Marcia Cross on Navigating Holiday Parties with Migraines

Patient Expert

The holiday season should be a time of the year fun-filled with parties with friends, families and co-workers. But, if you suffer from Migraine disease, certain foods and hectic schedules prevalent during the season can be just enough to trigger a Migraine and ruin the holiday fun.

More than 36 million Americans, including TV and Film Actress Marcia Cross, suffer from Migraines, and exposure to Migraine-related triggers can peak during the holiday season. But that doesn't mean that you have to avoid the holiday festivities! 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.

Here are Marcia's tips for managing her Migraines and enjoying the festivities throughout the holiday season:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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, back then, the medications that were available didn't help her pain. Then, about ten years ago, she got a Migraine at work. A woman on the set who also had Migraines told her about how she used a medicine specifically designed for the treatment of Migraines. She talked to her doctor again, and at the time he prescribed a Migraine-specific medicine for her.

When she was diagnosed with Migraines, she 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 Migraines are, and how stress and certain foods can trigger them. Now, while Migraines are still part of her life, her emphasis is now on avoiding her triggers.


Resources:

Personal interview with Marcia Cross. December 13, 2006. (Thank you, Miss Cross, for your time and the wonderfully candid conversation!)