The hectic holiday season can be a perfect storm of triggers for people living with migraine.

Migraine is a debilitating disease that affects people’s day-to-day lives. However, many people report that the frequency and intensity of their migraine attacks can soar during the holidays. Crowds of shoppers, fragrant family meals and Christmas music are hallmarks of the season, but for many these conditions can trigger migraine attacks. Members of our Move Against Migraine Facebook group shared their biggest holiday-related challenges and offered tips for keeping it all together into 2018.

Plan ahead to reduce stress

The holidays can be a stressful time, with family and friends expecting you to attend parties, prepare food, and shop or make gifts. Planning ahead not only helps reduce stress, but can also help you avoid other holiday-related triggers.

“I have to plan way ahead to make sure I accomplish all of my goals so that my kids have the best holidays possible,” Eileen shared in our #MoveAgainstMigraine Facebook group. For her, Christmas shopping starts as early as September. She also paces herself, and isn’t afraid to ask for help to get ready for the holiday season.

Move Against Migraine members Kayleen and Amy recommended online shopping as a way to avoid crowded malls and repetitive Christmas music. Many merchants participate in Cyber Monday and offer discounts throughout the season, so you’re likely to find a great deal that rivals in-store holiday specials from the peace and quiet of your home. When you shop on AmazonSmile, a portion of your purchase will automatically be donated to the American Migraine Foundation.

When it comes to preparing meals, do everything you can to make the days you will be with family less stressful. For example, make the family dinner a potluck so everyone helps out with cooking, or prepare side dishes and stuffing weeks in advance and freeze it for the big day.

Know your limits and don’t overextend yourself.

Turning down invitations, leaving early or avoiding your triggers can make you feel like you’re missing out, but advocating for your health is always paramount, especially during the holidays.

“I love Christmas, but it seems like the very stress of it all brings on migraines every year,” shared #MoveAgainstMigraine member Sherie. “I have had to cut back on some of the things that I love to do … That has helped a little.” Prioritizing which events to attend and who to see can be tricky, but likely will increase the quality of the time you do spend with family, which is what the season is about.

Pacing yourself is important too. Stephaney shared that she toughs it out if she’s at a family gathering, but will stay in bed all day if she’s at home. Take a break between busier days and spend time relaxing to recharge yourself. Driving from family gathering to family gathering without any personal time in between is a recipe for a migraine attack. Don’t feel bad, your family and friends will understand if you need time away from the festivities.

Celebrate the holidays with loving and caring people who understand.

Many members of Move Against Migraine say they self-care by choosing to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones from their migraine support teams. Jennifer shares that while she one day hopes to be able to travel across the country and see family, she enjoys quiet holidays with her husband, who understands her illnesses.

“I only do holidays with family who know my limits,” shares Rachel, “When I know I won’t need to explain myself for laying down or leaving an event early, I’m actually able to endure more with less pain.” The holidays may be about family, but they’re also about you and your wellbeing, so make time and efforts for those who truly understand and care about you.

The American Migraine Foundation knows that the holidays can be bittersweet. To help, we put together some tips on how to sleigh your holiday headaches. Remember, that even in the most difficult of times, you are not alone. Visit the AMF resource library, Understanding Migraine, for more information and tools to help you manage your migraine, and join the Move Against Migraine Facebook group to find a vast network of people who really understand what it means to live with migraine.

Happy holidays and wishing you a pain-free holiday season!