Most of us want to begin 2020 with a fresh start and a renewed commitment to our health and well-being. But if you suffer from migraines, like more than 37 million Americans do, that might be easier said than done. These debilitating headaches can make it nearly impossible to work, socialize, or do just about anything that doesn’t involve sleeping in a dark room. But if you’re determined to stop letting migraines ruin your life this year, there may be some steps you can take to provide a bit of relief.

Figure Out Your Triggers

Triggers are tricky. Many migraine sufferers have several, some of which may be entirely out of their control. It may also be tough to tell which trigger is responsible for a given migraine if there are multiple factors at play. Making matters more complicated, what acts as a trigger for some might actually provide relief for others. Every migraine sufferer will have a different experience, but identifying possible triggers can help you to reduce the frequency of your headaches or be able to more accurately predict when one is coming on. Some of the most common migraine triggers include:

  • Hormones and Stress: Stress — as well as the sudden relief of stress — can lead to migraines, likely due to activities involving cortisol (the stress hormone). But that’s not the only hormone that can cause issues for migraine sufferers. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, women suffer from migraines three times more frequently than men do — and the vast majority of migraine sufferers are women. A higher number of women suffer from migraines during their reproductive years, which makes a lot of sense, as migraines are thought to be triggered by changes in estrogen levels. Many women suffer from menstrual-related migraines, which may occur immediately before or after a patient’s monthly period. Some women find that their migraine symptoms improve after menopause, but menopause can also be a trigger for other women due to other hormonal changes.
  • Sleep Schedule: A good night’s sleep can have a major impact on headaches of all kinds. Migraine sufferers, in particular, may find that sleep schedule disruptions can wreak havoc on their lives. In fact, a new study revealed that if you’re spending a lot of time in bed unable to sleep, you’re more likely to develop a migraine two days later. Researchers found that getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night and poor-quality sleep weren’t associated with immediate migraine effects, but these disturbances might end up causing problems after the fact. Interestingly, getting too much sleep can also cause migraines for some people. In other words, once you find your optimal night’s sleep, you’ll want to stick to it.
  • Diet and Exercise: Nutrition and physical activity can play huge roles in migraine development. Around 10% of people who experience migraines say that dietary factors trigger their headaches. For some people, milk chocolate (which includes 10% to 20% cocoa solids) may be a trigger. For others, cheese, processed meats, certain additives, and alcohol (red wine, in particular) may result in pounding headaches. Caffeine is known to be a common trigger, though some studies have disputed the connection and some migraine sufferers find that caffeine is one of the only ways to provide relief for their headaches. Even missing a meal or failing to eat enough can cause a migraine. It’s also important to note that exercise — too much of it or a lack of it — can lead to headaches, too. Studies have found that exercising regularly can reduce the severity or frequency of migraines, but working out too vigorously can bring on a headache (likely because it prompts changes in blood pressure). Be sure to warm up thoroughly, hydrate like crazy, and not push yourself too hard.
  • Environmental Changes: You might be able to control your diet or your stress levels, to a certain degree, but what about when your migraine triggers are totally out of your hands? Many people experience migraines during temperature fluctuations or changes in barometric pressure. Some even experience negative responses to changes in humidity levels or high altitudes. Light can also trigger migraines for certain people, which is why it’s not advisable to be in rooms with ultra-bright or flickering lights — or to stare at a computer screen for too long. While you might not be able to control the weather, many migraine sufferers choose to stay inside if the forecast looks troubling.

Try Some Natural Remedies

Whether you’ve been able to identify your exact triggers or not, there are a number of natural methods you can try out to provide relief or allow you to avoid migraine development altogether. Aside from adjusting your diet, getting enough sleep, and exploring the preventative methods above, you might consider using migraine relief sprays or balms made from essential oils, doing some yoga or getting a massage, trying out herbal supplements, or exploring acupuncture and acupressure. CBD products may also provide some relief for migraine sufferers, as can B12 and magnesium. Homeopathy and biofeedback are two other examples of alternative treatments for migraine sufferers, though there’s little scientific evidence to support their usage. Cool compresses and drinking water are probably the simplest (and sometimes, the most effective) treatment options for migraines, as well.

See a Specialist

Migraines can be debilitating — so much so that some sufferers can actually apply for disability benefits as a result of their headaches. If you’re granted temporary disability benefits, you’ll likely be entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly earnings. But some migraine sufferers may not be eligible for this type of assistance. Either way, you may want to consider exploring more serious treatment options with your doctor or a specialist. These might include Botox injections or newly approved (albeit sometimes controversial) treatments for migraine headaches. Your doctor may be able to provide prescription medications to prevent or to treat your migraines, which may range from typical pain relievers and sprays to anti-nausea drugs, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants. If you’ve been living with migraines for quite some time and aren’t seeing enough improvement through natural remedies, it’s a good idea to discuss your headaches with a professional and come up with a plan that will work for you.

No matter how frequently you get migraines, you don’t have to let these horrible headaches derail your life in 2020. With these tips in mind, you should be in a better place to live with less pain and more options for your health and well-being.