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Migraine Headaches and Holidays: 12 Stress Busting Tips For Christmas

Written and verified by Holly Hazen

Here are some more tips to help manage your migraines over the festive silly season @migrainesavvy

The festive season can be so stressful. Migraine headaches and holidays brings a change in routine that might wreak havoc in your life. You never know when the next migraine will strike and where that will leave you. So here are 12 stress busting tips to help you reduce anxiety and learn to stay calm. Prepare better for Christmas and the festive season this year, your body will love you for it.

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Dr. Friedemann Schaub author of The Fear and Anxiety Solution says "When stress hormones travel through the body's cells, the results can be long-term changes in metabolism, structure, and behavior of cells."

You already know that migraines are stressful enough all on their own, so it's important to reduce anxiety wherever you can.

Long term, chronic stress is even more problematic. And if you already know stress is a trigger for you... this time of year might be horrible.

Never mind the added tensions when your budget is tight and your family is demanding. Or maybe you are alone... and this time of year is more difficult.

Whatever you struggle with, here are my tips that could help. If all 12 feel overwhelming, then just pick one to get started with.

And if you have some great ideas I've not listed, please share your best survival strategies in the form at the bottom of the page.

12 Stress Busting Tips for You at Christmas

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tips @migrainesavvy

Plan Ahead

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #1

Planning is so important around this time of year. Especially if you never know when the next migraine will strike. So here are some ideas to help you plan ahead:

  • Delegate some jobs amongst all the family members attending the different meals.
  • Make up the meal plan and then organize who will bring what, already cooked.
  • Ask for help, or even consider catering and get everyone to contribute to the cost.
  • Cook ahead of time and freeze what you feel you can safely. Some things like mashed potatoes just do not freeze well.

Arrange for the children to sit separately from the adults and feed them first. Let them talk and then go play, so you can all eat without interruptions. Have some games, coloring, or movies planned for them to watch.

Buy your gifts ahead of time or shop online. This brings me to tip number two... stick to your budget.

Stay Within Your Budget

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #2

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Budget Tips @migrainesavvy

These are in no particular order. If money is already a stress for you, this could be number one to help reduce stress around the holidays.

Staying within your budget this time of year is really hard.

Even I struggle and I am little miss budget!

So sticking to your budget should reduce the constant worry around having more migraine headaches this holiday season. And it's wise to be vigilant and avoid your known triggers where possible.

Here are some practical migraine headaches and holidays ideas for budgeting options:

  • Set a limit on what everyone spends on gifts so it’s all fair.
  • If you have a really big family, try putting names in a hat and just pick one out. Then you only buy for that one person. This will be much easier on the budget. 
  • Make something. Make some homemade chocolates, jam or preserved lemons. Whatever your specialty is. Migraine free I assume! Or create a special homemade gift basket of that person's favorite organic food, wine or snacks. Ok, maybe not wine if they get migraines too!

Use eBay or Gumtree! Sell the old stuff you never use a few months ahead of time to save some money, and then check out eBay for what you need to buy. Do this well ahead of time. October might be a good time to start investigating what presents you will need.

Google 'cheap wine deals' to search for deals on alcohol if you need it. Or check out my post on safe migraine drink recipes. Migraine headaches and holidays are made worse with too much alcohol consumption. That's a fact!

Budget your time too! Pace yourself over the holidays. Don’t try to do too much or you will just feel more stressed.

Set Strong Boundaries

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #3

"If you can produce an ulcer by reacting to stress, then you can heal the same ulcer by changing your reaction." ~ Dr. Norm Shealy

Setting strong boundaries might make you feel anxious at first but it will pay off in the long run. Here are some ideas to learn how to respond when someone says “No” to changes you need at Christmas.

This happened to me quite a few years ago now, when I decided to stop doing ALL the work at Christmas, and then 2 years of having my husband do everything because of the relentlessly poor timing of migraine attacks and consequent down-times. 

After asking for others to pitch in and help, and after 3 of them saying “No, we like the way you do it.” I simply replied “Well then, I am just not up to having Christmas or boxing day this year, you will have to make other plans. I am sorry, but I am just not able to do it the old way any longer.”

And sadly, with that, we stopped having loads of people (family and friends) over for Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you know what – it was lovely.  My husband and I did the food we wanted, got up when we wanted, and just had the whole day to do exactly what we wanted. It was freeing and we made it FUN.

