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Migraine Awareness Week 6-12 September: Coping with more migraines during Covid

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A great place to work, Health & Wellbeing
Zamila Bunglawala, International Director, Department for Education

Each year Civil Service HR colleagues and I partner with the Migraine Trust to mark Migraine Awareness Week 6-12 September to help promote greater awareness of migraines. I feel it important to share what those like me who suffer this and other invisible debilitating conditions go thru, highlight what managers can do and the support available.

This year I was extra keen to take part in this campaign as Covid-19, and the full-time working from home reality it has resulted in for many while safe and necessary to protect against the virus, has had a very serious impact on my migraines, and many fellow sufferers.

Research undertaken in May 2020 by the Migraine Trust shows that 58% of migraine sufferers report their migraines are worsening during Covid-19, and for 20% migraines are now more intense and painful. For 18% of sufferers their migraines are improving, as they are exposed to fewer triggers.

My migraines are triggered by my monthly menstrual cycle and changes in the environment like temperature, light or sound.  I take prescription medication to help ease the intense pain that lasts 1-2 days, but migraines are still an incurable condition. I try to maintain a daily routine and avoid triggers: I wear dark glasses to avoid light, limit caffeine intake, I don’t drink or smoke.

However, what has changed drastically in Covid-19 is my working routine and what I do to mitigate my migraines.

Working from home has meant I have to be on my phone all day taking meetings – I do not use my laptop so to avoid the screen. I am on calls for approx 7 hours each day.

Regular exercise helps to ease migraines. However, Covid has meant that my gym, which I used to visit 2-3 times a week is closed and I can not have my monthly head and neck massage or any acupuncture treatment at the base of my head.

In addition to my usual routine of drinking 3-4 litres of water, never missing a meal and regular sleep pattern, I have found new ways to exercise daily, focus on my wellbeing and try to mitigate my migraines including:

- morning breathing exercises and yoga

- morning walks around my garden and in the local park after work

- avoiding laptop screens completely

- moving around as I take my phone meetings

- taking 5 minute breaks between meetings, and two 15 minute migraine breaks during the day

More migraines has also meant needing the support of my manager and team more as when a migraine attack strikes, I must stop working and lay down in the dark. They have been greatly understanding and supportive.

Promoting Migraine Awareness Week

To promote Migraine Awareness Week, to support more sufferers and line managers this year, the Civil Service and Migraine Trust have:

- Developed e-posters depicting Civil Servants like me sharing their migraine experiences in English and Welsh languages;

- Designed a survey to help develop a Managing Migraine at Work Toolkit for the Civil Service;

- Developed a Managing Migraine at Work virtual workshop- taking place on Weds 9 Sept at 14.00-15.30 - as follows:

Migraine awareness workshop, 9 September

For Migraine Awareness Week, Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion are working with The Migraine Trust to raise awareness and build a migraine positive Civil Service. Migraine Trust colleagues are running a Migraine Awareness workshop for Civil Service staff during the week. It will take place from 2-3.30pm on Wednesday 9 September 2020 via Zoom.

The session is particularly recommended for HR staff and line managers, as well as disability champions. Places are limited, so email Una at The Migraine Trust - - to book your place.

We hope you find the Migraine Trust materials informative and useful, and help us all to help those with invisible conditions.

Covid-19 is presenting us all with challenges - I will not let my migraines stop me continuing to lead an active life and achieve my goals!


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  1. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Zamila Bunglawala for sharing with us your personal experience and coping strategy.

    I can confirm that I have promoted your blog and Migraine Awareness Week 6-12 September on on our respective FCDO Staff Association pages.