The holiday season is full of busy schedules, parties, shopping and travel. Unfortunately for many people, the most wonderful time of the year can actually be very debilitating, thanks to headaches and migraines.
Here are some tips on how to navigate the stressful holiday season if you live with migraines.
Don’t skip meals
During the holidays, stick to your regular eating schedule as much as possible. It’s easy to skip meals when you’re juggling events and running around stores, but it’s a huge no-no when it comes to headaches. Keep healthy, substantial snacks (think nuts, protein bars and shakes on you so you can eat at your normal times.
Watch what you eat
Unfortunately, many party foods and snack trays are hidden grounds for migraine triggers. Things like processed meats, aged cheeses, artificial flavours and colours, sausages, ham, turkey, spices and certain seasonings and most artificial sweeteners. Basically, all the fun party foods. To avoid eating these tempting snacks, fill up on meals before you head to parties. Alternatively, reach for fruits and veggie trays (or any other unprocessed food options, if they’re available.
Drink in moderation
Alcoholic drinks trigger headaches. Wine is a big culprit for many people, but if you know what your head can handle, go for it. But if you’re heading to a holiday soiree, bring your own water or beverage to be safe. Also, having more or less caffeine than normal can trigger an angry headache, so watch your intake of hot chocolate, tea, soda and coffee.
Get enough sleep
Holiday parties not only lead to excess food and drink consumption but also lead to less time for sleep—late nights become more commonplace and good sleep is hard to achieve. To prevent headaches, six to eight hours of high quality sleep is recommended. High quality sleep means avoiding sleep aids and getting uninterrupted sleep. Sleep is an often under-appreciated reason that people’s headaches worsen “unexpectedly.”
You can’t “make up” sleep on the weekends so try to keep your parties spread out or keep an eye on the clock.
Exercise as much as you can
Keep “activity” and fitness as a priority! Getting out and moving also helps in the prevention of headaches. Though we all like to relax a bit more over holiday breaks, it’s important to make sure that a holiday pattern of a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t overtake a normal healthy habit. Make a new holiday tradition of power walking with your family. There are also many communities that engage in fun runs and holiday outdoor events.
It’s important to listen to your body, though. If you’ve just gotten through a migraine cycle and are currently taking meds to treat one, intense exercise can actually cause a resurgence of the migraine.
If you’re travelling during the holidays, make sure you’re prepared to treat your headache. Delays, weather issues, stress and a feeling of confinement can come with holiday travel. It’s the busiest time of year at airports and train stations. Make sure you’ve got your headache treatment just as handy as your wallet. Don’t leave home without it!
Avoid stores at peak times
Malls are quite busy and hectic this time of year. From holiday tunes on repeat to strong scents and fragrances (candles and perfume samples), they’re a hotbed for migraine triggers. Avoid the stores at peak time and stay away from any scented shops. Try to order everything online this time of year simply because it’s nearly impossible to stay away from bright lights, sounds etc. in the malls.