And best of all... it was stress free!

Here is another option for a more kind response:

"I love you, and I'd love to keep doing it the way we used to, but I am sad to have to say that the old way isn't working for me (us) anymore. Which of my suggestions will work best for you, or do you have any suggestions that work better than mine?"

What responses do you use, that work nicely? 

I also suggest having a Plan B should you get a migraine. Make sure others can be flexible for you too. Fill in, take over, do instead of...

Know what you can do, and what you can't do. Have some flexible options available.

Try Some New Breathing Techniques

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #4

"Physical healing can occur after integrating breathing practices into our lives. The human body is designed to discharge 70% of its toxins through breathing." ~ Dr. Gay Hendricks

There are numerous breathing techniques that help reduce stress and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling anxious, tune in and see if you are breathing very shallowly. Here’s my advice...

When you become aware of your breathing, at the same time as feeling how stressed you are... say hello to your stress... and start counting your exhale to the count of four. So one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, exhaling... and then pause for two counts.

Then inhale to the count of four and pause for two. Do this three or four times and then see if you feel more calm. I teach this to all of my clients who experience anxiety. Being in the pause, quietly, is really important. Really savor the peace in the silence.

This is my favorite, and might I add the most useful stress busting tip for the festive migraine headaches and holidays season.

Learn to Meditate

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #5

"Your inner state is what matters. The circumstances will pass. Be filled today with an attitude of gratitude!" ~ Mary Morrissey.

Learning to meditate could change your life! I could not have survived these horrific attacks without meditating. With 14 years of no effective pain killers, I had to meditate the pain away. Or at least find inner peace and calm until I passed out from the pain.

There are numerous types of meditation effective for migraines. Here are just a few of my posts:

Learning biofeedback will help you long term. The more you do it, the better you get. The less tense and irritated you will feel during stressful times like Christmas holidays. And learning to meditate will help you cope with many things in life along with migraine headaches and holidays.

Schedule in Some Time for Yourself

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #6

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Tip #6 Find Time For Yourself @migrainesavvyTake a time out if you're stressed out.

"Stress and emotional pain is not caused by external issues, but by the battle between who you really are and the false ideas you've been brainwashed to believe about yourself." ~ Derek Rydall

The festive season tends to bring together long lost relatives, which is lovely in some ways. But if you tend to go way overboard and feel drained and exhausted afterwards, this point will be important.

Scheduling in some time for yourself, will help reduce stress. 

Treat yourself to a massage and just relax for one whole hour. Check out my easy tennis ball massage if you need something more regularly.

Or just do what you love and find relaxing.

And I also mean to include some downtime you might need for the migraine attacks or recovering afterwards.

I suggest talking a walk in nature and really taking some time to see where you are walking. Be present with your environment. Look at the things you pass by.

Look at the trees and the grass. Feel the wind or cool air. Smell the grass. Use all the senses you can to help you be present in the moment.

It might work to say in your own mind...

“I am taking this time just for me. Nothing I need to do, no one I need to please. I am just walking and breathing. I am breathing in and I am breathing out.”

Pull all your energy back inside yourself. And just be with you.

An effective way to cope with migraine headaches and holidays is to learn what relaxes you. 

Do A List With A Twist

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #7

Now almost everyone has heard of a TO DO list. I am suggesting trying to add to that and make it a Want To Do List. Take some time to tune in and make sure all this stuff you are doing is what you actually want to be doing.

I know there is a lot of guilt around family obligations. But I suggest making a list of "have to’s" and sitting with them all to see how you can turn some of them in "want to’s". Some have to's will have benefits that can turn them into a want to.

Plus you get to add one want to, to your list. Just because you want to! See tip nine for more details. Doing things you want to will help reduce migraine headaches and holidays stress.

Keeping a journal is another way to relieve stress related symptoms as it helps your brain make sense of what’s going on by seeing it. It makes the connection more clearly when it sees your written word.

I suggest keeping a separate positive and negative journal, so you can dispose of the negative one and remove the unwanted energy from your home.

You have probably heard of a gratitude journal. It's simple, you just list 3 – 5 things that you are grateful for each and every day. You can write it at night or in the morning. But you may have a better sleep if you do it just before you go to sleep.

Reflect on what you value in your life. What you focus on grows.

