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The Pain of Migraine

Blog posted by: , 06 September 2021 – Categories: A great place to workHealth & Wellbeing.

Visual representation of what a migraine feels like

Brain pain: Visual representation of what a migraine can often feel like for sufferers

The condition can be crippling, but what can be done to ease the symptoms? To mark Migraine Awareness Week, Paul Scullion shares his own experiences.

For the last three years, the Civil Service has teamed up with the Migraine Trust to mark Migraine Awareness Week and help promote greater awareness of migraines. 

This year, Migraine Awareness Week runs from 5-11 September, and we want as many civil servants as possible to benefit from the support available – sufferers and line managers alike.

Paul Scullion, Legal Secretary to the Advocate General

Author Paul Scullion

I don’t always know exactly what triggers my own migraines, but it’s likely to be a mixture of what I eat and drink, sleep (or lack of it) as well as the health of my immune system, excess artificial light and stress.  

I take medication to ease pain from migraines which can last for a few days or more at a time. I try to keep a regular routine and limit my caffeine and alcohol consumption. I also try to stay hydrated, take regular breaks from my laptop, and exercise.

Research undertaken in 2020 by the Migraine Trust suggested that migraines tended, on average, to be more frequent and painful during the pandemic. One challenge I faced was being unable to accomplish my work objectives through face-to-face meetings. I also became reliant on my laptop and the artificial light that it exposed me to. During the pandemic, I therefore tried to take breaks from the screen and conduct some meetings by phone instead.

When someone experiences a migraine, it requires understanding and support from managers and teams. Often it might just be a case of tweaking priorities and deadlines in agreement with colleagues, or making adjustments such as using phones rather than screens.

Changing work environment

The move to hybrid working and the return to the office is another significant change civil servants will soon be embarking upon. I think it offers opportunities for reducing problems associated with migraines - but everyone is different and some people’s migraines may get worse, at least for a time, due to their individual circumstances. 

Migraine sufferers and their line managers will therefore need to monitor this closely and make adjustments where required. How we do this is going to be an important topic we discuss during Migraine Awareness Week. We look forward to hearing your experiences and views.

Civil servants have demonstrated resilience and adaptability throughout the pandemic, so this is a challenge I know we are up to. I hope migraine sufferers and their line managers find Migraine Awareness Week, and the associated resources below, both useful and stimulating.

How can you get involved?

You may have seen one of our migraine awareness posters around your office or the e-posters circulated during the pandemic. There are many ways you can help support your colleagues and raise awareness of migraines. 

  • Sharing the Toolkit: The Migraine Trust is in the process of developing a Managing Migraine at Work for the Civil Service toolkit – watch this space, but in the meantime please check out the Managing Migraine at Work toolkit.
  • Attending a Workshop: The Migraine Trust is running two Migraine Awareness workshops for Civil Service staff on 8 September. The events aim to raise awareness of, and increase understanding about, migraine, and how it affects people. You will be given guidance and practical tips on how to manage someone with migraine.

The events also aim to start a conversation about helping people with migraine in the new hybrid workplace. The workshops will be on Zoom and you can sign up via Eventbrite: Workshop 1 (11am-12.30pm) and Workshop 2 (2-3.30pm).

  • Reading our Blogs: There have been a number of very useful blogs by a fellow migraine sufferer, Zamila Bunglawala, Director at the Department for Education, over the last few years. Please check them out:

Coping with more migraines during Covid

Migraine Awareness Week: support and understanding in the Civil Service

Paul Scullion, Legal Secretary to the Advocate General


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