6 Tips for Mental Health and Migraine during a Global Crisis
As a mother, a nurse, and a migraineur, Ciara O’Rourke shares six ways she’s practicing self-care during this stressful period.
The whole world is changing at the moment. Our daily lives are being affected by this global pandemic. Our work, our social lives, and our friends are all being impacted as a result of this virus –and that’s if we’re lucky.
If we are one of the less fortunate people to fall seriously ill with this virus, our lives could be majorly at risk. This reality has had a huge impact on my mental health, and I have to be honest and say that some days I find it hard to cope. It’s difficult just to get my head around everything that’s unfolding on a daily basis.
I am a nurse, so I have the extra stress of being on the frontline of caring for people who have contracted coronavirus. This in turn, is deeply impacting on my migraines and on those days when I’m experiencing added stress (which let’s be honest is every day at the moment), I’m also having bad migraine attacks on top of that.
I don’t think this virus is going away any time soon. In fact, we could be dealing with it for months to come. So I have had to think about new ways to deal with stress in order to get through the day, so I can still go to work and support myself and my family. I think stress during this uncertain time is something that we will all have to be mindful of, so I am going to highlight a few things that have helped me and will hopefully help others also.
Talk, talk, talk
The number one thing I make sure to do is talk. I am definitely a talker and I find it hard to bottle things up and let them fester. I think that it is so important to express how you’re feeling, and even more so at this time. Whether it be face-to-face with those you are self-isolating with, via telephone or virtually via face time, it is so important to have that communication.
Social distancing and travel restrictions are an added stress for a lot of people (including myself), as it means we can no longer visit and see our loved ones. For example, I can no longer visit my parents due to coronavirus as they are both in their seventies and my dad has a pre-existing condition. I find this very difficult but I have gotten very good at calling them and checking in regularly. They have never had so many calls and it is great for them to have that contact. I have also sent them videos of our boys so that they can see them virtually.
I find talking things through with my husband is also a great way to relieve some of my worries, so that I don’t get too overwhelmed with everything that’s going on.
Turn off news and social media notifications
The second thing I recommend is to turn off news apps and social media. I recently spent a weekend falling down a rabbit hole of information that was being fed to me via these apps. I was consumed by all the news reports – most of which I later found out to be false – and ended up feeling completely exhausted and anxious.
I decided there and then to delete the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone so that I couldn’t be tempted. I still watch the news but try to only receive information from reliable sources. I think that there is already enough stress in our lives without feeding it constantly with fake news.
Reach out to your healthcare team
The next thing I made sure to do was to speak to my migraine consultant and let him know how I was feeling. He gave me an extra prescription in case I don’t get to see him as planned due to the virus, and the fact he may be called back to frontline duty. He gave me some very useful information on how the medications might be affected if I do contract coronavirus. I had previously read some articles regarding certain medications and it had made me anxious, but speaking to my consultant put me at ease as I knew I was receiving expert information.
I also now feel reassured that I have enough migraine medication to see me through this crisis.
Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques
I also recommend techniques like meditation and relaxation when possible. Years ago I did a mindfulness course when I was going through a particularly stressful time and I found that it helped a lot. I have neglected to keep up with meditation in recent years, so I dug out my old booklets and CDs and put them on this weekend. It helped so much to just take an hour to myself and self-reflect. I am going to try keep it up at least 3 times per week, so that in times of high stress, I have the techniques to manage it.
Get out for a walk where possible
I also find that walking helps a lot, so I have been trying to get out when I can. This can be difficult with children and when you are in self-isolation, but if possible I find that fresh air and a walk helps. If your government regulations forbid you from leaving the house, just walking around the garden or sitting by a window helps.
I have started listening to some great mental health podcasts while walking and I have to say that I come back feeling refreshed and energized. There are some great podcasts available, so whether you need an hour of self-help or a giggle, there’s always something that will suit your needs.
Keep a journal
I always try to keep a journal and document my journey through migraine and I am using it more than ever at the moment. I find writing therapeutic, and just getting my feelings and emotions onto a page really does feel like I have lifted a load off my chest. My writing is generally for myself and not to be shared with anyone, but it’s just the release of the information from my mind that helps.
A final thought
I don’t know what the future holds. Nobody does. We are going through the worst health crisis we’ve ever lived through and I think that we will be dealing with the effects for a long time. So, I believe it’s more important than ever to make sure that we don’t neglect our own self-care.
I often say to my colleagues, “we cannot care for anyone else if we haven’t cared for ourselves first.”
I know there are lots of different techniques and strategies people use to self-care, but these are just a few that help me. I will be relying on them as time goes on and as the frequency of my migraine attacks increase. I hope that they also help you too. Stay safe all.
NPS-ALL-NP-00103 APRIL 2020
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