I remember the first time I had a migraine. I was 9 and getting ready for school. I felt off, but I’d had headaches before, so I figured it would pass like the others had. As the morning moved on, I became increasingly nauseated, and my body felt heavy. My sisters found me slumped in the tub, crying, when they were sent to investigate why it was taking me so long. I couldn’t answer what was wrong with me — the pain was excruciating.
Migraines shouldn't be self-diagnosed, so for several years after that episode, I was shuffled from doctor to doctor. They tried to figure out why I was getting these extreme headaches. They told me it could be due to puberty, heredity or even a brain tumor. The doctors had no definite answer as to why I was getting them. As I grew older, I learned to recognize certain triggers that would cause them: stress, lack of sleep and certain foods. The real challenge in dealing with my migraines came when I decided to work from home.
First, let me set the stage. In addition to working from home, I also homeschool my two kids. Although working from home has its perks, it’s by no means easier than a nine-to-five — in fact, sometimes it's harder. To meet my deadlines and still be a good teacher for my kids, I was staying up late every night to work.
That didn't mean my late nights were rewarded with late mornings. I still needed to wake up early to take care of the kids and teach. With the added daily stress, I noticed my migraine frequency started to increase. As a self-employed freelancer, if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. And as a homeschool mom, I don’t have the option of a substitute when I’m not feeling well. I found myself pushing through my pain and continuing with my crazy work/life pace. The strain was starting to take a toll on my health.
Even though I’ve suffered with migraine pain for many years and learned how to cope with the pain, I know I do have limits. For a while, I went through week after week with intense pain; nothing I tried dulled the ache. When I get a migraine, I’m not the only one suffering; my family suffers too. I needed to re-evaluate my situation. How did the comfort of working from home become so much more stressful than sitting in traffic and feeling guilty about not spending quality time with my kids?
I made up my mind to change my lifestyle. I needed to address my migraine triggers and eliminate those first before I could deal with managing the pain. My No. 1 trigger was not enough sleep. Sleep became a priority. I made myself stop working at a definite time every night to go to bed. If I couldn’t sleep well or ended up getting up with one of the kids overnight, I made sure to indulge in a nap and/or sleep in a little bit the next day.
Next, I learned to say “no” to extra work and extracurricular activities. It was unnecessary stress. The world didn’t stop when I didn’t take my son to a birthday party or because I didn’t take on that extra project. I learned to tackle one thing at a time and to take it day by day.
Finally, I take a day off. Yes, no work at all. The problem with freelancers, as with all small business owners, is that we work all the time. Vacation and sick days are not an option. Also, since I was homeschooling my kids, I definitely didn’t have time for a day off. To heck with that! When I feel a migraine coming on, I take the day off with the kids. We go to the park, picnic outdoors or lie around reading books — no guilt at all. When I’m happy, my family is happy.
Even with all my precautions, I still get migraines. I average about two to three per month, and they last pretty much all day. It’s a work in progress, but I feel I am making headway in recognizing the triggers and staving off the severe pain before it begins. If all my efforts fail to keep one from coming on, I do take medication to lessen the pain. With added rest and less stress, I am finding that the duration isn’t as long as it used to be. I may learn to kick my migraine pain to the curb one day. Until then, I take it one day at a time.
This post was sponsored by the makers of Excedrin®.
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