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How “Same Thing, Different Day” Helps My Migraines

Mom with chronic migraine taking photos of her children playing soccer after school
Getty Images / Albina Gavrilovic

Migraine can affect our big plans, like vacations and days out, but they can affect the small stuff, like our daily routines, too.

How many of us have battled choosing between 15 extra minutes in bed or having a proper breakfast? For busy nurse and mum-of-three Ciara, too little sleep and not enough food can both be migraine triggers. Today, Ciara explores how much migraine affects her daily routine – and vice versa.

Recently, I've found myself thinking about the pieces I write for this blog. 

I tend to write about the Big Life Events or exciting things like vacations and how chronic migraine impacts them. Of course! These are the events I remember the most, the ones I get the most upset about when I think about life with almost daily headaches. 

But, if I'm being frank, it's not the significant life events that have impacted me the most. They can make the best stories, but they're not a true reflection of my life with migraine. 

It's the small things that build a life, with or without chronic migraine

The real difficulties arise in the mundane, day-to-day activities that don't deviate much from the routine. Many people get bored with the same old, day in and day out. 

But - for those without migraine - imagine doing what you do now, but with an almost constant headache. Or other prodrome or postdrome symptoms that try their best to wreak havoc on your day. 

For those who live with migraine, you'll know that getting through everyday life can be the hardest thing for us. 

My daily routine is essential for managing migraine symptoms

I'm a nurse full-time, married, and have three boys. 

Work starts early, so my boys are usually still in bed by the time I leave. Typically, I tiptoe out and start the 30-minute journey at 6:30 a.m. I take my migraine medication before I start, as things tend to get very busy very quickly. I have daily reminders on my phone for every dose, as it's easy to lose track of time or forget. 

I must also eat before work, as skipping meals can trigger migraine symptoms. I need to give myself time in the morning to eat, wake up, and not feel overly rushed or my mood is sour (as is my physical health) for the rest of the day. 

Swapping to regular work shifts changed my life 

My work tends to vary between the office and clinical duties. Thankfully, my hours are pretty standard unless there's an emergency. 

Shift work may not affect everybody with migraine, but I find regular working days and hours are vital for managing attacks. I remember working on wards, doing irregular hours, which was terrible for my health. My migraines were more frequent and lasted longer. 

Likewise, my breaks need to be regular and structured. It's easy to think, "I'll skip my snack or my lunch," when you're busy, but that can sap your strength for the rest of the day. Working in a hospital means eating a full meal isn't always possible. Still, most of the time, I won't allow myself to make excuses. 

As for where I eat, I'll try to get a table in the staff canteen. I used to have a horrible habit of eating at my desk and scrolling through work emails and data. I didn't give myself enough space for a mental break! Few emails are so important that they can't wait half an hour. 

Lunchtime is also a prime opportunity to connect and chat with my colleagues. When the weather's nice, I can take a walk to blow away the cobwebs. It's a healthy activity I want to make into a regular habit! 

Being present for my family is extremely important to me 

Most afternoons, my boys are engaged in some form of afterschool activity. Athletics, drama, swimming, art, or GAA (Irish soccer). My husband, Shaun, and I share the responsibility of ferrying the boys to their clubs. 

If I'm honest, he probably takes the lion's share of this task. Some evenings, I don't have the spoons to watch from the side-lines or stand by the pool! 

But the days I can, I will. Not seeing the boys before work means the evening car journeys count as bonding and catch-up time. Many people with the condition know how much migraine can sap our energy for days after an attack. We can feel guilty when we're too wiped out to be consistently present.

The evening is prime family time 

The evening routine consists of organizing and cooking dinner and sitting down to do homework. As the boys get older, they understand what needs to get done and how to do it.

And I hate to admit it, but they also understand that Mummy has days when she isn't able to help. They're now pros at getting on with homework without causing too much fuss. They still have their moments (anyone else had an all-out war over spellings?), but for the most part, they get it. 

One of the things that I really enjoy in the autumn and winter are UK TV shows like The Great British Bake-Off and Strictly Come Dancing. After a busy day, my family all curl up on the sofa and watch these programs together. Life can be about simple pleasures, and this is one of them.

I'm exhausted by bedtime - but my routine keeps me as healthy as possible 

By 9 p.m., it's time to start putting pajamas on and preparing for the next day. School uniforms need to be ready, and lunch bags get prepared. By the time that's over, the kids are exhausted - and so am I! As I work early, late nights are a no-no for me. In my case, not enough sleep can make migraine symptoms much worse

This routine can deviate, but I try to keep to it as much as possible. I rely on this system and the help I have from my husband and kids. Without them, I couldn't continue as I do. 

Sounds cheesy, but teamwork makes the dream work

My husband and I make a great team, always looking out for one another. My work and family mean everything to me, and both get most of my focus. 

Many people have asked me how I manage to work full-time and have three young children. The honest answer? It can be really tough. But I don't do it all by myself. Shaun is as hands-on as I am. 

And the day I stop is the day that migraine wins. I love my job, and more importantly, I love my family. I count being a mum as my most outstanding achievement, so I want to do everything possible to enjoy it.

The takeaway

No, my day-to-day life wouldn't be classified as "exciting." But the days without migraines are all "wins" for me. I won't let my condition take me over. 

And when chronic migraine does get hold, I know how lucky I am to have such an incredible support system. I'll always get through as long as my family is by my side.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.


The individual(s) who have written and created the content and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence, or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen.

NPS-ALL-NP-01159 JANUARY 2024

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