"Make a conscious choice on your part. That's how you get your own personal power back. That's how you have a more fulfilling life, by doing your own dream and not someone else's." ~ Will Arntz

Find Time to Laugh

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #8 Find Time to Laugh @migrainesavvyMay the only fireworks be in the sky and NOT in your head.

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #8

Find time to laugh. It is well documented that laughter reduces stress and enhances health and the quality of your life. If you can’t actually laugh, then find what brings you joy and fit it in.

If you don’t... who will?

I found these one liners at hope you like them:

Energizer bunny arrested ... charged with battery.

How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.

A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

Choose Your Priorities

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #9

First write down all the tasks you have to do today. Writing them down will get them out of your head. Beside the task write time needed and then number it according to the priority. #1’s get done today or tomorrow according to the time needed. The 2’s the next day, and 3’s the next day.

I can already hear you saying "I need to get them all done today!" Well too bad. You are only human. Pace yourself and these things will get done. If you have spare time you can go to the next thing on your list.

Next, pick one thing you actually want to do and add it to your list. Yes – make sure it’s less than one hour so you can fit it in. Five or ten minutes would be even better so you will definitely fit it in.

I put it in an excel spreadsheet, then print it out. I highlight what my number one priorities are for the day and then cross them out when I am done. So it goes for day 2 and three.

But I always schedule in my want to first. Maybe not first thing, but when I know I will need a fun break in the day.

And just FYI. There is always more to do – that’s because we are alive! And you will always make a list for a week not a day. That’s just how our minds work. So be gentle with your self and your TO DO list.

And if you get stressed doing this – just take a little time out. Here is number ten.

Take a Little Nap

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #10

Take a little nap. Our sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, so don’t nap longer than that.

Just a short little nano nap might be just what you need to help boost your energy through this festive season.

Also, make sure you are getting a good night sleep.

Many different healing modalities say to get to sleep before 10pm and wake up around 6am everyday to help your organs function optimally.

Exercise Mindfully

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #11

Exercise is a proven way to reduce migraine attacks. Do migraine specific exercises, like these easy headache migraine neck pain stretches regularly, between migraines and/or during one could really help.

Obviously you won't be exercising during an attack, although some find they can abort an attack by walking it off. I almost always stretch out my neck before the pain phase hits.

Doing the right exercises specifically designed to treat migraines may assist in reducing the number of attacks you experience and even possibly reduce the intensity. Especially if yours are worse with tension.

If your migraines are persistent - like mine - you may not be able to cure them but you can learn ways to significantly decrease the frequency and severity of the attacks.

It is your mission today to walk mindfully. I have already told you about breathing more fully and pausing. So, take a deep inhale and just allow every tight tense spot in your body to release with the exhale. Pause there in the tense spots. Do this while you are walking. Slowly and mindfully.

Eat Mindfully

Migraine Headaches and Holidays Stress Busting Tip #12

It is so very easy to over eat around Christmas time. Your mission for 4 days, should you wish to accept it - December 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th is to eat in moderation. If you moderate what you eat today, you will have more energy to cope with the other days ahead of too much food.

I think the food lasts at least two weeks. How about you?

Eating mindfully means to chew your food. Chew it slowly and for about 30 chews. That's a long time compared to normal! Taste it and don't gobble it down. Look at the colors, enjoy the textures and smell the juicy yumminess.

Eating in season is a great way to stay in tune with yourself and nature. What you eat at Christmas in America – Turkey and all the fixings, would melt me here in Australia. We have cold meats, and prawns with avocado and salad. I have veggies and humus, and things that are cooling.

You can still eat the rainbow and get lots of nutrients into you regardless of the climate.

Try taking a magnesium supplement to help reduce stress.

Don’t drink heaps of caffeine when you are stressed. It will hype you up. Try other alternatives like Coconut water that is hydrating or herbal tea.

Making fresh ginger tea helps digestion and reduces stress. Just peel 1 inch of fresh ginger root and cut it into pieces. Cover with 2-3 cups of water and boil for 10-20 minutes. You can drink it with honey or on its own to help aid digestion and reduce stress.

So that's:

  • Eat in moderation
  • Chew your food (slowly and aim for 30 chews each mouthful)
  • Eat a rainbow
  • Avoid caffeine if you are stressed

And if you get a migraine, remember:

  • Don't leave home without your abortive medications
  • Ginger or ginger tea
  • Magnesium glycinate
  • Stay hydrated - coconut water helps balance your electrolytes

Click here to share some helpful tips for migraine headaches and holidays...

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