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Living Well in 2006

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Optimal health care can be achieved
only when patients are educated
about their health and patients and
physicians work together as
treatment partners in an
atmosphere of mutual respect.



Ahhhhhhhhhh, it's that time of year again... that time when we're leaving the old year behind and looking forward to the new year. It's a time when some of us make resolutions and some of us avoid them like the plague, knowing that we tend not to keep them anyway.

Some of the most commonly made New Year's resolutions involve health and fitness. Here's my proposal for you: Let's take a truly constructive look at what we can do to live well with Migraines and headaches in 2006. Each of us can set the level of our resolutions where they need to be in relation to our health and abilities. Instead of shooting for the stars, let's shoot for better, more productive days. If we catch a few stars along the way, so much the better. Let's get started!

Evaluate Your Medical Team:
How's your medical team? Are you happy with your doctors or are you settling? If you're settling for something less than an effective partnership with your doctor, why not start of the new year right by finding a new doctor. Visit our directory of recommended specialists if you need some help.


Review Your Treatment Regimen:
How's your treatment regimen doing? Are your preventives keeping your frequency and severity at reasonable levels? I'm getting three to four months between Migraines, and that's great. On the other hand, my ophthalmologist prescribed a medication for me that can also be effective for Migraine prevention. I think we're going to reduce a medication that I'm taking for Migraine prevention only and see if I can maintain my Migraine-free time. Don't forget complementary therapies either. Massage, aromatherapy, biofeedback, and other complementary therapies can be a huge help. Some people call these "alternative therapies," but I prefer the term "complementary" because they can be used alone or in concert with pharmaceutical and other therapies to complement them. If your regimen isn't working well, or if it could use a few tweaks, why not make some notes and talk with your doctor? Evaluate your treatment, set goals for the coming year, then discuss the evaluation and goals with your doctor.

Plan Better Nutrition and Hydration:

Diet. It's a nasty word, and it has no place in my vocabulary. To me, that word carries negative connotations of something temporary, depriving me of things I like and want. Ugh. Who wants to start out the new year negatively? Not I. My preference is to use the term "way of eating" or "nutritional plan," and for it to mean an ongoing way of nourishing my body that contributes to being healthier and feeling better. When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I had no choice. I had to change the way I was eating or face serious and perhaps life-threatening consequences. Not a pleasant prospect for someone whose favorite snack was a Milky Way candy bar. What I learned was that I could really eat a little bit of anything I want as long as my overall way of eating is healthy. Throw away your preconceived ideas of what foods are for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look at the food groups and what foods you'll eat in each of them. Want a turkey on wheat sandwich for breakfast? An omelet for dinner? No problem. The point is to eat food that are good for us, at least most of the time. If we do that, we can have that Milky Way once in a while. What happened in my case was that, after not eating processed sugars for a while, I no longer even like Milky Ways. Something often overlooked is the importance of proper hydration. Not only is it important to our overall health, but dehydration can be a headache and Migraine trigger. You may not like drinking water, but be careful of what you substitute for water. Caffeine can actually be a factor in dehydration, so don't substitute caffeinated drinks for water.

Work In an Acceptable Level of Activity:
Our overall health is better when we have some activity or exercise. And, when our overall health is better, we're less susceptible to headache and Migraine triggers. Thus, it's a win-win situation. That said, I fully realize that what's considered to be a "typical" exercise regimen simply isn't achievable for many with headaches and Migraine disease. We can't let that stop us though. All of us can add at least some activity; we just have to determine what we're able to do. Even gentle stretches in the shower, or other simple ways to add a bit of activity can be helpful. Just be sure to talk with your doctor in advance about any exercise regimen you may undertake. Need some ideas? Take a look at Ways to "Sneak In" Exercise Without Noticing.


Take Some "Me Time" Each Day:

All of us want to be at our best for our family, friends, and jobs. Here's something to consider -- How can we be at our best for others if we don't take care of ourselves? The truth is pretty straight forward. We can't be at our best for others if we're not taking care of ourselves so we can be at our best for ourselves. Part of this has to do with our frame of mind. Our days and our responsibilities rush us, and we too often don't take time for ourselves. Try taking 30 minutes of "me time" every day, and you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. What you do with that time is up to you as long as you're selfish with it and use the time for yourself. You can meditate, journal, pray, do relaxation exercises, whatever works for you. You'll find that you're more focused and centered and ready to take on the world if you take this bit of time for yourself.


Improve Your Organization:

Now is the perfect time to make the coming year easier by becoming better organized. There's no better time to buy Christmas or other holiday cards than right now when they're on sale. That gives you the entire year to write personal notes in them too. If you're concerned that people may move before it's time to mail them, put sticky notes on the envelopes with the names. Then you can address them later. Do you have a list of birthdays you want to remember through the year? Why not buy all the birthday cards now? Then you can put them in a card organizer or between the pages of a calendar to be ready to mail them at the beginning of the correct month. Get yourself an organizer calendar and make notes of things you need to remember. During the year, if you see something that would make a good gift for someone, go ahead and buy it. Then, when the occasion arrives, you already have the gift. These are just a few examples of how you can use organization to make your life simpler. Do you have suggestions? If so, please email me if you'd like to share them with others.


Learn to Delegate:

We're not Superman or Superwoman, and we do ourselves and everyone around us a disservice when we take everything upon ourselves. We do not have to do everything ourselves. There's nothing at all wrong with delegating. Effectively delegating tasks is a valuable skill, and it's one we can all develop. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished, then consider who can do some of them for you. People who care about us would rather do some things for you than have us try to do it all ourselves and suffer the consequences.


Dump the Guilt:

Guilt is destructive and unnecessary, and we bring most of it on ourselves. Guilt is also a very negative expenditure of energy, and our energy is too valuable to spend it in negative ways. Instead of spending energy on feeling guilty about things we miss or things we can't do, it's far better to conserve that energy and use it in positive ways. Quite bluntly, if someone in our lives criticizes us or makes us feel guilty for events we miss or things we can't do, it's really their problem not ours, and only the person who owns a problem can solve it. If there's someone in your life who continually makes you feel guilty, talk to them. Maybe they don't realize they're doing it and pointing it out to them can bring about a change. If they just "don't get it," and don't want to effect a change, then it's time to reevaluate their place in your life. You deserve better.


Seek and Offer Support:

Support is as important as good medical care, so don't ignore the care and feeding of your support system. Whether we need someone to help run errands when we can't or need someone who understands and will listen, support enriches our lives and allows us cope better with headaches and Migraine disease. When we feel up to it, it's also great to offer support to others who need it. This truly is a give-and-take situation.


Remember, You Can Be in Control:

Repeat after me: "I have Migraines, but Migraines do not have me. I have headaches, but headaches do not have me." We do not have to let headaches or Migraine disease control our lives. Let's make it a primary goal this coming year to control them rather than them controlling us!


Published December 25, 2005.


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 The American Headache and Migraine Association (AHMA)...

a patient-focused, patient-driven organization for patients with Migraine and
other headache disorders and their family, friends, and care partners.
Anyone interested in the concerns or patients with these disorders is welcome to join.

The AHMA exists to EASE the burden of Migraine and other headache disorders through Education, Awareness, Support, and Engagement.


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