Learning from your migraine condition on holidays

I took a few weeks off to a magical destination soon after the New Year. A 14 hour plane ride left behind my phone reception, the stress from work and my regular routine.

And what a difference it made.

Shortly into my trip I realised how many bad habits had sneakily crept back into my regular routine and had been causing problems.

Inadvertently, once again, I had been making things worse for myself. Here's the list:

  1. Driving
  2. Sitting at work & Posture
  3. Insufficient Exercise
  4. Stress

These may look relatively simple or obvious. But it things like this usually are in hindsight. The first issue was my driving. I was driving to and from work each day for an hour. Sitting the car driving makes it difficult to keep a healthy neck posture. This puts strain on my neck for 5 days a week, 2 hours a day. That adds up very quickly over the weeks and months.

The next issue was sitting down for 9 hours a day. At work I'm at the computer or in meetings. It's a sedentary job and despite my best efforts, my posture it still not great. I'm getting better. But it's still negatively affecting my migraines. My neck and my headaches are undeniably related. Regardless, sitting down for that long is not great for your health in many other ways. This article from Harvard goes so far as to claim that sitting is the new smoking of our generation.

On my holiday I exercised most days and felt great. But this wasn't the case before the trip. I told myself that I was just too busy in the lead up to Christmas. And I didn't realise how much it affected me until I started again.

The last issue was stress. The physiological impact that stress has on the body over time is remarkable. The body follows the mind. There are so many studies that discuss the impact of stress on our body:

  •  60-80% of outpatient visits may be related to stress ( Rosch, 1991; Avey, Matheny, Robbins & Jacobson, 2003)
  • Stress is linked to all leading physical causes of death incl heart disease, cancer & stroke ( Cohen, Janice-Deverts & Miller, 2007)
  • Stress is associated with the development of most major mental health problems - depression, PSTD, pathologic aging (Marin et al. 2011).

The facts to reduce stress are overwhelmingly compelling. With a bit more exercise and the removal of a few other stressors like the driving, sitting and a little more relation and the difference was incredible. I slept better, had more energy, my migraine threshold was higher. Everything improved by a multitude.

With the holiday season now past the temptation is to slip into old habits. It's easy to wind down whilst on holiday, but I'm determined not to let this sense of well being pass so quickly. I'm looking at new alternatives to avoid the travel to work. I'm more conscious than ever of my posture. I'm even considering investing in a standing desk.  

I'm attempting to break up the work day with exercise at lunch. And to make time for further stress reducing activities including daily meditation, reading and taking some time out.  

The relationship between exercise, stress and sleep is incredibly powerful. They all help and reinforce each other. When your doing each of them even a little bit better than before, your migraines and general health improve significantly. At least that's been the experience I've had personally and what I've seen in others.

How about you? What did you discover about your condition recently? Do you find a special relationship between migraines and exercise sleep or stress?

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