I’m a sucker for holidays. Growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a big deal in my house. My family would celebrate with huge gatherings and delicious feasts.
As I started my own family, I continued these traditions. Before chronic migraine, I’d cook for hours or stay up all night wrapping gifts. Decorating the house was fun and festive, and I looked forward to it. Now, the mere thought of all of this can bring on a migraine.
Everything I loved to do is now a trigger. I still want to do everything I did before, but my body can no longer handle the stress and fatigue. Before I knew about self-care and pacing myself, I would push myself beyond my limits and wind up in severe pain for days. Keeping traditions alive became more important than my health.
Obviously, that didn’t work. I needed to find a balance where I could still celebrate my favorite holidays without winding up in bed for days. So I developed a plan for each holiday that I follow very strictly.
Do I still get fatigued? Yes, but it’s not as bad, and I allow myself to be OK with not doing things on the level I used to be able to. You can still enjoy your favorite holidays and seasons, as long as you plan ahead and pace yourself.
Here’s how I’ve learned to survive Christmas while living with chronic migraine.
My daughter loves Christmas and is always eager to start decorating as soon as Thanksgiving is over. I take a lot of pride in making my tree look beautiful and use a ton of intricate ornaments and pretty bows. But decorating the tree takes a long time, and it can make me dizzy, nauseous, and lightheaded. The finished product is gorgeous, but I would always end up in bed with a migraine.
A few years ago, I had an “aha” moment: Why not keep the tree assembled, decorations and all, and store it until next Christmas?
My tree isn’t that big, so it could be transported to the basement fairly easily by my teenage sons. Voila! I had a ready-made Christmas tree.
I’d remove and store fragile and sentimental ornaments, and loosely cover the tree with a large garbage bag. If you have a closet big enough to store your tree, that’s even better.
If you don’t have kids at home, forego the traditional tree and buy a tabletop tree instead. They are super affordable, and you can buy tiny ornaments and strings of lights to decorate them.
If you cook Christmas dinner, you know the key is to plan ahead. I start preparing for this meal about one week before the holiday. During regular shopping trips, I’ll pick up ingredients I know I’ll need. Doing this prevents me from being stuck with a list of things to buy before the big day, and it allows me to relax and enjoy the holiday.
Using appliances like a slow cooker or Instant Pot can save you a lot of time and energy as well. I use my slow cooker to make collard greens. I can set it and forget it the night before, and have delicious and flavorful greens without having to pay much attention to them. You can even make macaroni and cheese in one!
Also, why not have your kids help you? They can set the table and fetch ingredients for you. If you have older kids, have them help you in the kitchen!
Visiting family and friends during the holiday season can take a toll on you and your head. Whether you’re driving, flying, or taking the train, the stress of traveling can trigger a migraine attack.
We always drive to visit family, and depending on who we’re seeing, this means we’re in for a 6- to 14-hour drive. Preparing for these trips used to stress me out big time. The one thing that saved me is planning ahead.
These are my tips for traveling with chronic migraine:
Holiday season can be a stressful time if you allow it to be, which doesn’t help when you live with chronic migraine. No matter what holidays you celebrate or what traditions you follow, simply modifying some of your routines can make for a migraine-free season.
For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
The individual(s) who have written and created the content in 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.
NOV 2022 NPS-ALL-NP-00750