Managing Migraine At Work: How To Thrive In Your Career Despite Migraine?
Many people in the migraine community often have to juggle their daily life functions, such as going to work or school, without showing signs that they are going through an attack. It can be incredibly frustrating when nobody seems to understand why you need a peaceful environment, work from home arrangements, or more medical days than others! ?
We know how tough it can be on some days, and there’s so much more that could be done to increase the awareness of debilitating conditions like migraine in a workplace setting.
At Migraine Buddy, the vibrant community often share their experiences in in-app chat groups and we’ve outlined below some common sentiments on how people manage their migraine while juggling the life of a working adult:
Have an open and honest conversation with your direct superiors
Indeed, many people have agreed that the first step to managing your migraine more effectively at work is to ensure that your employer knows and understands your condition. This can sound unnerving, but without knowing what exactly you are going through, misunderstandings can easily arise and your team leader may not be able to offer the support that you need to get through attacks, such as extra medical leave.
“I have learned to just be 100% brutally honest about the condition. I bring in paperwork from the doctor that states my symptoms and explain that symptoms can change.”
Some employers are able to provide extra support in terms of disability benefits or make adjustments to the work environment and job execution under legal obligations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As one community member states, “[y]ou just can’t be scared to ask is the key.”
“I’ve had some bosses who understand […] and some don’t. I have a form letter written by my doctor for those that just choose to bury their head in the sand. I’ve gotten ADA accommodations, which I dealt with my companies large HR department for.”
Don’t be afraid to let your co-workers know about your condition
When working in large teams, it is important to maintain the camaraderie and deliver what needs to be done effectively. For some people, their migraine attacks may affect their behavior and productivity. A great idea suggested by one of the community members is to send out emails with appropriate phrasing to explain the situation:
“I work in an office and if I think I’ve been harsh when suffering, I will send out a quick email to those people apologizing for upsetting anyone when the migraine hit. Most can be supportive and understanding […]. Try phrasing like ‘I get really irritable and confused when I am in that much pain and [can’t] concentrate on anything else. I am truly [sorry] if I upset you with anything I said or did when it was happening. Please know it’s never my intention to be rude!’.”
By keeping your co-workers in the loop about your condition, they can support your workload when necessary and even keep an eye out for your attacks in the future!
“I’ve found my co-workers to be very supportive if I’m just very honest. Some have learned to spot an impending attack almost before I know it’s coming. Even folks I only see once or twice a week in other parts of my building know and are understanding.”
Try to seek and arrange flexible working hours if possible
We know that not all jobs have the capacity to allow for flexible working hours, but for those who have the option to do so, you may find that it becomes easier to get through those migraine days by working from home or scheduling your work to be completed at a later hour.
“I’m so thankful my work has agreed to make some environmental adjustments. It may not prevent them, but I know it will help keep the pain at a manageable level.”
In light of the recent circumstances surrounding COVID-19, many workplaces have switched to telecommuting to ensure the safety of their employees. For some people, this switch to working from home has resulted in fewer migraine attacks, possibly due to the reduction in external stimuli like bright lights, noise, and social settings. Working from home also means that you’ll have easier access to your usual reliefs should an attack come on during work hours!
However, it is still important to take precautions and ensure that your home environment is optimal for work productivity without compromising your health. For example, ensuring that your workstation is comfortable by using ergonomic chairs, using blue light glasses for long hours of screentime, and setting a routine to “clock in” or “clock out” of work.
Some of us may not have the option to telecommute—whether be it due to the nature of the job (shoutout to frontline healthcare workers, thank you for keeping us safe!) or other reasons—and building a stable career without migraine getting in the way remains a daily challenge.
We all know that feeling of losing control over your body during a terrible migraine attack; but this time, imagine it happening while you are in the middle of an important work presentation. That’s what happened to Serene Branson, a CBS reporter who experienced an attack on live television while reporting for The Grammys in 2011.
How do you manage such situations and will you still be able to perform well in your career now that your condition is more known?
In our new MBplus program, “Thriving In Your Career Despite Migraine”, Serene Branson shares via a video interview about the incident and how she successfully navigated the aftermath of the attack, including lifestyle changes she adopted to have more control over her migraine attacks.
Click on the button below to learn more about Serene’s story in our MBplus program now: