I am very thankful at Thanksgiving time, for the loving and accepting, funny, intelligent and interesting family I have, the fun times and wonderful food we share. I have many blessings to count. I have never managed to travel to this particular fest, however, without at least a little pang of wishing it were different. I wish I could host an event like this at my house. I wish that I could host any event of more than a handful of people for more than a few hours, without getting a Migraine. I wish that my home was orderly, organized and clean to the point that preparing for overnight guests wasn’t such a huge task.

The internet and the newspapers right now are full of articles on how to have happy holidays on a shoe-string, or how to enjoy the holidays without the stress, and I don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Over at My Migraine Connection you can read Teri Robert’s interview with Marcia Cross on Holiday Parties with Migraines. Coming up on December 8, the December Headache & Migraine Blog Carnival will be posted at Somebody Heal Me on the topic of “Maximizing Your Enjoyment of the Holiday Season,” and there will be lots of good reading on the topic, I’m sure! (If you’d like to submit a post for the carnival, the deadline is the midnight Friday, December 5th, and you can submit your post at this link at Somebody Heal Me.)

What I’m here to say is - the holidays don’t have to hurt your head. Like me, you may find there are things you have to give up. I conceded Thanksgiving to my sister years ago, since she loves doing it so much, but for most of the past 6 years we have hosted a big holiday weekend at our house around New Year’s. We won’t be doing that this year. Having that many people in my house, and that much noise, for an extended period of time, is a whole series of Migraine triggers for me. I end up missing a chunk of the celebration, I’m not much of a hostess, my family feels bad for me, and I’m in pain that often lasts days after everyone leaves.

I was surprised to find myself in tears when I told everyone we would not be hosting this year. It’s not like it was unexpected! The truth is that it is hard to give up on something we want to do. What we can do is to look below the thing itself, and see what is important to us, and how else we can express that.
When you look at your holiday season, think about what is important to you, and how you can express that without hurting your head. One holiday party may be much better than five. You may not have to wear yourself out to cook huge meals - choose one or two things that are important to you or your loved ones. The quantity of toys will mean less to your kids than the time you take to stop and play with them.

I gave up trying to be Martha Stewart years ago, but as my Migraines became more frequent I have had to give up more. So where we used to make six kinds of Christmas cookies, maybe we will make two. Where we used to have 18 people for a holiday weekend with a big dinner, we will ask a smaller group to join us for just dinner on Christmas day. Where we used to climb on the roof and hang lights, we light a few windows. In our family we have always celebrated Hannukah and Christmas, since we have a mixed background, but several years ago we became clear that our kids didn’t need gifts every night of Hannukah and under the tree and in their stockings! We buy less, and light the candles to remember our heritage and hope in the darkness, rather than as a reason for eight more gifts.

Festivity is great fun, but it can also be addicting. Advertising tells us to do more, buy more. Many people find that however much they spend and do, they still fall short of the “perfect” holiday they imagine in their mind’s eye. As Migraineurs, we need to go easy on ourselves. Whether or not you’re hurting financially this season, you don’t need the added stress of worrying about whether you have bought or done enough. A little can go a long way. What is most important to you about the holidays? Is it time with loved ones? An expression of peace and hope? Find ways to express what is important to you, that don’t hurt your head. Remember to get regular sleep, eat regularly, avoid your Migraine triggers, and enjoy the joys of the season!

Author's Bio: 

Megan Oltman is a migraineur, an entrepreneur, and a Migraine Management Coach, helping migraineurs and people with chronic illness manage their lives, keep working, start and maintain businesses, and live purposeful lives. She also practices as a professional divorce mediator. Over the years, she's been a practicing attorney, a free-lance writer, and a business coach and advisor. Megan has a free Migraine management course, The Six Keys to Manage your Migraines and Take Back your Life, available at www.takebackyourlifefrommigraine.com. Her writings on Migraine and more tools for managing life with Migraine can be found at www.freemybrain.com