10 Tips for Enjoying the Holidays Despite Migraines

Patient Expert

Holidays are times to enjoy, but those of us with problem Migraines and headaches can find ourselves actually dreading the holiday season. Ho ho ho, HA!

Don't give up on the holidays though. If there's a positive side to Migraine disease and headaches, it's that there are many things we can do for ourselves to reduce or avoid episodes. Not only does this let us reduce our pain, it also gives us some control over our disorders and restores some of the control over our lives of which those disorders seem to rob us. Let's see how to give some of that head pain the boot!


Too much, too little, poor quality, or disrupted sleep is are very common Migraine and headache triggers. Experts recommend that we set times to go to bed and get up and stick to those times, even on weekends and holidays and during vacation. If you often wake with a Migraine, don't feel rested after a night's sleep, or experience excessive daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. More: Transformed Migraine Related To Sleep Problems

  1. Avoid dehydration.

For some people, even mild dehydration can trigger head pain, so drinking lots of fluids is essential. Take a bit of care with what you're drinking as some fruit juices and caffeine can be triggers. Proper hydration is essential to good health in general, so you'll be working on more than head pain prevention! More: Dehydration - An Avoidable Migraine Trigger

  1. Regular meal times, healthy snacks.

Meal schedules can get really erratic at times, especially during busy holiday periods. We often don't even think of this in relationship to Migraines, but it can be a huge trigger. Make a special effort to have balanced meals on a regular schedule. Even those of us with the most hectic schedules or on vacations can work with this one by keeping healthy snacks handy. Look out for fast food snacks though. They can do as much harm as good. More: Managing Migraine Food Triggers

  1. Keep on keeping track.

Don't be tempted to ignore your Migraine diary during holidays or other busy periods. You may have some different triggers during such times, and if you can identify them, perhaps you can reduce your Migraines and headaches. Remember that you may encounter a trigger up to 48 hours before a Migraine begins. Your diary may reveal patterns that hadn't been spotted before. Also, if you have many episodes with unidentified triggers, that may tell your doctor something. More: Your Migraine and Headache Diary

  1. Take time for yourself.

We all need time to ourselves. Set aside a period of time every day that is just for you. Whether you meditate, listen to a relaxation CD, exercise a bit, just sit quietly, or soak in a bubble bath, use this time to focus on you, how you're feeling, what you need. Use this time to recharge and center yourself. It will pay off, leaving you more relaxed and aware of yourself.

  1. Wear those shades!

Consider this an investment - a good pair of optical-grade, polarized sunglasses. Optical-grade lenses don't have the distortion that some inexpensive lenses have. Polarization is essential for cutting glare. Sunglasses are not just for summer sun. Wear them indoors and out, whenever the light is bothersome. Add a ball cap when light comes in above the sunglasses so the bill can block that light. More: Good Sunglasses - Vital for Migraine and Eye Health

  1. Remember your meds!

Check and refill your prescriptions as soon as refills are available so you don't find yourself without your medications. Don't forget to take your preventives. Set an alarm clock as a reminder if you need to. Keep abortive, nausea, and rescue meds with you at all times. More: Preventive, Abortive, and Rescue Medications - What's the Difference?

  1. Eat, drink, and be merry...

... but beware Migraine food triggers! Are there foods you know will trigger a Migraine if you eat them? Does alcohol trigger your Migraines? That doesn't mean you have to skip holiday parties. When you attend a party where you're asked to bring food with you, be sure to take something you know you can eat without triggering a Migraine. If someone else is preparing the food, it's not rude to ask what's on the menu. Usually, there will be something on the menu that's safe for you. If not, take something with you if you're comfortable doing so, or eat at home before going to the party. If alcohol is a trigger for you, don't drink it. Yes, it is that simple. Sparkling cider or water, tonic, and club soda can be festive and allow you to not "pay for" your partying. If friends pressure you to drink, shame on them. More: Managing Migraine Food Triggers

  1. Planning ahead = less stress = fewer Migraines and headaches.

Make lists, delegate, plan ahead! Repeat after me - "Lists are our friends." In your word processor, type up a list of things that need to be done. Then delegate - split up what needs to be done and engage everyone's help. We are not super heroes; we don't have to do everything ourselves. Stress can bring on nasty tension-type headaches which, in turn, can trigger Migraines. So, give stress the boot by planning ahead!

10. Learn to let it go and enjoy yourself.

So what if the house isn't perfect, the gifts aren't all perfectly wrapped, or the turkey is a bit dry? These aren't things to worry about. Our loved ones are more interested in us than the house, gifts, or a turkey. The house isn't going to fall down around us. We simply can't let little things bother us. Stress can trigger tension headaches and be an aggravator to Migraine triggers. We have to learn to prioritize and do what we're able to do each day.

More holiday tips...

Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross is a Migraineur who encourages people to be properly diagnosed and take advantage of available treatments. When I spoke with her, she said,

"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."

You can read more of our conversation in Interview with Marcia Cross on Life and Migraines. Ms. Cross also offers some advice for the holidays in Marcia Cross on Navigating Holiday Parties with Migraines.

More helpful tips...

No matter how effective our preventive regimen is, we're going to be struck with a Migraine from time to time.

To make those Migraines easier to deal with, let's form a Migraine Action Plan and Pack, let's MAPP them. See MAPP Your Migraine.