Migraines mainly affect working-age adults due to high levels of stress, hours of screen time, and lack of support from coworkers, managers, and bosses.
However, being the third most preventable illness globally, migraines don’t have to make your workdays feel like the end of the world. All you need to do to prevent them and manage them is to understand how to ease your pain and promote your superiors to support you!
In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about managing migraines, give you some tips on how you can communicate directly with your manager/boss about them.
So, let’s get to it and start healing your pain so you can live a more migraine-free life!
8 Top Tips For Dealing With A Migraine At Work
Dealing with a migraine at home is a little easier - you can shut the curtains, turn off the lights, grab a cold compress, and snuggle up in bed. However, if you're at the office, it might not be that easy! So, here are our 8 top tips for dealing with a migraine at work.
1. Lower Your Stress Levels
Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, having high-stress levels is linked to regular migraines and more intense migraines. Therefore, when you experience a migraine, you first need to lower your stress levels. Doing simple breathing exercises, doing a ten-minute guided meditation, or simply asking for help on an overwhelming project can help you instantly and make you feel better. Of course, managing stress long-term is always a better solution and will keep migraines at bay, so if you can put a stress-lowering routine in place, do so!
2. Keep Hydrated and Nourished
Research has shown that dehydration is a trigger for 1/3 of people with migraines, and those with an unhealthy diet that contains lots of salty and processed foods are more likely to succumb to migraines. So, if you feel a migraine coming on, hydrate yourself and make sure you’ve not missed a meal! Have a glass or two of water and if you can stomach it, eat some fruit or a nutritious, healthy meal, and you may feel better immediately.
3. Lower The Light
When you experience a migraine, it’s not just your head that will become affected - you may notice that you become particularly sensitive to light. So, if possible, lower the light in your office or at your desk, and step away from the light given off by your computer. If you need to and have the ability to, go and lay somewhere dark, or at least take a walk away from your screen and get some fresh air (with sunglasses on if possible!).
The blue light from computers can trigger migraines in some instances, so dim it by using apps like F.lux or wearing blue-light blocking glasses.
4. Block Strong Scents
Similarly to how your eyes may be affected by migraines, your nose may be too! Research has shown that 25-20% of migraine sufferers experience sensitivity to odours when having a migraine, and nearly 50% have migraines triggered by particularly strong odours. Therefore, when you’re having a migraine, try to avoid situations where there is a powerful smell - whether it’s a coworker that puts just a little too much cologne on or the cafe cooking up lunch.
5. Look To Aromatherapy For Help
Although strong odours can worsen your migraine, research has shown that certain essential oils can actually reduce the symptoms of migraines, particularly head pain and nausea. So, if you are looking for a little bit of natural pain relief, you might want to look to aromatherapy for help. However, not all essential oils deliver what you’re looking for.
Peppermint oil is the perfect oil to use since it helps ease headaches and relax muscles, and lavender oil may also help manage migraine attacks. In addition, you can dab a small amount of essential oil on your wrist (as long as they are mixed with carrier oils to ensure you don’t irritate your skin).
6. Grab a hot or cold compress
Both cold and hot compresses can help ease migraine attacks when they surface, and therefore if you can, you should grab one! Generally, migraine sufferers most commonly use cold packs to constrict blood vessels and reduce pain. In contrast, tension-type migraines can benefit from heat packs to increase blood flow to the area. Just remember, never apply ice or a boiling hot compress to the skin directly!
In the Long Run, Ask For Help: Effectively Open Up To Your Manager/Boss
Speaking to your manager or boss about your migraines may be difficult since they’re an invisible illness - it’s not as if you have a visibly broken leg. However, you must speak to your boss if you regularly experience migraine attacks - you need and deserve support.
Find a time that’s suitable for your boss to talk to you and be honest with them about how the migraines you experience affect you at work and how they may be able to support you. If possible, come up with ideas that may help you (and others in the office that deal with migraines) and suggest them to your boss. For example, turning an old office room into a dark room that you can go and sit in for 10-15 mins whenever you have a migraine attack.
You are much better off communicating with your boss and being honest than calling in sick regularly - they will appreciate that you are proactively sharing and trying to find a solution.