Migraine Prevention During the Holidays

Girl holding face in pain

By Dr. Peter Abaci

There is never a good time for a migraine headache, but migraines can be especially troubling during the hectic holiday season that is upon us. In fact, this time of year can be a real challenge for many when it comes to headache prevention. While good cheer is the name of the game, the holidays can be a time for late night parties and gatherings, frantic schedules, long-distance traveling, end of year business wrap ups, and stressful family gatherings. Therefore, if you suffer from migraine or tension headaches, then you really need to have your guard up this time of year.

There are three key aspects of the holiday season that migraine sufferers need to be mindful of:

  • Increases in stress levels
  • A lack of adequate sleep 
  • Eating the wrong foods

Developing a special migraine prevention program this time of year can pay off. Strategies should focus on limiting the impact of these three factors. For many, certain foods act as a potent migraine trigger, and most common triggers are, unfortunately, especially popular during the holidays. Examples include chocolate, red wine, alcohol, processed meats, and aged cheeses.

Here are some winning tips to consider:

  • Don’t skip meals no matter how busy you are, especially breakfast. Going too long without eating can be a common trigger.
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Let Santa finish up the last remaining cookies!
  • Have a healthy snack before going to a party. You never know what might be served, and you don’t want to get caught eating something that could potentially trigger a headache.
  • Avoid common triggers like red wine. For some, white or sparkling wines are safer alternatives. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption or dehydration by drinking a glass of water right after any alcohol containing beverage.
  • Try to avoid eating processed foods or anything with lots of sodium or sugar like carbonated beverages.
  • If you aren’t sure if something served is a food trigger, it is probably best to pass.
  • Manage stress by practicing belly breathing exercises every day. Budget some time for quiet or meditation.
  • Prepare ahead for possible stressful social interactions. Try role playing with a family member or friend before showing up at a gathering that you might be concerned about so you will be ready to deflect uncomfortable discussions. 
  • Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you find yourself staying up late one particular night, then make sure you get to bed early the next night so as to not let the late nights pile up.

Wishing you a very safe and joyous holiday season!