When it comes to enduring a migraine at the office, you’re not alone. Millions of migraine sufferers not only experience the struggle and reduced productivity that can result, but, oftentimes, less-than-supportive employers and co-workers who don’t understand what living with migraines are like.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world, causing 90% of sufferers to be unable to work or function normally during their migraine. This results in a collective of 113 million lost work days that cost employers $13 billion each year. So what can be done to help effectively manage migraines at work?
- Educate your boss and co-workers about migraine. If you want to deal with it head on, educate your boss and/or co-workers that need to know about your condition. Help them to understand and engage them to support you. Proper understanding of migraine is important to help dispel misunderstandings and myths. Let them know how you intend to make up any lost hours/days, as that may be a key concern, and assures them you are being proactive.
- Create a comfortable working environment. Make sure your desk has adequate lighting that won’t trigger a migraine or worsen symptoms. If you sit next to a window, ask your employer for window blinds to avoid bright sunlight. Ensure that computer screens are properly adjusted and fitted with anti-glare filters, and use a desk lamp with a bulb that creates more natural lighting vs. overhead fluorescent lighting, when possible.
- Avoid strong smells. Ask your colleagues to be considerate of wearing perfumes and colognes, or cooking strong-scented foods in the office microwave, if you are scent sensitive.
- Be prepared. Make sure you have your migraine medications readily available and take them as directed. If the medicines you are prescribed have side effects that will impact performance at work, consider asking your doctor for an alternative medication, or consider options that relieve migraine pain without known side effects, such as Stopain Migraine topical gel.
- Keep a migraine diary. Develop a clearer understanding of your own particular condition and how work impacts it. Keeping a migraine diary can be one way to help identify your specific migraine triggers at the office (take particular note of any warning signs that you may get before a migraine sets in while on the job, as these may be different than at home).
- Track your food. There are many free resources available that can help you identify food ingredients that may trigger a migraine at work( like MigraineChecked.) If an office mate brings in a shareable snack item, look it up in the app or scan the bar code to see if it might trigger a migraine before you indulge. And make sure you eat regularly to avoid getting over-hungry.
- Drink plenty of water. You should aim for at least two liters of water a day. It’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy at work! Limit your intake of coffee and tea if caffeine is a trigger, and, instead, bring a large, refillable water bottle to sip on throughout the day. Consider asking your workplace to install a filtered water system or getting a water cooler if the tap water doesn’t suffice.
- Understand your disability. If your migraine starts to prohibit you from being a reliable employee, discuss it with with your doctor. You might qualify for disability benefits and legal protection if you are fired from your job. Migraine headache falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so understand your rights — and those of your employer — so there are no misunderstandings.
- Consider a change. In careers, that is. No matter what you do at work, sometimes it’s the actual JOB that might be the trigger. Know your limits and consider making a change for your health, if you find that it’s necessary.