Got Holiday Season Stress? Here’s How to Be Merry and Prevent Your Migraines

Now that the holiday season is upon us, you might have visions of more than sugar plums dancing in your head. If you’re a migraine sufferer, the stress associated with this time of year can be totally debilitating. There’s nothing worse than being unable to participate in your family festivities because you’re too sensitive to light and sound.

Many people will go to great lengths to avoid or reduce the frequency (or severity) of their migraines. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Americans spent more than $15 billion on surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures in 2016, some of which may have been performed to alleviate headaches (in the case of Botox). Others keep track of the weather, avoid caffeine at all costs, or even seek out animal companionship. While 74% of people surveyed say keeping animals as pets can result in mental health improvements, service dogs and emotional support animals can be of great physical comfort to migraine sufferers, too.

But understanding your migraine triggers can be easier said than done for many people — and the mere suggestion of “avoiding stressful situations” may sound like more of a joke than a feasible task. So how can you reduce your chances of a migraine during the holidays? These tips might help you find some relief.

Get Enough Sleep

One of the most common migraine triggers is poor sleep. And when you’re both stressed and sleep-deprived, you’re setting the perfect scene for the onset of a migraine. That’s why you should make sure to keep a consistent bedtime during the holiday season — even on weekends or when you’re celebrating with loved ones. Changes in sleep patterns can be the catalyst for a migraine, so you actually shouldn’t sleep in too late, either. Aim to get the same amount of sleep each night and maintain your routine as much as possible.

Watch What You Eat and Drink

The holidays are filled with lots of delicious foods and beverages, but migraine sufferers do need to be a bit more careful than most. While many people avoid caffeine, as it’s a common migraine trigger, you may want to think about limiting your alcohol consumption, as well. Alcohol is also an incredibly common trigger for migraines, as it’ll dehydrate you. Red wine also contains an amino acid that’s known to trigger migraines for many folks. Be sure to drink lots of water and be responsible about your drinking. As far as food’s concerned, you may also proceed with caution. Meats and nuts may contain nitrates or tyramine, both of which can cause migraines, while chocolate, spicy foods, and cheeses may also be to blame for these head pains. If you’re in doubt about what’s in a homemade dish, feel free to ask the cook or host and err on the side of caution. However, you should also make sure not to skip meals and to have snacks on-hand when you’re running errands, as hunger can also trigger a migraine.

Try Meditation and Massage

Although there’s no scientific evidence that massage can cure migraines, it can relieve stress — and that can indirectly have an impact on whether or not you’ll experience a migraine this season. A visit to the chiropractor could do you good, too. With more than 1 million chiropractic adjustments made each day, some studies have found that migraine sufferers have experienced headache relief after a visit. Meditation can also allow you to let go of holiday stress and re-center yourself, which can potentially stop a migraine in its tracks. Ultimately, you’ll want to make some sort of time for yourself this season. The pressure of being super-social and always on-the-go can kick a migraine into high gear if you don’t take these preventative steps.

Avoid the Holiday Rush

Overall, you should give yourself plenty of time to complete everything on your to-do list. Waiting until the last minute to buy gifts or cook a dish to pass can be the very thing that sends you over the edge. Getting your shopping done early can relieve some pressure and keep you from having to stand in long lines in uncomfortably warm stores. Try to plan out everything you need to do ahead of time and do a little bit each day, rather than saving it all until the very end. Otherwise, you could end up with a splitting headache and feel even worse that you aren’t able to celebrate the way you would’ve liked.

Be Careful With Lights and Smells

Before you deck the halls, you might want to give some extra thought to your holiday decorations. Lights and smells, in particular, can be problematic for some migraine sufferers. Flashing lights may not be the best choice, so you might want to decorate the tree with glass ornaments, ribbon, or strings of popcorn instead. You may also want to avoid bringing home strong-smelling candles or real pine wreaths, as odors like these could actually be problematic for your migraines. Even wearing a new perfume on Christmas Eve could make the night end in a painful way. Be smart about your holiday decor and get some fresh air if you’re celebrating at someone else’s home filled with strong odors.

While you may not be able to avoid a migraine entirely this holiday season, these tips can reduce your risk of cutting your merriment short due to a debilitating headache.