Guest Post by Marina from MigraineStrong
Most parents will agree that parenting is hard. When parenting is affected by illness, chronic pain, or other physical or mental challenges, it often feels almost impossible. When we struggle on a regular basis to take care of ourselves, how can we take care of our little humans? I have been parenting with migraine for 6 years. Through experience, I have developed some strategies which help me manage my migraine and make parenting with migraine easier.
Improve Sleep for Yourself and Kids
Sleep loss and oversleeping are common migraine triggers. According to American Migraine Foundation, people living with migraine are up to eight times more likely to have sleep problems than the general population.
I have insomnia and do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. My kids who are 5 and 4 wake me up in the middle of the night as well. This has a dramatic effect on my migraine disease, as well as the rest of my well being. This is exactly why I can appreciate how important it is for parents and people with migraine to get an adequate amount of sleep.
According to WebMD, one habit which is difficult for parents to break and which exacerbates sleep deprivation is mothers staying up late after putting kids to bed. This is one thing I am certainly guilty of. It’s only natural to want to spend some time alone after spending the day putting on someone else’s shoes, making lunches and snacks, doing laundry, answering questions, negotiating who will clean up their rooms, or breaking up the fights. When the kids go to sleep, I want to relax, read a book or watch a TV show. So instead of going to bed earlier to make up for the sleep we lose at night, we stay up later, missing out on more precious sleep. But going to bed right after the kids go to bed is exactly how we can improve our sleep.
What has helped me to improve sleep the most is listening to a guided meditation app before bed or if I wake up in the middle of the night. I also use this cooling weighted blanket, which helps me to relax at the end of the night and fall asleep.
We are all different and there are many other strategies you can try that can help. Here are several tips to improve sleep for people with migraine.
Ultimately nothing helps parents improve sleep than having their kids sleep better. We use these weighted blankets for our kids. They are soft and bright. The kids love cuddling with them on the couch and sleep with them at night. The weighted blankets are designed to increase the feeling of comfort and security. They have a calming effect on children who find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Find out more about the benefits of weighted blankets for children and adults.
Be Prepared for an Attack
Being prepared can make parenting with migraine easier. Personally, it helps me to reduce the stress when I get a migraine attack or a chronic illness flare. Migraine attacks often develop at inconvenient times, which makes parenting with migraine more difficult. Therefore, it’s important for parents to have our medication and relief kit available when we get an attack.
Everyone has different ways to manage their migraine attacks. However, there are basic items that should be in everyone's migraine relief kit. What should you put in your migraine relief kit? Here is a list of 11 essential items to keep in your migraine relief kit.
Heat therapy or cooling therapy can help ease the pain, comfort, and distract from the misery. Huggaroo makes a wonderful microwavable heating pad for the head and sinuses (the Huggaroo Soothe), which is available with lavender or unscented. I find it absolutely invaluable during migraine attacks. The fabric is super soft and feels wonderful against the skin. The heat is moist and pleasant.
If you prefer cold during a migraine attack, check out the Huggaroo Ice Comfort cold compress. It is made of comfortable fabric and contains 9 individual gel ice packs. It secures snuggly around your head with an extra soft hook and loop fastener. It has a silky side and a plush side, allowing you to control just how cold you want it to be. The silky side feels ice cold, while the plush side feels gently cool. It's a wonderful product.
As an aside, I also love my Huggaroo Original neck heating pad (I have the aromatherapy version in blue). It soothes neck pain and muscle tension. I've discovered that if I use it early enough during a migraine attack - especially if the symptoms are starting with tension in my neck and shoulders - it may even prevent an attack from occurring. Honestly, I use this product all the time. Even when I'm not in the middle of a horrible migraine, it just feels so comforting and soothing. By the way, out of consideration for migraine sufferers who are frequently sensitive to smells, especially during migraine attacks, Huggaroo developed an unscented version of their Original neck heating pad.
Other ways to be prepared is to freeze meals so they are easy to serve on days you have migraine attacks. You can find delicious migraine diet recipes on The Dizzy Cook.
Have a Plan for Kids
According to WebMD, Some parents say that they can continue to spend time with their children when they have a migraine if they can find quiet, calm activities to do together.
There are so many activities that the kids can do on their own quietly next to you when you are having an attack. Plan them out when you are having a low pain or no pain day to prepare for bad days.
Here is a list of 10 quiet activities that your kids can play with independently while you are having a migraine attack. My kids’ current favorites are PicassoTiles and Doodle Mats! We also let the kids use Amazon Kindle tablets and have movie nights together to rescue us during migraine attacks.
Practicing self care strategies can help you manage your migraine disease and help you be a better parent. The best selfcare strategy is the one that works for you. When I make self-care a priority I find myself reenergized. Some of my favorite ways to practice self-care is to spend some time alone, listen to an audio book, and get a pedicure.
Here are also some of my favorites which I hope you will be able to incorporate into your self-care routine:
- Guided meditation using Calm app;
- Listening to an audio book;
- Taking an Epsom salt bath or soaking feet in the magnesium chloride flakes;
- Getting a manicure or a pedicure;
- Spending time with friends;
- Spending time in nature;
- Listen to music;
- Join a book club;
- Go for a walk;
- Write in a Gratitude Journal;
Parenting with migraine can feel very lonely and isolating. Motherhood is already a very lonely experience. A recent UK survey found that 90 percent of mothers felt lonely since having children and 54 percent felt “friendless” after giving birth. Mothers who suffer from chronic migraine are at a higher risk of loneliness. Loneliness can have a tremendous impact on our psychological and physical health.
After years of suffering with chronic migraine as a new mother, I turned to Facebook and was relieved when I found migraine support groups. Migraine support groups offer support, advice, and a feel of community to those of us who need it the most. They can even help you create friendships. It was when I joined the private Migraine Strong Facebook Group that I met the people who supported me on my wellness journey to take control of migraine. Here are some tips for finding the right migraine support group.
Sharing your experiences with a group of people who suffer from similar chronic conditions helps us feel less alone. It also help us make friendships with people we have things in common.
I also joined the MOMs Club in my town. Our calendar quickly filled up with play dates, service projects, and craft activities. I developed beautiful friendships with beautiful women. Although they do not know what it is like to live with migraine disease, they are all fighting their own battles. And at the end of the day, parenting small humans is something we all have in common.
You Are Doing Your Best
It is true that parenting with migraine is overwhelming and presents many challenges. I hope that these 5 tips help you to manage migraine and parenting successfully. Remember, you are not alone and you are doing your best.
Marina has chronic migraine and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children, Liam and Ella. She is part owner of Migraine Strong, an organization dedicated to helping people manage migraine through lifestyle and best medical practices. She is also a migraine advocate on Instagram offering hope and support for people with chronic migraine, especially those who are parents.