One of the first things you learn when you started dealing with your migraines is to identify and avoid triggers. I learned this shortly after a murderous 5 day migraine I had in Arizona – I was at higher altitudes than I was used to, and there were forest fires all week, exposing me to lots of smoke. I was drinking way more coffee than usual to keep up with a busy vacation schedule with lots of driving. Voila – smoke + altitude + excess caffeine = nasty head-banging five day migraine. For those of you living in Arizona – I don’t hold it against you or your state! It’s a beautiful corner of the world and I wish I had been able to visit with less pain.

Anyway this experience started me on an important inquiry – what are my triggers, and how can I avoid them?

There are common migraine triggers and then the ones that seem relatively unique to each of us. For one it’s eating dairy, drinking wine, for another flashing lights, particular smells, loud music, smoke, being startled, being in a crowd of loudly talking people, the bright packaging at the supermarket, the tv. It’s important to know what your migraine triggers are. If your brain is a loaded gun, ready to fire off with a migraine, and you know what pulls the trigger, that helps, right? You can avoid the triggering event or substance and reduce the likelihood that you’ll get a migraine.

Some lifestyle changes may be necessary to avoid triggers. Get into a regular sleep routine. Stop eating dairy. Stay away from places with flashing lights. Avoid smokers. (Just for instance. For a complete list of common triggers, visit If you live with a smoker, you may need to an agreement that he or she won't smoke in the house. If you smoke yourself, you may need to make a major change! If your kid's hard rock music does it, you may need to have some rules around when and how loud it can be on. But some triggers are unavoidable, and we can't avoid all of them all the time.

So I started asking myself “ those may be the triggers, but what loaded the gun in the first place? By the way, it's most unfair of me to be comparing our unique, sensitive and brilliant brains to guns. I hate guns. But we can't deny the violence of the migraine. And even if you are a gun owner, I think we'd all agree that you've got to keep the thing unloaded around the house to avoid tragic accidents. So what loaded my migraine gun, and how can I keep it unloaded?

Migraine is a response to triggering stimuli. Current thinking is that stress itself is not a trigger but may predispose us to be more vulnerable to our triggers. You can read more about that by visiting For me, over-stimulation itself is enough of a stress to tip me over into migraine, even if I'm not aware of any other triggers. On some stereo speakers you can turn the volume way up, others you will blow out by turning them up high. Our brains have the blow-out factor set way lower than the other 88 – 90% of the population. So, I say when we are stressed for a long period of time without relief, when we are highly stimulated without relief or let-down, we are loaded for migraine. We may have an ability to go into hyper-drive, to perform effectively, rapidly and intensely. But the more we do that, the more often and the longer duration, the more likely we are to load ourselves for a migraine explosion.

It takes more attention, more thought, more observation and introspection to determine your early warning signs than to determine your triggers. The good news is that if you do get attuned to them, you have a much higher likelihood of avoiding the migraine altogether. When I took on a daily relaxation practice, doing deep breathing and meditation to calm my system down every day, I reduced my migraines. When I got out of practice, the migraines started increasing again.

So what's your early warning system? For me it's a tightness in the shoulders and neck that moves up into my head. Also a sense of agitation “ moving and thinking really fast. What are the signs for you that come before the triggers, the ones you have the best chance of diffusing?


Hoping you catch your signals before the guns go off!

Author's Bio: 

If you practice generating the breeze, you can calm your system and reduce your Migraines. If you want to make it easier to practice, join us for the Free my Brain relaxation teleclasses. I will be leading a group in learning and practicing yoga breathing and full body relaxation, and guided visualization, in two 35 minute teleclasses, coming up. Visit to read more or to register for the BREESE teleclasses.