“When treating migraine, medication will only take you so far. The rest you must learn to do for yourself,” our family neurologist explained to my teenage son. Although this was his first opportunity to learn from Dr. Z, my son was no migraine novice. He shot me a knowing glance and nodded politely as Doc covered the finer points of migraine lifestyle management.
Despite hearing these lessons many times, my son still doesn’t keep a migraine diary. Only in the past year has he finally learned the value of good quality sleep. Not long ago he even admitted that Mom was right about his food triggers after all. Like all young adults, he’s a work in progress. Then again, aren’t we all? I heard my first lesson on migraine management at age 25. It took me another 15 years to actually put those lessons into practice. Even now, there are aspects of migraine management that don’t come naturally.
For the past several years, I have set aside time each January to review the basics and identify areas of needed improvement. Whether it’s starting a migraine diary, creating a toolkit, or finding a new doctor, these tips have helped me set and achieve meaningful goals that have produced lasting improvement.
- Identify priorities – We all work hardest for the things we want most. It’s important to be honest about our priorities and to choose goals that align with our own values and not the ones we think we should have.
- Assess readiness for change – How committed are we to making a change? What is the likelihood we will succeed? What are the barriers to success? How will we overcome these barriers? What would it take for us to be ready? By answering these questions before setting a goal, we increase the chances of success.
- Set an achievable, measurable goal – Maybes, hopes, and wishes are not measurable. So how then, will we measure success? An ideal goal describes the exact behavior, how often it must occur, who must observe it, and sets a target date for completion.
- Make changes gradually – Quick, dramatic changes are not likely to become lifelong habits. In order to make a lasting change, the steps must be small, incremental, and incorporated into daily life over a long period of time.
- Celebrate success – Every small change in the right direction deserves to be celebrated. So, set incremental milestones with built-in rewards for each step along the way.
- Expect some setbacks – Nothing ever goes exactly as planned, so make room for delays, mistakes, and detours. Reduce the risk of failure by anticipating the potential problems in advance.
No matter how small, each positive change brings us one step closer to a life with fewer days lost to migraine.
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Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.