Handling the “Next Normal”

By Dana

Migraineurs and spoonies quickly learn that change doesn’t operate on a schedule. Treatments work until they don’t. Doctors order new medications or regimens. Migraines and pain flares occur even with the best management programs.

Patients often find themselves working to adjust to a different course of treatment, only to find they have to change everything a month or so later. It isn’t a new normal so much as a “next normal.”

Our theme this month is “Looking Back & Looking Forward.” With that thought in mind, I’ve developed five steps to help migraineurs and spoonies handle their “next normals.”

1. Prioritize Within Priorities:

If asked what matters most, nearly everyone will say ‘Family, Friends, Work.’ Some may add hobbies that play an important role in their life.

For this process to work, it’s necessary to dig a little deeper. Are there particular activities with family or friends that you simply wouldn’t miss? Reunions or birthday celebrations? Trips to the beach? Super Bowl parties? Keep track of them, because we’ll come back to them in a minute. There’s no right answer here, only what matters to you.

Work, admittedly, is tougher. It tends to be less flexible, and more necessary. Make note of work schedules, the commute (if any), and other factors that might affect migraines or pain levels.

2. Remember Good Times… and Bad:

Think about past experiences in each of the priority areas. Try to be specific and focus on details. Were there any meetings or social gatherings that went especially well? Did you ever have to leave early because of a migraine or pain flare? Can you identify any migraine triggers in the situation (light, noise, smells)?

The objective is being able to continue with the things that matter to you, but without increasing migraines or pain levels. Remembering what worked before, and what didn’t, is key to achieving this goal.

3. Listen, Learn, Share:

If you’re starting a new medication or treatment, try to get as much information about it as you can. Be sure to check for interactions with your other medications (including vitamins and herbal compounds). Share your goals with your doctor or health practitioner. They may simply refer you elsewhere, but it’s important to have them in the loop. If they don’t offer advice on how to reach your goals, ask for reference material or ways to find a support group.

Not everyone feels comfortable sharing details about pain management goals with family, friends, and employers. In this instance, I’d suggest letting your own feelings and past experiences be the guide.

4. Proceed Cautiously:

Take baby steps when implementing your updated routine. Phase in adjustments carefully, over weekends if possible. Be sure to tell your doctor if unusual side effects occur with any medications or treatments.

In a perfect world, you’d adapt before taking part in social or work-related activities. Most of us don’t live in a perfect world. This is where the memories of past experiences in Section 2 can help.

As an example, say your family is planning their yearly reunion but they haven’t picked a site. The reunion is a huge priority for you, but you’ve found certain prior locations were huge migraine triggers. You suggest a couple of sites that are better for your health and explain why you’d prefer them.

5. Give Yourself Credit:

Going through this process while maintaining family and job responsibilities isn’t easy. What makes it especially tough is that so many ‘next normal’ adjustments are custom jobs. About the time a ‘next normal’ starts to feel comfortable, it’s often time to move on to the next ‘next normal’. All this requires world-class adaptive skills, often at times when you feel absolutely rotten.

So, please, give yourself credit for taking on this fight with courage and determination. Because you deserve it.



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