Christmas can be a daunting time for migraineurs, but with a little preparedness and some patience, it can be just as much fun for you as for anyone else.
For the Christmas/New Year parties –
- On the day and night before the party, try not to do anything too stressful. Take it easy as much as possible and try to get a good night’s sleep. Remember that you will be doing something outside of your routine, so prepare some emergency meds to bring with you.
- Prepare everything well in advance – have makeup, gúna nua, Santa suit, etc. at hand, and get ready nice and early to avoid last minute rushing.
- Even though there may be nibbles at the party, make sure that you eat before you go. Eat something that will keep you fuller for longer. Try to avoid nuts, cheese and rich foods, go for chopped fruit, unless of course citrus is a trigger, then avoid oranges!
- Bring a migraine-friendly snack along in case there are no nibbles, and to avoid going hungry if you’re too distracted beneath the mistletoe to get to the buffet!
- Bring and drink lots of water! Have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. This will help you to pace yourself and last the night, and to stay hydrated
- When you first arrive, look around, find out where the exits are and plan your way out in case you need to leave quickly.
- Sometimes the loos can be a great refuge from the noise of the party, provided the hand-dryers are off! (Not sure about the men’s loos – Sorry guys)
- Keep an eye on your triggers – you may get away with the food and the flashing lights, but the music or the wine may be just the things to carry you over your threshold
Food and Drink –
There are two schools of thought about food triggers…
- Chocolate, Red Wine, cheese, etc., are triggers of migraine
- In the prodrome phase of an attack, the body’s chemistry changes, and your brain makes you long for something, like chocolate or cheese. You have some, then a few hours later, the pain comes. You associate that food with your migraine.
Both of these ideas are valid. There are people who can pinpoint a specific food as a trigger, but there are others who can’t so the best thing to do is to start a migraine diary. Even if you can’t find a trigger you might be able to spot patterns and find out when you might be more susceptible to an attack.
Migraineurs also need regular sleep, meals and exercise, but it being Christmas it’s not always practical or practicable. However, if you remember the basics and advice, you might get through without any migraine at all.
For the Christmas Dinner –
- Remember your triggers, especially if they’re food-related!
- If visiting, leave yourself plenty of time to get there. Don’t rush. Remember there are no buses running on Christmas day, so make your arrangements well in advance.
- Bring a home-made migraine-friendly dish with you. Most hosts are delighted to receive contributions and they don’t have to know it’s migraine-friendly!
- Skipping or missing meals is a much more common trigger of migraine than a particular food, so make sure to eat regularly during the day.
- In addition to not skipping meals, limit your intake of processed foods, salt, sugar, and fizzy drinks.
- Eat and drink slowly, and try to go for more turkey than ham, as ham can sometimes have more nitrates in it. Also, if the ham or turkey are highly processed, they will contain MSG, so beware!
- Avoid speaking about religion, politics and family issues at the table. Instead talk about Disney movies, puppies, kittens and nice happy things! There will be less tension and the children can join in!
- Despite their hateful reputation, eat the sprouts!! – There is a possibility that they can help to neutralise tyramine (the cheese thing to avoid) in your system, mind you, so can onions, garlic and broccoli, so if any are on offer, eat them. These are also good sources of prebiotics which are fibres that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. Be careful with onions though, they have been known to be triggers too!
Also, keep an eye on the weather throughout the whole silly season. With the recent change from bright to dark mornings and evenings, the sun low in the sky and quite blinding, the possibility of snow, ice and/or frost, the torrential monsoon-like downpours we’ve recently had, and the changes in air pressure, you need to make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities, so wrap up well and keep a pair of wellies and a sturdy brolly handy.
Murky Waters – Christmas Gifts for Migraineurs
What to Buy/What not to Buy
Buying gifts for someone who suffers from migraine initially doesn’t appear to be any more difficult than buying gifts for someone who doesn’t suffer from migraine – and in some cases it isn’t, however, depending on what triggers a person’s migraine, people should probably think twice before buying certain items for their migraineur friend or family member. The two lists below have a few ideas about what not to give (Naughty List) and what to give (Nice List).
The Naughty List
- Perfume/aftershave or any strong smelling cosmetic
- Strong-smelling essential oils – Although some of these can be helpful, many are overpowering
- Flowers – especially overpowering flowers like lilies, jasmine, etc.
- Chocolate – Yes, chocolate! Put that selection box back!! Dark Chocolate may be okay
- Red Wine – Get white or rosé instead, or if they have to have red, try an organic red
- Cheese Boards (with cheese)
- Potpourri – smelly dried flower petals, etc. for your underwear drawer!!
- Strongly Scented Candles (unless lightly scented see the Nice List below))
- Anything with flashing lights
- Anything loud (like a kid’s fire engine toy that bee-baws at the top of its voice!)
The Nice List
- A spa or hotel break
- Some unscented soap, or very lightly scented beauty products
- Lightly scented essential oils
- Lightly/bespoke scented candles
- Hot/Cold packs
- Tea! – Some lovely Herbal and Vegan teas are available
- Music CDs – Music soothes the savage beast! Even those with migraine
- Tinted, Anti-Blue Light & Sun glasses/Specific Migraine Glasses/Window tints for the house/car
- Gym membership – Ask if they’re migraine-friendly (no harsh lighting or booming music)
- Medic Alert Jewellery
- Complementary therapy session – Biofeedback, Acupuncture, etc.
- Gift Vouchers
- A Forest Bathing session or sessions
- Books – consider books with slightly larger print to reduce eye strain
- Migraine-Friendly Cook/Recipe Books
- Yoga equipment such as a mat, water bottle (non-plastic of course!), etc
- Make a donation in their name to a highly reputable, brilliant and efficiently run organisation with the best group of people ever! Something along the lines of… oh I don’t know… the Migraine Association of Ireland maybe?! 😉
- A copy of a brilliantly written, detailed and informative book about their disorder! Such as ‘Migraine: Not Just Another Headache‘ from the same reputable, brilliant and efficiently run organisation