National Migraine Centre

Migraine and the office Xmas party

Hi all, help needed please. Like a lot of other people my migraines are worse (and even more inconvenient) at Christmas, so this year I decided to reduce stress as much as possible in the run-up to Christmas. My job involves a lot of travelling (2 long hauls of 100+ miles a week by train or car) and I have to ration trips quite carefully or they trigger a migraine so I decided I didn't need the office Xmas party this year (another 100 mile round trip).

I am co-director of a small business (6 people all working in different towns) so I said have a great party but I'm not coming this year because it will increase my chances of getting a Christmas migraine. My colleagues, who know I get migraine, have been completely unsympathetic and keep asking me to change my mind and come to the Party (which is really lunch with wine). How do I get them to see that I am not well and am trying to look after my health? They know that the Xmas Party is not one of my favourite experiences but I do my share of team socialising during the rest of the year.

If I had simply rung up on the day and said I had a migraine I would have had a lot more sympathy, but surely it makes more sense to try to prevent the migraine and not tell lies to colleagues.

Any other good ideas for getting through the horrors of Christmas?

Best wishes to all fellow migraine sufferers.


8 Replies

Sorry you are struggling with colleagues - sometimes people don't realise how stressful social gatherings are ... and my guess is that the wine probably isn't going to help you.

Have you thought about may be being virtually present - eg on skype - that way you don't have to do the travelling but could be there, sort of ...


I think people fail to understand that it is a neurological disorder which is so difficult to deal with. I don't know what else you can do to make them understand how hard this would be for you. But I have a tip for dealing with the Christmas- induced triggers. Small lights in the dark is an absolute trigger for me, so I sometimes wear my sunglasses when I am out at night to shield my eyes a little. Don't care about the looks I get as long as I am migraine- free I am happy!


Good day Katya.

I support you in your efforts to reduce your migraines. Only you can prioritize your activities & limit your triggers. I congratulate you for doing so!

I encourage you to consider the intentions of your coworkers who are continuing to encourage you to come to the Christmas party. (1) They are not unsympathetic so much as literally inexperienced: Sufferers know that if you have never experienced a migraine you can not understand the level of pain & other symptoms you suffer. (2) Their motive is a bit selfish but it is also a compliment: They truly enjoy your company. If that were not true you would not have heard a peep from anyone. (3) They are still somewhat uninformed: I am willing to bet that while they are aware you have migraines they don't all know the frequency, severity, or durations of every migraine you have had.

However, you are not responsible to explain your health to everyone!

I like the suggestion of Skyping but I would modify that. I wouldn't want to sit & listen to everyone moaning again how they wanted me there. I would by a bottle of wine & token gifts for each person & burn a brief message to be played at the party when your gifts are handed out. Make it funny! For example buy silly reindeer antlers. In your video wear your own & tell Christmas reindeer jokes. Begin by reassuring them you would have enjoyed being with them. Introduce your joke dialog as some entertainment for them. Then thank them for their understanding. End with a toast to a Merry Christmas..which they can share with you from the bottle of wine you sent.

In the interim between now & then just thank your "encouragers" for making you feel wanted & tell them to expect "something" special at the party.

Just a suggestion based on what I would do.

1 like

Well, Katya, I certainly sympathize, but then, I have Migraines (I'm having one now!) so I would . . . Your co-workers sound like the sort who try to do too much themselves every Holiday Season, make themselves sick, and want everyone else to feel as lousy as they do. I don't think that kind of sharing is what Santa had in mind! Your health comes first: say "No", or rather "No, thank you!" You don't have to give an excuse or explanation; it's not a Royal Wedding, after all! After the Holidays, when they're all complaining, you can be big about it and, instead of saying "I told you so" just smile wisely and say "Oh, that's too bad!"


Perhaps they really want you to go to the party? But I understand, people do get quite worked up about these things and make a huge deal out of it, and if you don't want to get involved you get labelled as "miserable" at this time of year.

If you really can't face it, just stick to your guns. I don't think you should have to keep explaining yourself, just wish them all a good time, and maybe, if you can afford it in these financially constrained times, arrange to have a couple of bottles of wine put on the table for them.

I work in a big office where there are a few people who just don't do parties full-stop, and no one ever questions it.

Migraine makes us feel guilty because of the things we have to avoid, or bravely endure, so we over-compensate.


Thanks to all for your support. Yes, I was unable to see the friendliness behind the persistent requests to attend. It was good to be reminded. I thought the ideas of Skyping or of offering to send a gift for the party were good ones and i have made the offer. But i did stick to my guns about not attending and, rather to my surprise, about 1/3 of the team have followed suit and also refused to come (for some of them it would have been a 300 mile round trip on a peak time train which they would have had to pay for so I can see why they might not have been keen).

The party is going ahead but it has been rebranded a team social, attendance optional and it now only has those people who actually want to go. I so liked teadrinker's comment that their office contains a few people who don't just do parties full stop and no one ever questions it. I hope we can move to the same status in my organisation.

I think you are right to say that other people don't understand migraine. I probably fuelled that situation in the past by never being open about the effect migraine has on me, because I was so keen to give the impression that I could do a good job. With just a few years to go till retirement I am now more inclined to say , I've done a good job, I still do a good job, I am still a friend to everyone in the office, but I am not going to do the extras because they take too much out of me and my life now has other priorities.

Thanks to all of you and have a good restful Christmas



I very reluctantly came to the conclusion that alcohol is a trigger for me - could this be the same for you? Also some perfumes - Poison maybe lol - (very likely at a party).



Well its Xmas Party time again and the topic was raised at team meeting. I just said "oh no pre-emptive migraine" and the same colleagues who had been really grumpy with me last year just said oh we know you wouldn't be coming and that's alright - so sticking to my guns last year has brought real benefits this year. I am so glad I did, and so grateful for all the moral support I got on this site.

I hate perfume too - also perfumed air fresheners, hair spray and cigarette fumes.

A very peaceful and happy Christmas to all.



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