking. Reading labels and recognizing all the hidden sources of triggers becomes a way of life. The list of “can’t dos” is long. Some of us get enough attacks that can’t be prevented, so when a trigger is avoidable, we’ll do so. When others ask, we can explain that these “off limits” foods, sensory inputs, and activities are like allergies. If exposed, we really will get sick. Life between migraine attacks involves paying attention to details most people take for granted.