Migraine and the holidays. This can be a difficult topic for people living with Migraine disease. It’s a time often fraught with feelings of longing, guilt, and frustration rather than joy.
While the holiday season should be a time of the year fun-filled with parties with friends, families and co-workers, people with Migraine often face a different situation. Certain foods, fragrances, noise, and hectic schedules prevalent during the season can be just enough to trigger a Migraine attack and decimate our plans.
More than 39 million Americans, including television and film Actress Marcia Cross, suffer from Migraines, and exposure to Migraine triggers can certainly peak during the hectic holiday season. But that doesn’t mean that we have to totally avoid the holiday festivities! With good planning, Migraine and the holidays can be a less difficult topic, especially when we come together to share tips. If there’s anything good about Migraine disease, it’s that there are a great many things we can do to help ourselves, to avoid Migraine attacks and improve our quality of life.
Marcia’s tips for managing Migraine and enjoying the holiday festivities:
- Make party planning stress-free: Stress can make you more susceptible to your Migraine triggers. Planning a dinner party for friends and family? Plan ahead and shop early. Enlist helpers and delegate duties to make last-minute details stress free as possible.
- Eat regularly: An empty stomach is known to spur Migraines. Even if you are busy, it’s important to make time to eat. Pack a snack with you when you are on-the-go to avoid skipping meals. This also applies to staying hydrated. See Dehydration – An Avoidable Migraine Trigger for more information.
- Get your shut eye: A lack of sleep or too much sleep can trigger a Migraine. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule during the season. Pick a few key events and get an appropriate amount of rest.
- Know your food triggers: Certain foods and drinks can fuel a Migraine. If cheese is one of your triggers, try choosing fresh fruits and vegetables as a substitute. Consider opting for the carrot cake if chocolate seems to lead to your Migraine attacks. In other words, you can still enjoy, just think about your choices.
- Be Prepared: In the past, a strategy that has worked for me was keeping my Migraine specific medication with me at all times. That way I could take it at the first sign of Migraine pain, to lessen the chance that a Migraine would ruin my day.
Also from Marcia:
“If you experience frequent, bad headaches talk to your doctor about an effective plan to manage your headaches or Migraines.”
“Understanding your Migraines is the first step to keeping them controlled!”
In discussing family, holiday Migraines, and what’s really important, Ms. Cross said,
“… that’s the time of year when everybody stresses. Needlessly, I might add, because it’s really not the point of the holiday. You know, if you don’t have the perfect present or if the turkey’s a little overcooked… Your family wants you, and what good are you with a Migraine?”
Ms. Cross also wanted to make this point,
“I would just say not to be a victim and to be your own health advocate, and to take it into your own hands. You actually can affect the number of Migraines you have and your quality of life, and it’s worth the effort. It will increase your entire healthy lifestyle and reduce your Migraines, so it’s a win-win situation, I think.”
Marcia Cross’s Migraine Story
Migraines have been a part of Marcia’s life for years. She had her first when she was in high school. At the time, the school nurse and her parents didn’t know what it was, and she was sent home to bed. She also got frequent “bad headaches” in college. She would have problems with her vision, and horrible head pain, making the simplest tasks difficult.
After talking to a doctor about her frequent, bad headaches, she learned that she had classic Migraine symptoms and was quickly diagnosed. Unfortunately, at that time, the medications that were available didn’t help her pain. Then, in around 1996, she got a Migraine at work. A woman on the set who also had Migraine told her about how she used a medicine specifically designed for the treatment of Migraines. She talked to her doctor again, and he prescribed a Migraine-specific medicine for her.
When she was diagnosed with Migraine, Marcia started keeping a food diary and learned that certain foods can fuel a Migraine. She also did some research on her own and found books that really explained what Migraine is, and how stress and certain foods can trigger Migraine attacks. Now, while Migraine is still part of her life, her emphasis is now on avoiding her triggers.
Personal interview with Marcia Cross. December 13, 2006. (Thank you, Miss Cross, for your time and the wonderfully candid conversation!)