Image Credit: Getty Images/ Todd Pearson

Managing Life On Low Energy With Chronic Migraine

Reading time | 5 min

There’s only so much energy I can spend in a day. My strength is much more fragile when I am dealing with relentless pain, compared to when I am not. If I had to guess, I’d say constant pain leaves me running at about 50 percent of my usual energy level. During my worst days, I run on 10 percent. This means I need to find a way to get tasks done without using all of my energy for the day.

What uses up energy? Everything! For instance, showering, drying my hair, fixing breakfast, commuting to work — and that’s just my morning.

Why constant pain is exhausting

A few things contribute to my exhaustion. My migraine attacks, for starters, are draining. They steal my energy every single day. Even holding my head upright feels like work since my neck constantly feels strained by the weight of my head.

Second, I rely on medication to fall asleep because I am in too much pain to fall asleep on my own. My treatment most often adds to my exhaustion in the late evening and during the morning hours.

On top of that, I’m always fearful of pushing my migraine too far. If I exert myself too much, it may trigger another migraine. This makes me feel very limited and uncomfortable.

Finding a solution

I simplify everyday tasks to make my life easier and more efficient. Here are some examples:

  • When I get ready in the morning, I sit on the floor on a meditation pillow. I don’t want to use any more energy than necessary, so I sit.  
  • I make simple, healthy meals that take little effort. I don’t enjoy cooking, so I try to minimize any time and energy put into meal preparation.
  • I have groceries delivered or shop at the grocery store on my block. When I am at my very worst, I have meals delivered. Fortunately, it’s easy to find healthy delivery options in New York City.
  • Shopping for clothing is much too exhausting for me. I usually shop on days when I am feeling up to it and knock out my wardrobe purchases two to three times a year. If I need to buy anything else, I order online and skip the stress of stores.
  • I don’t buy anything I may have to return because I won’t have the energy to return the item.
  • I stay organized. This means keeping a calendar, sticking to my to-do list, and making sure I tidy up my room. I like to make my bed in the morning so that I always come home to a clean room.
  • I plan for breaks. If I have a busy weekend ahead, I make sure the following Monday and Tuesday are low key and allow for time to rest. Likewise, if I have a busy week, I make time for rest on the weekend. I’ve found that planning for breaks is especially important when attending weekend-long events like weddings. I can’t do it all, so I try my best to plan accordingly and set expectations.

Cutting yourself some slack

My migraine pain is constant, and it fluctuates in levels of severity. Sometimes, I barely get by. Other times, I can do extra things like spend time with my friends.

When I am truly struggling, I cut myself major slack. To conserve energy, I accept that I might need to spend more money to complete everyday tasks. For example, if walking to work or taking the subway is too much, I will take a cab. If making dinner requires too much energy, I will order delivery. If I can’t make it into work, I will work from home.

I need to do everything possible to get by and not look back. In these instances, I may even treat myself to a bouquet of flowers to say, “You are doing great. Keep it going.”

Creating balance

When I am at my worst, my social life is put on the backburner. Personally, though, I can’t spend my whole life at work or in bed. I need some social interaction to stay positive.

Catering to my migraine while maintaining a good quality of life is challenging. What works for me is making time for a casual sushi date with a friend after work. My favorite sushi spot is between my apartment and my office, so it’s on my walk home from work.

I already know that my friends will all laugh at this comment because I often ask them to meet me for a quick sushi date. Such dinner dates add a lot of value to my life. When I am buried in a migraine brain fog, they help lift me back up without using much energy.

Taking time to recharge

I continuously need to refill my battery. I do this by taking time for myself. I love my alone time, because I can relax and not worry about having to provide for anyone’s needs but my own.

During this downtime, I usually watch a TV show or movie on my laptop. Or, I read a book. When I am feeling well enough, I try to meditate. These activities help me to get out of my head and forget about the pain and exhaustion.

Another way I recharge is by writing out my thoughts. Sometimes, I write them down in the Notes app on my phone or in a journal. Other times, I email them to myself on my computer. Somehow, getting my thoughts out of my head and on paper (or keyboard) clears my mind.

Knowing when to push through

Sometimes, pushing through the pain is necessary. In my world, it’s necessary when:

  • I have a deadline for work, an important meeting, or a presentation
  • an event that matters to a close friend, like a wedding, a baby shower, or a low point in a friend’s life
  • there’s some respite ahead, like a few days to rest after a busy week
  • it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, like traveling to a new part of the world or doing something that I may never be able to do again

Learning what’s important

Figuring out what’s worth my energy has been surprisingly important to me. I’ve found that what I am willing to spend time on most is fostering meaningful friendships, being with my family, and learning new things.

Prioritizing well has also allowed me to weed out the unnecessary when I’m not in pain. As strange as it sounds, I have an appreciation for my migraine because it’s helped me to reevaluate what I think is important. That is something I wouldn’t have considered under any other circumstance.

 

MIG-US-NP-00088  JULY 2018