Crowded malls that smell like buttery pretzels = a migraine trap.
One of the most important things for preventing migraines is consistency. Keeping a regular schedule with consistent sleep and meal times is something the migraine brain loves, but if there's one thing the holidays are good at, it's changing up your routine.
“There are several unique migraine triggers during the holiday season,” says Cynthia Armand, MD, neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “There might be a change in schedule, [and] people tend to go on vacation [or] have visitors, and that can disrupt the day-to-day workflow.”
And then there’s the stress: You might be in charge of hosting the family gathering, or cooking the feast. You might be stressed about your budget because of holiday shopping or “splurging” on fancy goodies at the bakery. (Snickerdoodles? Yes, please.)
“During the holidays, it can be completely stressful, and it can be a setup to have a lot of migraines occur,” says Dr. Armand. “I always tell my patients to make sure that they breathe, prepare, and plan.”
Preventing Holiday Migraines
The best thing you can do to prevent holiday migraines—besides avoiding the seasonal eats that trigger migraines—is to plan ahead. You’ll have an easier time avoiding common migraine triggers if you don’t wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping. After all, buying your holiday groceries 20 minutes before the store closes on December 23rd will send stress levels through the snow-topped roof.
Here are tips to help plan ahead and cut down holiday stress for migraine prevention:
Do your holiday shopping in advance, before stores get crowded
Consider online shopping to avoid the crowds and strong “mall smells” altogether
Stay hydrated while shopping
Eat regularly while shopping (don’t wait until you’re super hungry)
Consider eating a migraine-friendly meal or snack prior to leaving the house to shop
Plan the holiday meal in advance, and see what items can be made ahead of time and reheated for the big meal
Take breaks from holiday festivities (and don’t be afraid to RSVP “no” if you are feeling stretched thin)
Keep a migraine diary to help identify triggers
Stick to your prescribed medications, and bring them with you to parties and while shopping
“Take care of yourself. If you need to take a break, if you need to skip out on this party to make it to the next, that's okay,” says Dr. Armand. Learn more about everyday migraine prevention tips here.
Dr. Armand is a neurologist and headache specialist at Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.
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There are several unique migraine triggers
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during the holiday season.
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The first thing is there might be a change in schedule
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because people tend to go on vacation
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during the holiday season.
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People tend to have visitors,
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and that can disrupt the day-to-day workflow,
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so these changes in schedules are a signal of the changes
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in the consistency that people with migraine should lead
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in their lives, and that can trigger migraine as well.
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Other things in the holiday season that can cause migraines
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are levels of stress may go up because budgets are being
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blown out of proportion because of shopping,
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and it can be a setup to have a lot of migraines occur,
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so I always tell my patients to make sure
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that they breathe, prepare, and plan.
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By planning, I mean, you want to make sure
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that you don't put yourself in the situation
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where you're very stressed out, like for example,
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waiting 'til the last minute to shop.
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You might want to consider online shopping
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because that will avoid the hustle and bustle in the streets,
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the flashing lights of the window displays,
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and also, there might be certain temptations that pop up.
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There are baked goods, there are candies that pop up,
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specials, and a lot of the times, they can represent
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food triggers for individuals with migraine.
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If you must go out, make sure you hydrate very well
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before going out, and also you want to consider
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eating something that is migraine-friendly to your body
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before you go out and be tempted by other things
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that may not be migraine-friendly.
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That will take away the temptation when you're outdoors.
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A lot of individuals feel like they have to be
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in one place or the other.
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If you need to take a break, if you need to skip out
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on this party to make it to the next, that's okay,
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and just make sure you keep your medications
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at arm's length and keep your diary handy,
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just to make sure to see if you catch any extra triggers
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that pop up during the season.
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Alcohol and migraine. Mount Royal, NJ: American Migraine Foundation, 2016. (Accessed on February 21, 2020 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/alcohol-and-migraine/.)
Diet and headache control. Mount Royal, NJ: American Migraine Foundation, 2016. (Accessed on February 21, 2020 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/diet/)
Headache hygiene - what is it? Mount Royal, NJ: American Migraine Foundation, 2016. (Accessed on February 21, 2020 at https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraineheadache-hygiene-what-is-it/.)
Preventive treatment of migraine in adults. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on February 21, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/preventive-treatment-of-migraine-in-adults.)