If you have ever experienced a migraine while at work, you know how hard it is to keep performing when all you want to do is find a cool, dark, place to wait it out. Not only is the pain excruciating but all the noise, light, and activity just makes the headache worse. Rather than have to cope with the pain, try to explain to fellow workers or a boss who probably would not see it as anything major, it is better to try to avoid the experience if possible.
If you haven’t done it yet, the first step to avoiding migraines while at work is to know your migraine triggers. These can be foods, environmental substances, and other things that help bring on your migraines. Start keeping a migraine journal indicating when you get the headache, what you ate before the headache occurred, the duration, and how often they come. By doing this, you get a better handle on what increases the chances of a migraine so you can take steps to reduce their frequency or avoid them.
If a migraine does start at work, taking medication as soon as the pain starts can help to prevent the headache from getting out of control so be prepared. Headache sufferers should keep all of their non-sedating medications at work. This includes anti-inflammatory and migraine-specific medications. If possible, retreat to a break room or a quiet space while you’re waiting for the medication to start working. Just keep the heavy stuff at home like any narcotics or medicines with reactions of which you are un-aware.
WAYS TO CURB MIGRAINE TRIGGERS AT WORK
Since there is always the possibility of getting a migraine while at work, here are some tips to help curb the triggers that may be responsible for your migraines.
Drink more water. Dehydration is a common migraine trigger. Try to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Limit caffeine. Caffeine is dehydrating and acts as a diuretic. Plus, too much caffeine can be a trigger for some people.
Avoid salty foods. Since salt dehydrates, you’ll have to drink even more to make up for those salty chips or nuts.
Call for back-up. In some situations, like teaching or working in a call center, it can be tough to take a bathroom break. This is why it is important to have a back-up plan in place in case you become overwhelmed with a migraine. Talk to your boss or supervisor to devise a way to take a break for a few minutes if an emergency should happen. When a migraine hits, you have a back-up plan ready to implement.
Don’t let yourself get hungry. Hunger is a common headache trigger. Be sure to get that lunch break and make sure you have additional snacks to eat. Avoid sugary snacks and instead, opt for healthier fare, such as un-salted nuts, protein bars, and fruit.
Dim triggers. If glare from a computer screen bothers you, put an anti-glare screen protector on your computer screen. See if you can move to another cubicle if yours is right under direct, florescent lighting or where there are other triggers, such as smells or loud noises.
Check your set-up. If you have a desk job, the ergonomics of your desk matter. Something as simple as setting your computer screen at an appropriate level so you aren’t looking up or down can help prevent headaches.
Reduce job stress. Stress is the most common trigger for migraines so be mindful of stress-related triggers at work, and find ways to minimize them as much as possible. For example, scheduling tasks one at a time throughout the day instead of trying to multi-task often helps.
Change the scene. Make a break, a short walk, or some other outing part of your day. A lunch away from the office can be very relaxing. If you can’t leave work, simply stepping away from your desk for short periods may cut tension. If you spend a significant amount of time at a computer station, spend 15 minutes every two hours away from the computer.
Schedule downtime. When you’re under stress, it’s important to give yourself time to recover. Take vacations when they’re due. You’re better off with mini-vacations than storing it all up.
WHEN YOU HAVE TO SHARE
Usually, it’s a good idea to keep your personal life separate from work life. However, if you’ve tried to quietly remove migraine triggers from work, and it’s not working, or if you find yourself having to leave the office frequently because migraine symptoms are interfering with your job performance, it may be time to let your boss and/or co-workers know about your migraines.
There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Here are some tips.
If you have a wear something personal because of migraine triggers, like sunglasses indoors, avoid telling only some people around the office and not others. If you tell only some people, it starts to look like you’re playing favorites.
Limit what you share. For example, no one needs to hear about how often your migraines cause you to vomit. Keep it light, and don’t try to get people to feel sorry for you.
If you don’t think your boss will understand, ask your doctor for a note confirming your migraine condition and your work-based triggers.
Many large employers have an occupational department or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where you can get professional help planning the best way to talk with your boss and co-workers about your migraines, and any special accommodations you may need in order to do your job. Also, your company’s Human Resources department is another place to turn for help if you don’t have an EAP.
If your headaches frequently disrupt your work day, don’t make excuses or fall into a pattern of asking others to complete your work. After a while it will breed resentment. If possible, take work home to complete when you’re feeling better or come in from time to time on the weekend to finish whatever was left undone during the week.
Migraines can be classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Whether or not you classify depends upon the degree to which your condition limits your ability to do your job. Since it is against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of a disability, know your rights because most of the time, they won’t know them. That’s why talking with your company’s Human Resources department can be an important way of protecting yourself if your condition gets in the way of your work.
If you are prone to migraines and get them frequently, going through the formal chain of command to discuss your condition and how to best manage workplace issues would be to your best interest.