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Woman lying down in a daisy field, feeling relieved from the anxiety of migraine

How I Deal With Migraine Anxiety

Reading time | 4 mins

Both migraine and anxiety can prevent me from fully participating in daily life. Anxiety can last for minutes or hours, and cause physical distress that may trigger a migraine. When anxiety is present along with elevated blood pressure, labored breathing, sleeplessness, crying, and stress, this can also lead to migraine attacks.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, up to 30 percent of all people experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. But the percentage of people who experience anxiety and who also live with migraines is a bit higher, at 50 to 60 percent.

Anxiety is determined by the extent to which worry impacts your daily functioning. Some fears may seem completely irrational, while other fears, like worrying about triggering a migraine or having a migraine attack, are real possibilities.

How can anxiety induce a migraine attack?

Migraine and anxiety are two conditions that can become cyclical in nature. Anxiety can trigger a migraine attack, and migraine attacks can lead to anxiety, leading to more migraine attacks, leading to more anxiety. Anxiety may also cause sleeplessness, which can then trigger a migraine. These all work with and against each other.

Here are some tips I use in my own life to deal with migraine and anxiety.

Be prepared

As someone who lives with chronic migraine, I’ve found that being prepared helps me decrease anxiety and accept that I can’t control the rest. For me, the most difficult aspect of migraine is the unknown. I never know for sure when one will hit, how long it’ll last, how it’ll alter my life, how bad it’ll be, or what medications and therapies I’ll need.

To prepare myself, I make sure my medications are filled and readily available. I also keep my purse filled with products that may help ease my symptoms, such as sunglasses, essential oils, ginger chews, water, and snacks.

Find support

Another tip that helps is being open and honest with people around me. By letting people know of my condition, I find that they’re more understanding. I also feel less embarrassed to take breaks. Support from people, products, and therapies allows me to prepare for a migraine, and lessens my anxiety in many situations.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be beneficial for anxiety. CBT focuses on your thinking and behavioural patterns. It’s possible to learn skills during therapy sessions that may help change the way you feel and think.

Follow a healthy lifestyle

Lack of sleep, poor diet, changes in your routine, and stress can all trigger a migraine and increase anxiety. Try to incorporate the following habits into your daily life:

  • Get better sleep. Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Try to keep your bed time and wake time similar.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Follow a healthy diet to allow your body to effectively fight mental and physical pain. Consume fresh, whole foods to avoid hidden triggers.
  • Exercise and stretch. Exercise can raise endorphins and lower stress hormones, and stretching can loosen tight muscles. I love yoga and Pilates classes that focus on lengthening muscles and connecting your breath to movement.

Focus on the positives

Meditation and controlled breathing take practice, but are very effective at preventing and battling anxiety and migraine. These techniques can be done at home or with a trained professional.

For me, maintaining a positive attitude has been a huge mental battle. Looking at each day with gratitude reduces anxiety about what I can’t control. My perception of my pain and life is totally reliant on my mental state. I count my blessings and give up fear about what may happen and live in the moment.

Focusing on when or how my next migraine will happen causes me anxiety, so I avoid thinking about these questions. Instead, I focus on what I can do to help myself fight my battle each day.

Pay attention to your emotions

Allowing my emotions to build up can heighten my anxiety and result in a migraine. Personally, when I push myself and ignore my symptoms, this can spike an emotional response. A few of my symptoms to be conscious of are restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbances.

Once my symptoms have been identified, I pay attention to my feelings and focus on the following:

  • Stay calm when you become anxious about a situation or event.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself; recognise and praise small accomplishments.
  • Don’t punish yourself for mistakes or lack of progress.
  • Be flexible, but try to maintain a normal routine.
  • Modify your expectations during stressful periods.
  • Plan for transitions (for example, allow extra time in the morning if getting ready is difficult).
  • Overall, don’t wait to seek professional help, especially if managing your own symptoms isn’t helping.

The takeaway

Living with chronic migraine doesn’t mean you have to live with anxiety. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle by eating well, sleeping consistently, working out, stretching, meditating, and being positive can help decrease the duration, intensity, and frequency of a migraine attack. Your doctor can help answer your questions and advise you about treatment options.

Article resources

NPS-IE-NP-00085 October 2020