Guest post from Erin Knight
An “inconvenient migraine” almost sounds redundant doesn’t it? Are migraines ever convenient? Of course not, but isn’t it funny how you can be fine for days, weeks or even months and them bam!– the weekend you have guests in town, the morning you are supposed to give a presentation at work, or the day you touch down in Paris for a long-overdue vacation … a migraine rears its ugly head?
I used to find it frustrating that I would get migraines at the most inconvenient times. As if taken from Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic,” I could count on a bad headache if I had business travel, had a late lunch (or no lunch), or was approaching a big deadline.
Why does this happen to so many of us? Stress, in its many forms, layers and compounds. When our bodies are overloaded by the combination of stress coming, not just from external sources like traffic or a deadline, but also from internal irritants like a parasite, food sensitivities or old running injury that forces your biomechanics to compensate with every step – we see the result of the stress-overload showing up as symptoms. For those of us prone to get headaches and migraines, we may have a certain amount of internal stress going on all the time, and then an external stress like public speaking puts us over the edge and we get a headache.
Over the years, the pressure and “work hard, play hard” lifestyle hasn’t gone away, but the migraines have disappeared as I worked on balancing the many underlying issues in my digestion, hormones and detoxification that were contributing to the overall stress levels in my body. Removing these internal stressors has given me more resilience to handle the external life stressors and be less sensitive to migraine triggers that used to bother me.
Getting to the root cause of migraine and building resilience isn’t an overnight process, of course, so here are some essential coping strategies in the meantime:
1. Understand that stress compounds. If you have an especially stressful day or week coming up, then you need to pay extra attention to other triggers that you can avoid such as red wine, chocolate or MSG. If you know you are more prone to migraines during allergy season or when thunderstorms are in the forecast (things that you can’t control), then reign in the things that you can control, like going to bed and getting up at the same time or eating a clean diet.
2. Keep snacks with healthy fats and proteins in your desk drawer or purse to avoid blood sugar crashes. Examples include nuts, bars based on coconut or MCT oil, jerky (no MSG!), canned fish, healthy canned soups. Avoid instant noodles, candy bars, soda or sugary drinks, dried fruit, cookies or poor quality snack bars. Even seemingly healthy “organic” granola bars or cereal bars can be “quick burning” fuel for many of us and contribute to a blood sugar spike.
3. Manage your lighting. If you work in a private or semi-private office, see if you can shut off half of the overhead lights and supplement with some warmer incandescent lighting. Bring in a lamp from home (salt-rock lamps are my favorite).
4. Keep a couple of stress management tools near the phone and use them when you are on a conference call or catch-up chat with Mom- this could include a hot neck wrap, massage ball, essential oil diffuser, or HeartMath HRV tool.
5. Try soothing music like Tibetan singing bowls or the “yoga channel” on your music streaming service while you work on a spreadsheet or even cook dinner. It is amazing how this calming music can melt away some of the background tension and help get the job done faster.
Again these are just coping strategies. I’ve found that to get to the bottom of things and really help women discover freedom from migraines, it is often necessary to take a deeper look into your biology. Ask why you are so sensitive to migraines in the first place. What is out of balance in your hormone, digestive, detoxification and/or immune system that is placing additional stress on your body? For example, there may be foods you are reacting to that cause a constant layer of inflammation stress, or years of chronic stress may have depleted your hormones. (If you want a visual of this, you can take a look at what I call the bathtub theory of migraines).
By restoring balance and function at this foundational level, the layer of chronic biochemical stress on your body is lifted. As you build strength and resilience, you discover more tolerance for the stressful events (and familiar headache triggers) in life that we may have less control over – travel, deadlines, weather changes, or bright sunshine. Years ago, I cringed whenever the weather channel forecasted a brilliant sunny day, because the glare and brightness likely meant I was going to get a migraine. Today, I can grin and plan a hike.
That is freedom, freedom to enjoy life without worrying about the interruption of a headache.
While I hope these tips for avoiding inconvenient migraines help you, I also hope you don’t stop there. Freedom from migraines is possible for those who dare to dream of a future where you can fully participate in life.
Erin Knight helps women who desire natural solutions providing freedom from chronic migraines, so that they can experience a dramatic increase in productivity and thrive in the active life that they dream of.
Erin has her Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan and is trained in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition™ and nutrigenomics. After a decade guiding Fortune 500 teams through root cause analysis, she now applies these problem-solving skills to our most complex system- the human body.
To find out if a hormone-imbalance could be contributing to your migraines, use this Hormone “Quick Check” .