Migraine doesn’t keep a schedule, yet life still goes on. While most people with busy lives can benefit from a bit of self-care, it’s especially important when you’re battling a chronic debilitating illness. Weekends are made for fun, relaxation, and catching up with the things you couldn’t get to during the week. They provide a nice respite from work, commitments of daily life, and offer a chance to set your own pace (for the most part).
In my experience, when migraine attacks during the work/school week, there are some routines and structures in place to help me get through: meals are prepped, routine is set and a plan is in place for emergency migraine attacks. A weekend migraine can derail my days off — and spin my “free time” into sick time.
How do you manage the uncertainty of migraine with the unstructured nature of the weekend — and with young children? Below are a few things I do to help cope with weekend migraine attacks that help to lessen missing out on too much.
Keep a sleep schedule
I love to stay up late and sleep in, but my migraine disease does not. On the weekends, it can be tempting to ignore my usual bedtime but I’ve learned that keeping a consistent sleep schedule means that my body is able to get the rest it needs. Not getting enough sleep and getting too much sleep are triggers for me, so I try to wake up and go to bed within the same hours I do during the week. It often stops me from staying out too late or sleeping in too long, which is a bit of a bummer, but a small sacrifice to make for my health.
Keep meal times and coffee breaks consistent
Weekends can throw a wrench into your normal eating schedule and habits — from long, hearty breakfasts to dinners out, you may find yourself eating at different times than usual, or indulging in foods you wouldn’t normally eat. Staying consistent with our meal schedule has been a help for me. Because I wake up around the same time, I also eat breakfast at the same time as I normally would during the week. I also consume the same amount of caffeine — I typically drink two cups of coffee in the mornings during the week and do the same on the weekends. Some days I may feel like I want or need more or less but I try to stay consistent with what my body is used to.
Limit or avoid alcohol
Alcohol is also a trigger of mine, so I have to limit the amount that I drink — or avoid it altogether. I get frustrated that I can’t have a glass of red wine with my girlfriends or a beer at a sporting event, but I’d rather deal with the frustration than have a migraine attack take over my entire weekend.
Watch what you eat
Weekends can be a fun time to splurge a bit, but at the same time I try not to go crazy with my eating. I avoid trigger foods and watch what I’m eating when I’m out. I allow myself to indulge at a party or have an extra snack, but I know from experience that being too loose with my diet can trigger a migraine.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Don’t forget to drink water! Dehydration is a major trigger for me, and getting enough water helps my body function at its best. It’s easy to forget about water when weekend activities are happening, but remember to hydrate. It’s so simple, yet gets overlooked so easily.
My stress seems to be the highest during the week and working hours. On the weekend, I try to be gentle with myself and do activities that support my mental and physical self-care. Yoga, walks, meditation, baths, massages, movies, and time with family and friends are some of my favorite ways to rejuvenate my body and mind after a long week.
Spread out your list of things to do
I find that my “to-do” list racks up quickly on weekends. Things I didn’t or couldn’t get done during the week get pushed to the weekends along with my usual list, all while chasing and driving my children to games, lessons, and play dates. I’ve learned to make priorities on what needs to be done and when. I’ve also learned that using all my “spoons” will only deplete my energy the next day — and inevitably trigger a migraine. I group errands together, delegate chores, and am easy on myself if it doesn’t all get done. I pay attention to how I’m feeling and mentally plan out my energy for the most important things, leaving other things for another day.
Decrease screen time
During the week, I spend more time on the computer working. On the weekend, I keep the computer closed and limit my time on my phone. I browse social media for a few minutes and then walk away. I try to spend my weekend connecting with myself and spending more time with my loved ones. Even if I’m feeling the effects of migraine (prodrome or postdrome), I find that focusing on being present and decreasing the harsh lights of technology is a benefit.
My motto is: when in doubt, write it down. Charting how I feel has given me major insights into finding triggers, reporting symptoms, checking efficacy of medications, and tracking how interventions are working. By charting information, I am often able to see patterns in my migraine attacks and feel better prepared to avoid them or adapt my management plan.
Protect yourself from environmental triggers
While unplugging from technology, focusing on being present, and limiting stressors, I am often triggered by the environment. I love to walk outside but need strong sunglasses and a hat (some days I like hats, other days the pressure is too much).
I am triggered by both heat and severe cold so I wear many layers wherever I go. Being able to take off or put on clothes to avoid extreme changes in temperature helps my body adapt as it’s needed.
Sounds and smells are hard to avoid but important to minimize. The smell of cigarette smoke and perfume are instant triggers for me. I avoid walking through the perfume aisle at the mall and don’t sit outside when smokers are nearby. I also strategically avoid loud places or events that have speakers, flashing lights, or loud music.
The takeaway: Even weekends require a little routine
A lot of these things take away the fun and spontaneity of the weekends. I’d love to be someone who jets off on a whim, but the reality is that with migraine, I need structure in order to maintain my health. I’ve learned to find ways to make the structure fun, even if it means having to cancel some plans or avoid certain activities. There are no guarantees on what will trigger a migraine, so being prepared is the best way I can avoid it. I get frustrated when, despite my best efforts, I still end up in bed with a migraine on the weekend, but that also makes the times when I get to live a bit outside of the box migraine-free that much sweeter.
Overall, I take one day at a time, just like I do during the week. I am structured while being flexible and don’t set many plans in stone. I try to be relaxed, gentle with myself and my family, and find ways to refill my “tank” for the week. Weekends are far from easy breezy, but having a plan on how to help my weekend migraine attacks is an important tool in my arsenal.
For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
MIG-US-NP-00136 MAY 2019