Have you ever had to call out sick because of a migraine? You’re not alone. More than 157 million workdays are lost each year in the US due to migraine, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. And while that statistic is scary enough — a poll from 3-years ago found that more than half of Americans that miss work or school due to headaches and migraines don’t tell their employers that head pain is what’s causing their absence. So, that’s even more people missing work because of a migraine that we will never know about.
Sometimes, there’s no way around it – you have to miss work because of a migraine. You need a dark room. You need quiet. You need a stress-free zone. Other times, there’s a window (with the appropriate amount of shading) for you to push through and get things done. Only you know the difference.
If you’re trying to work through a migraine – and think you can do it – here are six tips to help you meet that deadline or sit through that office meeting or simply to not lose traction.
Dim the lights: If possible, turn off overhead lights and use a table lamp with a warm light (yellow, as opposed to a white light bulb). If you’re near a window, can you draw the shades? Perhaps you can swivel your seat so the light hits you from behind instead of full-on or from the side?
Reduce the glare: If the computer screen is hurting your head but you need said screen to accomplish your task, try reducing the brightness. If you have precision-tinted lenses, put them on and/or consider investing in an anti-glare screen protector. You might also want to try printing large pieces of text to read on paper then only using your keyboard/screen to type what’s absolutely necessary.
Drink some water: Sometimes we’re so focused we lose track of what we haven’t done. Stretch your legs, get some water – maybe you’re slightly dehydrated or maybe your posture is getting in the way. It’s worth a try.
Take a break: Working during a migraine doesn’t mean you can’t take a time out. If you have a Cefaly device – quick, put it on. If you have an aura and have the ability to get ahead, 20-minutes on the PREVENT setting could help prevent your migraine from fully developing. If you already have a migraine, choose the ACUTE setting to help stop your migraine in its tracks. Low on time? Press and hold the button to ramp up to your desired intensity level. Ideally, you can take an hour to yourself but if you can’t, do what you can and/or keep working during your treatment.
Prioritize: Chances are some assignments are more important than others. Identify the ones that must be done now versus the ones that can wait till later in the day, or possibly tomorrow.
Communicate: If you have many things due ambiguously soon – ask for more information. If you feel it’s appropriate, explain you have a migraine but take your assignment very seriously. Stress you’ll do what’s needed – then ask what’s really needed today. Chances are, you’re putting extra pressure on yourself. Some things can wait. And even the things that you think can’t wait, often can be set aside for a few hours (or more) when the other person is aware you’re attempting to work with a migraine and you’ll get to it as soon as possible. If you feel your migraine is on the mend, you might even ask if you can complete the task after hours. Some employers just want it done – and don’t necessarily need it to clock in by five.
Also, if you often find yourself with migraines at work, try keeping a migraine calendar or diary and note anything that stands out as different about your day. Do you always get a migraine after a specific meeting? Cast yourself as a detective and look for clues. Is there anyone in that meeting that isn’t in the others? Might they be wearing a strongly scented perfume or cologne? Is your meeting held in a room with overhead fluorescent lighting? Is there a lot of noise nearby? Are you reaching for office snacks that might have ingredients that trigger your head?
In the end, as you already know, prevention is key. Plan ahead on projects or do more tasks when you’re well so you can slow it down when you need the added time to read (possibly with blurry vision). Hopefully these small steps will help you in the moment – but also pave the way for less migraines overall.