How you can help manage your migraine

Do you keep a diary?

If you have migraine, you can keep a special kind of diary called a headache diary. Each day, you write down what you’ve been doing, what you have eaten and drunk, how stressed you have felt etc. You also write down if you have had a migraine attack, how it made you feel and how long it lasted.

Keeping this kind of diary for three months or more will help you and your doctor work out what your migraine triggers might be.

There are two different ways to keep your headache diary. You can print off a paper diary (like this one) and fill it in, or you can use an app on your phone. Migraine Buddy and HeadApp are good and free to use.

If you prefer not to use an app and would like to create your own diary, here are some questions to ask yourself each day:

  • What did I eat and drink?
  • Have I had alcohol?
  • What time did I wake up?
  • Did I go to school?
  • Do I feel worried?
  • Have I banged my head?
  • Did I do any sports or games?
  • Did I watch TV?
  • Did I play videogames or play games on my iPad/tablet?
  • Did I go out with my friends or family?
  • Did I go out with my friends or family?

Then, answer these questions about how you feel:

  • Does my head hurt?
  • Does my stomach hurt?
  • Do I feel sick?
  • Have I been sick?
  • Am I tired?
  • Am I dizzy?
  • Have I seen spots, wiggles or bright lights?
  • Can I hear things like normal?
  • Can I talk normally?
  • Am I feeling unwell in any other way?

Your diary will be very helpful for your doctor. They will use it to work out which triggers are causing your migraine attacks and then help you avoid or manage these triggers.

Alcohol and migraine

You might have heard that alcohol is a common migraine trigger and that’s true. Not everyone with migraine is triggered by alcohol, and some people are only affected by certain amounts or types of alcohol. Red wine is known for being a trigger for many people.

If you drink alcohol and notice you have a migraine attack shortly after drinking or the next morning, it may be a migraine trigger for you. If this happens, it’s best to not drink lots of alcohol or to not drink at all.

It can be hard to not drink if all your friends are, especially if they are pressuring you to drink like them. The best thing to do is explain what your migraine feels like and why you have to be careful with alcohol so that they understand.

There’s nothing wrong with not drinking; lots of people don’t drink for health reasons or because they simply choose not to. You also don’t need alcohol to have fun.

If you do drink, it’s important to not drink in excess whether or not you have migraine as it can be bad for your body.

Managing your migraine

Alcohol isn’t the only trigger you might need to avoid if you have migraine. Once you have kept a migraine diary for a few months, you will hopefully have been able to work out which things trigger your migraine. It might be feeling stressed, skipping meals, or changes in the weather. Lots of people with migraine will have more than one trigger.

Just one trigger on its own might not always trigger a migraine attack, but a few together can. So, if you’ve already been exposed to one, it might be best to avoid others. For example, if you are on your period and drinking alcohol is a migraine trigger for you, it may be best to avoid it.

Sometimes avoiding triggers means missing out on social events, school or sports matches. You might feel like you just need to curl up in a dark room and go to sleep for a few hours or go to bed early if it is the evening. It can be really frustrating, but it’s OK.

Everyone has to miss out from time to time and staying at home and getting a good rest will help to end your migraine attack quicker. It is much better to do this than to power through your migraine attack and pretend you feel fine because you don’t want to miss out on things at school or with your friends.

We all need to stop and rest sometimes. It’s all about pacing yourself.