7 Migraine Safety Tips in the Zoom Era
COVID-19 has transformed the way we live, work, and interact. For example, previously restricted for companies, videoconferencing technology is now being utilised for everything from nonstop work meetings to yoga lessons to baby showers and holiday dinners. This is bad news for those of us who suffer from migraines and find that screen time is a trigger. It’s no wonder that my agony has reached a new personal low during this period of incessant Zoom meetings and persistent existential dread.
I’ve experienced migraines since high school, and stress has always been a trigger for me. However, in July, it hit a new high, with 26 headache days and a more vivid aura than I’d ever known. Migraine had taken over my body to the point where my eyes were basically non-functional, and the rest of my body had shut down in tiredness. Since then, I’ve had to make major changes in my life, such as limiting my screen time to a few hours each day and even abandoning a job I liked. These are significant shifts at any period, but in 2020, stress feels pervasive, and so much of life is mediated by screens. Fortunately, I’ve learned some coping strategies for living with migraine in this new “normal.”
Talk with your doctor
This is the most obvious point, but like many migraine sufferers, I often need that extra push to see my neurologist when something isn’t right. It doesn’t help that by the time something is wrong, the nature of migraine makes reaching out practically difficult. I had assumed that my doctor could do nothing for me, but it turned out that the medications available during the epidemic were changing. We’re still playing with my routine, but I have more options than I imagined. Regardless, any sudden or extreme change in your condition should always be reported to your doctor.
Build a better migraine rescue kit
I used to carry an over-the-counter pain reliever and my abortive migraine prescription with me at all times, like many individuals who suffer from chronic migraine, but I didn’t have much else. If you can, buy a version of whatever offers you symptom relief to put in migraine rescue kits you keep at home and carry with you when you leave the house. I find that mentholated patches for my neck and forehead, as well as a mentholated gel for my neck and shoulders, provide some relief while I wait for my prescription to take effect.
This works for me, but it’s not a conventional migraine treatment and may not work for you, particularly if mentholated items are a trigger for you. I finally bit the bullet and bought some ice packs designed exclusively for my head, face, and neck, and now I’m wondering why I waited so long. Not every product with the word “migraine” in the title is worthwhile, but I find that evaluations from other migraine sufferers are thorough. The fees can pile up, which is irritating, but at least I feel like I’m gaining control and getting some relief, which is something we all deserve.
Limit screen time if you can
This is significant since our employment and schools, as well as our family gatherings, social lives, community activities, and children’s schools, have all moved online. According to research Trusted Source, excessive screen time is related with migraine in young adults, and screen time was a definite acute trigger for me personally.
I discussed my screen time limits with my boss and planned my day so that I could take breaks. They were quite understanding, but in the end, I abandoned most of my volunteer and activist positions, as well as my employment, in order to get my health under control and finish my graduate degree. I hope that isn’t the case for others, but I didn’t feel like I had many options.
Consider Migraine Glasses
Unfortunately, not all workplaces are accommodating, and for many, staring at a computer screen all day for work is inescapable. Tinted light sensitivity glasses, such as TheraSpecs, may be useful in this instance. According to research Trusted Source, rose-colored lenses, or FL-41 lenses, may be beneficial for patients who suffer from light-sensitive chronic migraine.
Find low-stress, screen-free activities
To avoid mindlessly stressing my eyes and brain, I began doing puzzle books to pass the time when I would normally play solitaire or check up on news on Twitter on my phone. I like to buy puzzles in a variety of difficulty levels so that I can do simple sudoku when I’m bored yet unable to think clearly due to a migraine hangover (aka “postdrome”).
Another preference is audiobooks. My local library lends out audiobooks via a digital platform that I can access via my phone, making it simple to listen while taking a preventive screen break. It’s by far my favorite form of self-care to listen to young adult literature, lesbian romance, and science fiction/fantasy.
Whether you like to trek in the mountains or ride around town, the natural outdoors is the ultimate in screen-free stress reduction. I enjoy taking walks with my niece, and my family discovered that canoeing and kayaking are excellent COVID-safe sports due to the natural separation involved. Personally, I disagree with the oft-repeated (but rarely studied) recommendation to exercise to prevent migraine attacks since, while it may be true for some, it’s difficult to fit in time at the gym when you’re in agony.
During the winter, though, I’ve discovered that any excuse to get outside, whether it’s relaxing on a porch in the sun or running in the backyard with my niece, correlates to less stress and less screen time.
Advocate for yourself
I use voice solely on some Zoom calls and don’t look at the screen. On others, I proudly sport my ice pack headwear. With my COVID pod, I’m a lot more open about my migraines than I was previously. It’s difficult to explain why I kept it to myself when I was in pain earlier, but only my closest family members and a few friends truly understood how horrible it was.
It’s not for everyone, and I don’t always feel up to it, but telling my graduate school students why I had a funny object on my head early in the semester meant I didn’t have to answer inquiries about it anymore. My pod offers to pick up migraine supplies when they go grocery shopping, and they’re unaffected by my wearing a full-face ice pack or laying down in the living room to rest my eyes while they watch TV.
Prioritize your health
Perhaps the most significant change that has resulted from all of this is a shift in my mindset: I can no longer afford to prioritize anything other than my health. I hadn’t noticed how much I prioritized other people’s demands over my own until my migraine bouts became more frequent and forced the issue. I’ve gone to or stayed at social responsibilities while in pain, as have many other migraine sufferers. I’ve worked more workdays than I can remember, only stopping for personal reasons.
Given how severely it has impacted my health and other elements of my life, my only option is to take better care of myself – whether it is inconvenient for others or not.
Keep in your mind
Managing migraine in this day and age of increased screen usage and stress is still a work in progress for me. While we are unlikely to be able to escape the fact that Zoom is here to stay, we can take efforts to advocate for and care for ourselves at this trying period.