Contributed by Eileen Zollinger
Traveling is exciting, nerve-wracking, anxiety producing and sometimes just plain boring, especially if you have to travel often for work and don’t especially enjoy the process. For people with migraine, travel can provide other challenges as well. It’s usually a time when we stack many triggers on top of each other (i.e. skipping meals, dehydration, diet no’s, stress, pressure changes…) and end up with a migraine either before we leave, or shortly after we arrive at our destination.
The month of March has been a month of travel for me. Fun travel. I traveled to Arizona with my best friend to watch some spring training baseball and I will be traveling with my family on spring break to visit extended family and play in a fun golf tournament. All of those things are things I enjoy and will take pleasure in doing. However, migraines are something to manage around travel, just like any other time.
The Arizona trip required an airplane flight which is always a tricky endeavor for me due to the change in pressure. I usually plan my packing several days ahead to avoid a stress let down migraine once I get on the road. I was behind in my planning this time, so I could feel the stress climbing (Trigger 1) and a migraine was lurking in the background. I packed up my belongings, drove the two hours to my friend’s house, during a snow storm (Trigger 2) and we chatted until bedtime, still feeling the lurking migraine. I didn’t sleep well (Trigger 3) and we had an early flight (Trigger 4). Traveling with Lori is a piece of cake because she travels for work often and knows all the ins and outs of airports. I felt ok all day and the migraine didn’t hit until the next morning. Sigh. Luckily, I had time to take my rescue cocktail and rest before our first game and (the best) I was traveling with someone that was super understanding of my situation. I felt better soon enough and we were off to the game. Even though I was very tired, I enjoyed our time together and the game was awesome. The rest of the trip went off without a hitch and my head was fine. And yes, I did get another migraine from the flight home, but because I was relaxed and not stressed, it was mild.
When I talked to my headache specialist about the air travel, he said that taking a rescue med before flying can sometimes avoid the inevitable migraine that is caused by the various changes in pressure from flying. I will certainly keep that in mind for my next flying excursion, especially because I already had a migraine lurking before I boarded that initial flight. I think because I am so cautious about not taking more than two doses of rescue meds in any given week, I didn’t want to take one before the flight and then have to take another when I arrived in Arizona.
As I finish up this blog, I will begin packing for the trip I’m taking with my family. I will try to shut out all thoughts of work and really focus on relaxing through the process of organizing and not getting too ramped up with excitement or stress over making sure everyone has everything they need for the trip. I usually make lists and try to take breaks to relax while packing so that my mind doesn’t get too stressed. That seems to be the key to not having the stress let down effect that seems to trigger so many of us into getting these types of migraines.
If you are getting ready for a spring break trip, take time to take care of yourself so that you can enjoy the time with your family and friends. Stick to your diet, as much as possible, and do the best you can to enjoy the moment. How do you manage your multiple triggers when traveling? If you would like assistance with trigger stacking or identifying and managing your triggers contact us.