This week in my practice I have interacted with many migraine patients having trouble setting boundaries. As a migraine sufferer and “overachiever,” I can relate.  I am, by nature, a people pleaser and dislike confrontation or any interaction that is uncomfortable.  I sacrifice my emotional and physical health to avoid discomfort.  This seems to be common in migraine patients. The issue may be a dysfunctional childhood with current stress in dealing with one’s parents or siblings. Others may struggle with dealing with a spouse who is overspending money or enabling an adult child. Some may struggle to say “no” to extra work responsibilities fearing disappointment from their boss or co-workers.  The end result is often migraines out of control and not responding to usual migraine treatment.

What is the solution or at least a path to solution?  Learning to set boundaries. Becoming aware that this was a problem was my first step. Deciding to do something about it could be the second step and create an action plan. Reading a book like Boundaries by Henry Cloud, PhD, can help in recognizing the problem.

I can remember a number of years ago complaining to a friend that I had no time to exercise.  He wisely replied, “No one will give you that time.” I realized it was up to me to create that time to exercise which meant saying “no” to other requests. I began saying “no” to any obligations on Monday and Wednesday evenings and joined a Masters Swim Team Practice for those two evenings a week. It felt good to say “yes” to myself and “no” to other requests.

Since then, I am still struggling with when to say “yes” and when to say “no” but I doing a much better job than I used to. I know that I would rather be a good physician, a good speaker, a good educator, a good wife, and a good friend most of the time instead of spreading myself too thin and being no good for anyone.  This means saying “no” when often the request is valid like a new patient wanting to be fit in for an appointment.

Setting boundaries and guarding how we spend our time, energy, and talents is important for everyone and in my opinion, especially for migraine individuals, as often our lack of caring for ourselves is contributing to our migraines.