It isn’t the stress of the holidays that affects me the most. In fact, I love the holidays because I get to spend time with my family. The only problem is that they live seven hours away (more if the weather is bad). So, when it comes to the holidays, it is the thought of all that traveling that does NOT leave visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

When you live in the Upper Midwest, every drive during the winter is an adventure and this holiday season promises to be no different. This year, it will mean leaving late at night after a full day of work, pounding back caffeinated beverages to stay awake while taking turns with my boyfriend at the wheel. On top of that, we’ll have two puppies traveling with us as well. It also means staring into headlights for hours on end. And it means nodding off in the most uncomfortable positions in the car.

But that is only the drive there. Living so far away and it being my first year at my job, I don’t see much of my family. So when I do see them, I certainly want to maximize my time and that often means that I suffer a little bit. I end up going to bed late and getting up early, even though I’m dead tired from the drive the night before. I try to eagerly agree to whatever anyone has planned and also try to stop at all my favorite spots while I’m home (shopping is limited where I live).

Being able to do all of this requires “knocking back” a little more caffeine than usual to stay awake through the day. Add to that the range and volume of food that is available is clearly far outside the norm, and is often loaded with sugar, and we tend to eat or graze at odd times of the day.

At this point, I have hit a majority of my migraine triggers and by the end of day one, it’s very possible that I will I find myself smack in the middle of migraine central. And there is nothing less fun than Christmas music when your head is pounding.

So what can I do to fend it off? The same things I do on a regular day: Control what I can, let go of what I can’t and deal with the problems as they arise.  I try to say no to things when I’m not feeling well. I listen to my body. I take my medicine as soon as I feel my migraine come on (this is a huge one for me). I make sure to travel with more than enough rescue meds just in case things get really bad. I drink as much water as I can. I try to eat on a regular schedule and keep it in the range of healthy. (And honestly, that is not at all fun during the holidays. My mother is a terrific baker.) I know when enough is enough and I just need to stay home and lay down.

What is the point of being around my family if I’m going to be curled up in a ball feeling miserable?  I know that in a very short three-day span, my trip home at will be over. I’ll pack up my car with my holiday haul, puppies and boyfriend and head back to the frozen north. And then there I’ll be, the Monday after Christmas, back at my desk in a daze from my holiday travel hangover. Predictably, I’ll have a headache before the day is out, but I know I’m equipped to handle that.

I’m still looking forward to the holidays, regardless of whether or not I get sidelined by a migraine, seeing my family will be worth it.

—Claire Abent, guest blogger