Winter Goals: Less Stress, Less Migraines

Since becoming a parent, every new season I have had an overarching goal that colors everything. When I had a newborn or a toddler who enjoyed running towards busy streets, that goal was “keep the baby alive.”

Other goals have been more complicated, regarding individual children’s developmental or educational needs. Potty training, tantrum phases, food aversions, classroom behaviors and social-emotional stumbling blocks have all occupied my efforts and worry bank through each season of mothering.

But as this winter begins, I look at my three kids, now 14, 11 and 6, and each one of them is in a great place in all aspects of their lives. They are doing well in school, are personally happy and well-adjusted. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Where should I be focusing my worrying?

And there is my answer for the winter season: I need to personally make an effort to reduce my own stress. Because the higher my own stress levels, the more susceptible I am to a migraine, and then the delicate balance of our bustling, cheery household is disrupted.

As I wrote about this fall, I am migraine sufferer, and the frequency of my migraines has increased dramatically since I turned 40…and so have my stress levels. Balancing three children and a full-time career of several different contracts and clients is exactly what I want to be doing, but the constant prioritization can be tough. Sometimes I am not even completely aware that the pressure is rising until a migraine surfaces.

When a full migraine strikes, my precarious balance topples.

This winter I am resolving to take the following steps that I know reduce my stress, and therefore the occurrence of my migraine headaches:

  • Adequate sleep: I have set a “go to bed alarm” and I will stick to it.
  • Work boundaries: I resolve to log off work before making dinner and not log back on until morning.
  • Exercise: I will schedule time for exercise in my calendar and will keep with the same commitment that I give professional and health appointments.

But the #1 item, I know, that can really make a difference in reducing the frequency of my migraines is to go to my doctor and develop a migraine treatment plan. (and stick to it!!)

I participated this fall in a fascinating conference call with Robert G. Kaniecki, MD, Chief of the Headache Division and Assistant Professor of Neurology at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Stewart J. Tepper, MD, Professor of Neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.  This call was part of my work with Med-IQ — an accredited medical education company serving physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals — to help generate awareness around migraine and chronic migraine.

In the conference call with the two Med-IQ neurologists, I learned that suffering from migraine is inherited and part of a migraine sufferer’s brain physiology, and often outside of a migraine sufferer’s control. No matter how much sleep, exercise or quiet time one allows, migraine attacks happen, and inadequate control of the immediate pain of a migraine attack can lead to chronic migraine.

Drs. Kaniekcki and Tepper explained that inadequate pain control can lead patients to take acute medication (which treats a migraine once it has started) too often and overuse of acute medication (including over-the-counter medications) is a risk factor for developing chronic migraine. The doctors recommend that migraine sufferers who overuse medication, defined as taking prescription or nonprescription medication 10 or more days per month, should make an appointment with their doctors to discuss developing the right treatment plan.

What is YOUR experience with migraines? Med-IQ would love your feedback through this online survey about migraines. It will take less than 10 minutes to complete, and 10 survey respondents will each win a $100 Visa gift card. (No personal information will be kept, sold or stored in the survey completion process.) Participate in the migraine survey for a chance to win. Once you complete the survey, just need to send an email to The ten randomly selected winners will be notified on January 5, 2018.

This post is sponsored by Med-IQ and supported by an educational grant by Teva Pharmaceuticals. All opinions and experiences are my own.

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