Living Well When You Have Migraine

The wellness movement is not always kind to people living with migraine. You’ve probably heard people chirping things like:

  • “You just need to decide to feel better.”
  • “Giving up alcohol totally cured my headaches.”
  • “You should stop eating gluten/dairy/caffeine.”
  • “Have you tried hot yoga/meditating with kittens/a detox cleanse?”

That’s not helpful. While adopting healthy habits may improve migraine symptoms, the idea that physical wellness alone can cure migraine is false.

True wellness isn’t just about what you eat and how you exercise; it means pursuing your idea of a good, meaningful life. Here are some tips to help you live well with migraine.

Identify What Is — and Isn’t — in Your Control

You can’t control when a migraine attack occurs, or how bad it will be. You can’t control environmental or hormonal triggers. “We can’t change our bodies. We can’t change our genetics,” neurologist Dr. Jelena Pavlovic said in the “Living Well with Migraine: Embracing Wellness in the Face of Chronic Disease” webinar hosted by the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Instead, she advises, focus on the aspects of physical health you can control: sleep, eat, exercise, drink and stress. (Remember the acronym SEEDS.) Certain simple practices have been proven to help migraine:

You can take charge of your treatment plan, too. CEFALY DUAL not only relieves migraine pain during an attack but also is clinically proven to decrease migraine frequency with compliant daily use. Make a commitment to use the 20-minute PREVENT setting every day for 30 days, and see if it works for you.

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Invest In Your Social Connections

Recent research has revealed that social isolation can seriously harm your health. In older adults, “social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity,” the CDC reports. It’s associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

That’s why maintaining social relationships is an essential part of living well with migraine — even if you’re an introvert at heart. When you’re having a good day, do your best to reconnect with friends. When you’re having a bad day, get comfortable with asking for help. Whatever you do, try not to withdraw and suffer alone.

Drop Stuff

Leidy Klotz, author of “Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less,” observes that most of us try to change our lives by adding things. We add an exercise routine, a volunteer activity, or self-improvement resolutions. “We pile on ‘to-dos’ but don’t consider ‘stop-doings,’” he says.

Instead, try taking things away. Can you simplify house cleaning or meal prep? Declutter? Cancel subscriptions and memberships you don’t need? Pause volunteer activities? Decline new commitments? Lose the guilt, reclaim time for yourself and focus on what’s important.

Learn More About Migraine

“Depression often goes along with feeling helpless and feeling hopeless,” neurologist and migraine researcher Dr. Dawn Buse said in the SWHR webinar. To change this mindset, find ways to empower yourself. This may include:

  • Learning more about migraine causes and treatments
  • Reading up on the latest migraine research
  • Joining one of the many communities — online or local — of people living with migraine
  • Participating in migraine advocacy events
  • Tracking your symptoms and treatment efficacy with the free CeCe migraine management app

Embrace the Suck

Migraine “is just objectively hard,” Dr. Buse says. “It is a painful, unpredictable, debilitating disease. … It’s not an easy way to live your life, not knowing when an attack might happen.”

It’s important to acknowledge this. People who refuse to listen to your migraine truth, or who tell you to just “get over it,” aren’t helping. You don’t need toxic positivity.

Navy SEALS learn a saying in basic training: “Embrace the suck.” It means accepting pain and discomfort, then drawing on your inner resilience to deal with it. Acknowledge your emotions: fear, resentment, anxiety, sadness. Believe in your own power to live well despite migraine. And know that you are stronger than you think.

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