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22 July 2016

Migraine, Motherhood, and Back-To-School - Guest Post by Barbara Leech

The end of summer is drawing closer with each day, and the pressure of back-to-school chaos has once more found its way into my home. No matter how much I try and prepare for it, I still get caught up in the frenzy of shopping lists and regret that I have not done more over the summer with the kids. 

With chronic migraines, summer usually is one of my toughest seasons trying to keep up with activities. I spend my time trying to seize the good days, and as August rolls around, get the kids prepared for going back to school.

The children’s tests will come in the classroom — mine will be at the mall. Shopping excursions take a lot out of my energy reserves, and with a migraine, it can feel almost impossible to get through an entire day.

Procrastination is not something I can engage in. I have learned it is wise to do our back-to-school tasks in small increments, slowly checking things off my list, and never to assume I will be migraine-free and able to tackle a huge list of things saved up until the last minute.

So how does one get it all done when just surviving your next migraine is more than you want to endure?
How will you shop for all the new clothes, just the right shoes, backpacks, and check off everything on a mile-long school supply list when you are finding it challenging enough just to get through the day?
Well, I have been there, and I am bracing for the back-to-school crazies in my house too. I have an action plan though, and I have some extra strength, hope, and courage if you need to borrow mine.

A Migraine Mom's Back-To-School Action Plan

Make Lists
Make a list of everything you need to buy, organize or relocate from the last school year. I break these up into doable lists for one day at a time and tackle them one-by-one on days I am physically able to do so.

This also breaks it up so if someone offers to help you, you can hand a list off to them without having to think about what you can ask them to do. And accept that help without guilt — you have a chronic condition that you cannot control, so do not feel guilty that sometimes you need help getting things done.

Limit Arguments
Set expectations with your kids. Give them options, but do not leave every choice up for lengthy debate, particularly if they are young.

While my teens are now grown, I have two little ones left, ages seven and eight, who do not make a decision easily. I find standing there frustrated that even getting a backpack is this difficult can lead to more stress and an eventual feeling that a migraine is threatening.

I narrow choices down to a couple of best picks for the kids now, and then let them have a set amount of time to decide between those choices. They still feel empowered, and I don’t lose my mind.

Break up Your Shopping Lists Into Several Excursions
If clothes are bought at certain stores, shoes at another and school supplies at yet another, break up your lists into manageable shopping trips one store at a time.

There are certain stores that also have seemed to trigger my migraines (heavy amount of perfume in the air, loud music) so avoid those types of stores on days when you already feel a migraine coming on. In the past, I have sent my teens in to look at clothes on their own, while I hang out outside.

They would narrow down their selections for my final approval and come get me to see the pile they picked out and pay the cashier, limiting my time in the store.

Check off Your Lists as You Go
With a migraine I do not think clearly — I cannot remember what is needed and what I already have bought. Make your lists to include quantities and check them off as you buy them.

Plan Healthy Snacks and Hydration
If the heat of August is getting to you, shop after dinner or plan a dinner out and shop while you are still out. Take care of your needs to avoid excessive heat and eat a nutritious meal. Bring bottles of water with you to stay hydrated and avoid drinking too much coffee.

And just as important as keeping yourself fed and hydrated, ensure you’re bringing your migraine survival kit with you wherever you go.

Remember Your Priorities
There is so much to be done it can get overwhelming when you are also suffering with a migraine. Do what must be done first.

Remind yourself that nobody will know if you have purchased your child’s entire school year’s worth of clothing and supplies before the first bell rings. If you have the important “must-do” stuff checked off and your children can easily get through the first few weeks with clothing and required supplies, allow yourself to take a short break from the shopping and school prep if needed.

There will be time to get the rest of the supplies in the coming weeks, and perhaps you can do so with less pressure, stress, and fewer back-to-school shoppers around you.

Take Your Medication With You
Wherever you go, remember to have the medication you take for pain or to fend off an impending migraine with you. Nothing is worse than to be out doing errands, and know a migraine is coming on, but being totally unprepared to fight it.

Remember to Still Take Care of Yourself
If seeing your chiropractor each week is helping to fend off migraine attacks, or yoga has been easing their frequency, do not stop your normal schedule of care and health maintenance because of back-to-school demands.

Though your family needs you, you also need to take care of yourself in order to be there for them. Do what you must do to keep migraine pain away as much as possible.

Don’t Be Self-Critical
Do not allow yourself to compare what you can get accomplished to other people, especially healthy ones without migraines. If you are doing your best to get everything done for your family, acknowledge your accomplishments and give yourself credit where credit is due.

Barbara Leech is migraine warrior and a mom of four. She lives in Maine with her husband Adam and their two young sons. She is passionate about family, faith and small victories. Barbara works as a freelance writer for daily newspapers and business magazines throughout New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. You can find more of Barbara’s writing on NewLifeOutlook.

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