10 Thanksgiving Migraine Triggers and Tips

What Triggers Migraine at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving migraine triggers hit me every year!  I have lived with migraine for decades, and I’ve had many Thanksgivings dampened. Understanding what triggers my migraine attacks on Thanksgiving and ways to avoid them have helped. Thanksgiving brings a schedule change, travel, change in sleep, diet, and movement along with stress and anxiety that all add up to a spike in my migraine attacks. There are some things I do to avoid these Thanksgiving migraine triggers that have helped me over the years.

What Triggers Migraine on Thanksgiving? And What to Do

Thanksgiving dos for migraine

Learn from the Past

Keeping a migraine diary where you note down what you eat, your activities and any environmental factors on migraine attack days can help identify patterns and specific triggers. This information can guide you in making informed choices to minimize or avoid triggers during Thanksgiving and other events.

Be Mindful of Food 

  • Identify Trigger Foods:
    • Common Thanksgiving Migraine Foods:
      • Aged cheese, processed meats, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, nuts, and alcohol can trigger migraine on Thanksgiving for some.
  • Avoidance or Moderation: If you’re aware of specific triggers, try to avoid or limit their consumption.
  • Opt for alternatives or smaller portions.
  • Bring your own.
    • For migraine-friendly food options are all individual but I tend to follow Dizzy Cook. I alter the recipes according to my sensitivities, but overall love her food and purpose!

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Dehydration can sometimes worsen migraine symptoms, so try to drink plenty of water and consider hydration tablets if traveling.

Manage Stress

  • Plan Ahead: Organize tasks in advance, delegate responsibilities, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Take Breaks: Schedule short breaks throughout the day to relax and unwind.
    • Sometimes lying down in a calm environment can ease the symptoms.
    • Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your head might relieve you. Headache Hat is my favorite!
  • Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or taking short breaks to manage stress levels.

Keep a Routine

  • Maintain your regular sleep and meal schedule as much as possible. The migraine brain likes consistency. When talking about Thanksgiving weekend, consistency is usually really hard to achieve. So the best thing I can do is limit the amount of things I’m changing. If I’m staying up late then I’m sure to be consistent with my diet. If I’m drinking more than usual then I am careful to up my hydration. If consistency isn’t possible, limiting the amount of changes may help.

Avoid Sensory Triggers

  • Avoid Strong Scents: Stay away from strong perfumes, scented candles, or overwhelming cooking aromas if they are a Thanksgiving migraine trigger.
  • Manage Lighting: If bright lights are a trigger, consider dimming the lights or finding a quieter space. I always bring my glasses for light sensitivity relief.
    • Knowing my limits with these triggers is important. This is when breaks come in handy. Walking away, decompressing, and lessening stimulation around me can help from my migraine attacks from escalating.
  • If you are traveling with migraine, here are my essentials.

Create a Comfortable Environment

  • Create a Relaxing Space: If possible, designate a quiet room where you can retreat if the celebration gets overwhelming.
    • When preparing food and in a busy household, I tend to offer to do jobs where the lighting is low, the sound is low and I’m sitting. I’m honest about being around the swirl of triggers and how it makes me feel. If there is too chaotic of an environment then I need to retreat to a quieter darker space on Thanksgiving.

Be Prepared with Medication

  • Take Medications: If your doctor has prescribed medications for migraine prevention, make sure to take them as directed, especially if you anticipate migraine triggers during Thanksgiving. 
  • Have Rescue Medication Handy: Keep any rescue medications you might have prescribed by your doctor readily accessible.
  • In addition to medication, I bring my migraine products everywhere I go.

Seek Support

  • Let someone trusted know you’re not feeling well. Sometimes just having someone around who understands can be comforting.
  • Before Thanksgiving, I try to update my friends or family about triggers or environments that may be helpful. Don’t assume those around you understand what you are going through.
  • If your family and friends are not supportive, reach out to those that are during this time. You can always find me on social if you need to reach out

Modify Celebrations

  • If possible, see if you can participate in a more subdued manner or take breaks as needed throughout the day.
  • I have missed out on so many holidays and my goal is to participate in a way that is healthiest for me overall. This often means modifications on what I’d like to do or how my family would like me to.

Remember, it’s okay to prioritize your health. If you must excuse yourself from festivities to take care of yourself, your well-being comes first. Every person’s triggers can be different, so it’s essential to identify what specifically triggers your migraine attacks and take steps to manage them during Thanksgiving celebrations. Plan and communicate your needs to those around you if possible to ensure a more comfortable holiday experience.

Holidays with Migraine

Thanksgiving migraine triggers are carried over from holiday to holiday. Check out how I deal with migraine during other times of the year.

Post Thanksgiving Migraine

Before Thanksgiving, I posted about being thankful and planned on posting a follow-up with all of the beautiful things my readers shared. Thank you for your inspiration! Eventually, I updated my Grateful post and you can check them out there.

Guess what happened? Yep, I was very migraine sick all through Thanksgiving.

I no longer feel guilty about lying on the couch; my kids piled on top of me to watch the parade, and I had no clue how excruciatingly awful I felt. I feel sorry for myself. Therefore, I don’t usually allow myself to go down the negative route, but the truth is, missing and being missed is sad. The holidays aren’t accessible; they just aren’t.

When I finally felt well enough to distract my head for a bit, I saw all these happy, smiling posts about Thanksgiving. I’m sad I didn’t get to smile that day in pictures. I saw all these delicious meals, and I’m sad I didn’t get to cook. And, I saw my kids run around with their cousins while the adults gathered in the kitchen, drinking and laughing, and I’m sad I got to hear it from the other room because it was too bright and loud for me while being unable to be vertical.

Thanksgiving Migraine Recovery

I slowly felt better throughout the weekend, but recovering is not quick. I choose to be positive because going down the adverse road is something I don’t feel makes me better. But I do get sad. I get missed and miss a lot. I get down about my past and discouraged by the little changing future I see ahead with migraine.

Yesterday I started my week with a cry. I only cry alone and don’t let myself get too carried away because it will trigger me. I can’t even cry without being dictated to by this migraine disease that plagues me. But I’m moving on. I cried I’m posting to give and get support, and I’m moving on. Tomorrow is a new day and a new reason to post thanks.

Weighted Blanket

Allay Lamp- Green Light Therapy

Headache Hat- Ice Hat

Heat Wrap


Bed of Nails


Sarah Rathsack

Sarah tells stories of My Migraine Life. Living life through Migraine consists of advocacy, treatment, prevention, and searching for health and happiness in a positive honest way. Her kids, husband, dog, family and friends motivate her to make a difference in the Migraine World.

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