Adapting to Life with Migraine

How to cope with living with migraine

Getting a diagnosis of migraine can be bittersweet: you may be relieved to finally have an explanation for the recurring pain you’ve been experiencing, but you may also be upset, dejected or fearful about your future managing your symptoms and coping with unpredictable attacks.

Being proactive is the key to living the life you want in spite of your migraine, and that requires both mental and physical effort. It’s time to make a plan that will ensure you can survive and thrive with migraine in your life.

Understand Your Diagnosis

Migraine is not simply a headache, but a disabling disease that affects up to 38 million Americans. People with migraine have actually been found to have noticeable differences in their brain scans. You can learn how to control the sometimes painful symptoms of migraine by following a few precautions and steps.

Know Yourself (And Your Migraine)

As soon as you have identifiable symptoms, begin to keep a headache diary. Tracking your migraine experiences helps build a detailed account of your symptoms, which helps identify patterns and triggers that medical professionals can use to map out your optimal course of treatment.

Make sure to record:

  • The time and day of your migraine attack
  • Whether symptoms other than pain started before the head pain began
  • Any possible triggers
  • What you were eating or doing at the time
  • Where you were
  • How the migraine attack progressed
  • Whether it responded to treatment
  • How long it lasted
  • Any after effects

Build A Support Network

It’s vital to have a close network of friends or family you can lean on for support. They can offer practical help, like driving you home from work if you suffer an attack on the job, or arrange any necessary child or petcare so you can rest or pick up supplies and prescriptions. A support group also offers emotional help for what can be a very exhausting condition.

In addition to help from friends and family who may not have migraine, connecting with others who share your experience can provide valuable supplementary support from people who understand your experiences. Move Against Migraine, a Facebook support community maintained by the American Migraine Foundation, provides such a space for people with migraine to lean on each other.

Find An Expert

The most important person in your support network should be your migraine specialist. Having to explain your symptoms and their significance every time you seek medical treatment will quickly become incredibly frustrating, so seek a migraine specialist who understands the impact this condition has on your life and is prepared to work with you to find the right treatment plan.

Make Lifestyle Adjustments

You may notice that certain foods or activities trigger a migraine attack. If you are able to identify triggers (and not everyone will), then take the proactive step to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate your needs. For example, if you know that your migraine symptoms are triggered by alcohol, try to abstain. If you experience a migraine attack when you wait too long between meals, always carry a snack with you. If you notice yourself experiencing severe head pain after nights of below-average sleep, plan to rest adequately in the future.

Put Yourself First

Your migraine experience is very real, and the choices you make to prioritize your health and comfort are always valid. Navigating a migraine diagnosis is a heavy burden; don’t make it heavier with feelings of guilt or regret. Be kind to yourself, and forgiving. And when those migraine attacks hit, do what you need to do to get relief. Close the blinds, dim the lights, and take all the time you need—and don’t be ashamed if you have to cancel plans. Your disease is real and some days will be difficult: your support network will be understanding of your needs, so be forgiving with yourself, too.

Be Your Best Advocate

Nobody knows your personal migraine experience and triggers as well as you do. Push for further tests or information from your medical specialist when necessary. Read widely on the subject, including utilizing the American Migraine Foundations’s resource library, and inquire often about new treatments and alternative therapies which may be able to relieve some of your worst symptoms. Be wary: the internet can be a minefield of misinformation, so make sure you’re consulting reliable resources. Don’t hesitate to raise questions or concerns with your migraine specialist, and reach out if there’s anything you want to discuss. Your doctors are as committed as you are to finding the best solutions for you.

Living with migraine can be tough, but so are you—arm yourself with the resources and information you need to live your best possible life.

Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.