Posts Tagged ‘stress management’

Reducing Holiday Stress – Blog Carnival

December 6th, 2009

The theme for the December 2009 Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is “Advice on & experiences with reducing holiday season stress.” This will be the Blog Carnival’s second anniversary issue, so please consider joining in! I’ve missed the carnival myself for the past few months but I’m planning a post this time. We all know that Migraines can make our holidays much harder – let’s share how we cope! To participate just use the form on the carnival web site or contact Diana Lee over at Somebody Heal Me.

- Megan

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Posted in Managing, Weblogs | Comments (1)

Running on Fumes

March 14th, 2009

A while back I wrote a… um… post (rant?) about how stress is not a Migraine trigger (officially) but… why does it seem that way to us so frequently?  The International Headache Society calls stress an aggravating factor, in other words, it’s not considered a trigger, but a factor that can make us more susceptible to our triggers, perhaps lower our threshold to be triggered into a Migraine.  As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on this question.  Given that hormonal fluctuations are one of the biggest triggering factors, (such as the hormonal fluctuations that give women menstrual Migraines and increases or decreases in Migraines around menopause), and given that our bodies react to and cope with stress by release of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine, among others), I’m betting research will eventually show that changes in stress hormone levels play a role in triggering Migraine attacks.

I’ve spoken with Teri Robert, author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches, about this topic.  Teri makes several good points – the level of stress in our lives may be largely out of our control, while individual triggers may be in our control.  Therefore if we focus on stress, we may be focusing on something we can do little about, rather than on something we can change.  And, if we blame stress we may be missing other triggers that being stressed makes us forget.  Do you sleep well, or enough, when you are stressed? Do you eat well, regularly, or enough? Do you overdo it on caffeine?

As so often happens, I had a chance recently to be my own guinea pig for these speculations.  I was given a rush project to complete over a weekend, and my world became all about getting it done.  It took me back to college, law school, and my early days as a lawyer, when a project could take over everything, and sleep, food, everything else would go on the back burner. It’s not a mode of operations I have used much in the past decade, and clearly not one that is good for me, but boy was it familiar!

On the second day of the project I woke up early after not enough sleep, my head full of the research I had to do.  I whizzed through getting my son off to school, and whatever I had to do of my morning routine, and was at my desk and deeply immersed in legal research before nine in the morning.  I was alert, turned on, and my mind was moving fast.  I was drinking more coffee than I usually do, and I noticed I had little appetite, and less tolerance for taking the time to eat, or rest.  I don’t know exactly when I noticed, but I could see it coming.  I was definitely pushing myself beyond normal endurance limits, and I could actually feel the point where the stress hormones took over.  When I was 25, I could run like that for several days without triggering a Migraine.  Now I could feel the lurking heaviness around the margins of my mind, crowding right in on the heels of my adrenaline high.  I caught myself before I lost much sleep, or skipped many meals, or propped myself up on much more caffeine than usual.  I forced myself to stop and rest, and although I couldn’t nap with all that caffeine in my system, I did lay down and do relaxation exercises, and I did manage to avoid the Migraine I felt threatening.  My hat is off to Teri for good practical advice, because if I was busy blaming the stress, I could not have attended to the triggers in this way.

I realize I’m not telling you a tale of a Migraine, but of a Migraine averted, and that’s good news. That’s actually another post, for another day, and I’ve written others on the theme – you can push those triggers back at times, and stopping and relaxing can do it. That’s why I offer relaxation teleclasses and recordings!  But if I hadn’t been so aware, and hadn’t had that tool; if my Migraines weren’t managed to the degree they are, I would have had a Migraine that day. In fact, I had one at the end of the project, three days later!

So, was the stress itself a trigger, one in the stack, with the lack of sleep, insufficient food, and excess caffeine? Was the stress an exacerbating factor that made me more vulnerable to the effects of the other three triggers? Or was the stress the producer of the stupidity that made me willfully expose myself to those triggers, the very things I so carefully manage my life to avoid? What do you think?

