Holiday Stress and Migraine Triggers

Holiday Stress

The holidays are a special time of year meant for spending time with the ones you love. But plans for fun and merriment can be shattered in an instant by an unexpected migraine. As all migraine sufferers know, these are more than just headaches – they are debilitating episodes of pain that can steal away irreplaceable time with the ones you love.

Nearly any external or environmental factor can be a migraine trigger – although stress is a primary cause. Often, stress is associated with problems at work, financial troubles, and major life events, like having a baby or moving to a new home. But according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is the everyday stresses that are responsible for causing most migraine symptoms. Even seemingly ‘good’ stress, such as that caused by shopping for gifts or preparing a big family dinner, can set off a migraine.

Unfortunately, stress is a common denominator that is hard to avoid during the holiday season. This time of year is often overshadowed by a jam-packed, stress-inducing schedule that puts high demands on your time, energy, and physical well-being. It manifests differently for everyone. For you, it could be cleaning your home for company, wrapping gifts, fighting shoppers for a parking space, traveling to be with family, worry about a holiday bonus, or any number of other circumstances. All can cause heightened stress levels, and all can result in migraines.

Other Holiday Migraine Triggers

Keep in mind that stress is not the only migraine trigger you may face this holiday season. In fact, there are several factors known to activate migraine symptoms that seem to intensify between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. For example, if you enjoy staying up late to go shopping on Black Friday or dancing the night away at the office Christmas party or your neighbor’s New Year’s gathering, you could be depriving your body of sleep. An interrupted sleep schedule is a known migraine trigger, whether you are getting a full 8 hours of rest or not.

Food can also spark migraine symptoms – particularly when combined with stress and a lack of sleep. Some foods are especially known for causing migraine attacks, such as caffeine, chocolate, red wine, and certain types of cheeses. The average holiday gathering will have at least one food-related migraine trigger, which together could form a recipe for disaster.

Tips for Avoiding Stress and Migraine Symptoms this Holiday Season

The key to battling holiday migraines is in prevention. If you already know that you are prone to stress-induced migraines, take preemptive steps to stop stress before it starts. Try creating a relaxed holiday schedule, planning plenty of time for shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, and attending gatherings. If events overlap each other, do not attempt to attend them all. If you are hosting a family dinner, try delegating dishes to multiple family members. You can further reduce your stress by preparing and freezing some foods in the days ahead.

Despite your best efforts to glide through the holiday season hassle-free, unexpected circumstances can still raise your stress levels. Be prepared with a migraine symptoms survival kit. In it, you can store any migraine medications you may be taking, as well as on-the-spot migraine trigger fighters like bottled water (to fight dehydration) and a snack (for avoiding food triggers). Be sure to keep some sunglasses in tow as well to minimize light sensitivity if migraine symptoms strike. 

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Image Source: john curley

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