Learning to reduce my migraines without reaching for medication was one thing I will openly admit I found most difficult. At first, searching for that paracetamol or taking that dose of ibuprofen became all too easy, it became a pattern and although psychologically I felt like it was helping, it made no difference. It didn’t touch me. It was almost as if I was scared that without it, things would get worse, something might change. What if this one dose does help? What if this is it?
Lifestyle changes haven’t been easy and they take a while to get used too but since being diagnosed, I have learnt that you must be kind to your body, you must protect it and you must listen to it. Some of the things that have worked for me may not help, they may make no difference but without trying something you will never know. Advice that people have suggested I have sometimes shrugged off, I have been arrogant and ignored what others have suggested and to those people, I can only apologise. Advice that has sounded silly and unimportant has often made the most difference to me and many of these things are so simple and easy.
Time. Time is one of the most important things. Time to yourself, time to get better, time to heal. Nothing happens overnight. Time passes so quickly but it is important to take time daily to just give yourself five minutes. Whether that be a quiet lay down, a short walk if you are up for it, a relaxing bath or five minutes reading or listening to some calming music. Taking the time to give yourself some head space and shut yourself off just for a little bit, will help to improve the way you think and feel about yourself. Before being diagnosed, I was always the girl who would say yes. I would say yes to everything. My days would not stop and I would keep going and going but I now listen when enough is enough. If I need a nap, if i need a stroll, I will make sure I do just that.
I have never been one to enjoy exercise. I have tried joining my local gyms in the past and failed at going. I never had the enthusiasm or get up and go and especially with migraines, the gym is the last place you would want to be. The lights, the noise, the smell and the overcrowding of people is enough to put anyone off. However, for those with chronic illnesses, exercise doesn’t have to be anything major. Ever since I was little, I have always enjoyed the outdoors. I have grown up in a family of outdoor lovers and this has definitely helped me during my recovery. Being able to step outside, take a short walk or a longer one when I am feeling up too it has definitely improved things. Being outside makes you feel grounded, it emphasises the fact that there is more to your life than letting your migraines win and there is a lot more out there than the four walls of your bedroom.
Changing my diet is something that I have experimented a lot with. Processed foods are no longer my friends and although I struggle to avoid them, I will eat fresh foods as much as I can. We all have days where we just want ‘junk’ and for those days, I certainly pay for it. I have had my ups and downs with gluten and wheat and although having had several blood tests for Coeliac Disease all come back to me clear, I do feel better when I eat less bulky foods. I have cut down on my intake of bread and pasta and wholesome foods and I try to avoid cakes (as hard as it is) and biscuits and foods which are too fatty. A few years ago I hated the thought of being different when it came to what I ate and my diet to some may seem pretty plain now but it’s about what works for you.
As for caffeine. Caffeine is a monster to me. For some migraine sufferers, caffeine is the answer and a red bull or a strong coffee actually takes their migraine pain away but for me, caffeine certainly does the opposite. Not only does it not help the pain, it changes my attitudes and mood and as my family like to call it, when the ‘caffeine monster’ hits, I am not a pleasant person to be around so avoiding caffeine for me, is a massive help.
I have never been one to struggle with staying hydrated and although I never used to be a big fan, plain old water has slowly become my friend. Purchasing a water bottle, as simple as it sounds has been one of my best purchases. Whether it be a large or small one, keeping in control and knowing how much fluid you are putting into your body definitely helps.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to use essential oils. This was something I had been very sceptical of and wasn’t convinced that it would make a difference – how wrong could I have been? Why didn’t I do this sooner? By rubbing a little lavender or peppermint oil into your temples and or back of your neck, it really helps to calm the muscles and relieve any tension and stress that may have built or be building up. If you are unsure of applying it to your skin, add a small amount to a tissue and breathe it in or add a similar amount to some warm water and do some gentle steam inhalation. For me, all of these things have helped to keep the pressure within my face down and because of its calming affect, makes you feel a lot more at ease.
My ‘hottie’ is also a great friend of mine. Whilst some find ice great for their headaches and migraines, for me, heat is the answer. The feeling of warmth whether it be on the head itself or sometimes on the stomach really helps with the overall well feeling. Buying a hottie which could just be placed in the microwave at any moment, takes the pressure off of boiling a kettle or going to any effort when on your worst days, you really aren’t feeling all too up to it.
These are just some of the things that I have gradually added to my life to make things a little easier. Of course, they aren’t fixes, they aren’t a cure but they have all helped me and I’m hoping they will help you too. One step at a time …
Love Vicky x