- Megan

Dashboard image courtesy of Winstonavich/Winston.

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Posted in Managing | Comments (4)

More Time Management for Migraineurs: Managing the Time we Have

May 28th, 2008

Do try this at home.  And at work.  I wrote a post a while back on How do you Manage Life with Migraine?, about managing our time when migraines interrupt us all the time.  Those of you receiving the newsletter got an expanded version of that post in the article “Time Management for Migraineurs (or, how can you get everything done when you can’t get anything done?).” 

The gist of those pieces was that 1) whatever is on your list, you must learn to accept that you will never get it all done; 2) you need to choose what is most important to you and put those things in your schedule first; and 3) if you keep detailed lists of what you are working on, next steps, what you need to handle if you get sick, and what you need to care for yourself, you will best be able to pick up where you left off.  I  recommend Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, as the best system I have come across for managing your time to make sure that you spend it on what is most important to you.  And as I mentioned last week, Teri Robert has taken this idea of list-making and planning for Migraines much further in the helpful article MAPP Your Migraine!

All of that said, it occurred to me last week that I had left an important piece out.  This may look like a blinding flash of the obvious, but it hit me that a key piece to making this all work is that we can only manage the time we have.  Please don’t say “Duh” yet.  Take a moment to let this sink in.

I read an intriguing post on How to Cope with Pain earlier this month, called Time Management and Pain.  What intrigued me was that rather than laying out any nitty-gritty on scheduling and managing time, the article focused on “pacing ourselves and keeping stress to a minimum.”  In other words, to manage time, we need to manage our own, often over-achieving and denial-ridden, selves! 

We can only manage the time we have.  I looked back over my Migraine and Wellness calendars for theJan last 5 years.  I’m happy to say that my time spent incapacitated by Migraine and my other illnesses decreased over those 5 years from 27% of the time to 22% of the time.  I have focused on increasing that
trend, with mixed results.  I go up and down; there are months where I’m down more than I’m up.  What I have not always remembered is that, however you slice it, I will be down for the count about 25% of the time. 

When I look at a beautiful, clear, blank work week in my calendar, I can’t say, “Oh, goody, 50-60 working hours to schedule into!”  Into that week I need to put all of the things that allow me to maintain my health, to pace myself and keep stress to a minimum.  For me that includes exercise every day that I am capable of doing it.  It includes 20 minutes of meditation or relaxation practice every day.  It includes eating lunch away from my desk – taking breaks that are real breaks.  And once I have put all those things in, that help me keep stress down and stay well, I still only have about 75% of the remaining time available for my work! 

This means if I set deadlines for myself, I set them taking that
percentage of time into consideration.  It means when I block out my
week, I leave blocks of “not working” time.  It means when I come right
down to it, I have about 27 hours of productive working time that I can
count on in a week.   Now I’m not a workplace productivity expert, but
I have worked in a lot of places, for others and for myself, and I
don’t think many people are really productive much more of their time
than that. 

I have felt such freedom since I have been scheduling this way!   My
productive100_0510 time tends to be really productive; I stay focused on what
I’ve set out to accomplish in that time, knowing that I have a
break coming.  I can use my “not-working” time for those
water-cooler type conversations we tend to have at work, or for actual
work if I choose.  Of course I can’t control that I will schedule my
migraines into the hours I have allotted, but there’s room in the
schedule to rearrange things when I do get sick.  And when I am sick I
don’t worry about what’s not getting done.  Without the added stress of
that worry, I can recover faster.

Since I am self-employed, I know I have more freedom around these issues than some of you who hold down “regular” jobs.  But you can find ways to use these ideas.  It may be about how you approach your time away from work.  It may be about how you pace yourself at work.  Please share your thoughts on managing the time you actually have!

- Megan

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Posted in Managing, Tips & Techniques | Comments (2)

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