Migraine and colleagues:
5 ways to support and empathise with a colleague suffering from migraine.
LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN LIFE, MIGRAINE PAIN HURTS LESS WITH SUPPORT.
That’s why, here there are 5 ways to support and empathise with a colleague suffering from migraine.
You’ve probably experienced times at work when the support from colleagues has been crucial in coping with a problem. Feeling supported and understood reduces our stress and anxiety levels and creates a “protective shield”.
Migraine is the second most disabling neurological disease, so when a patient suffers an attack, instead of caring for themselves until they recover, their head starts thinking about all the things they are not going to be able to achieve:
“NO, NO, NO, NO, NOT ANOTHER MIGRAINE IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS / TODAY IS THE DEADLINE / I TOLD MARIONE TO SEE THE UPDATES TODAY / I’M NOT ABLE TO SHOW UP ON TIME / I HAVE A TON OF EMAILS TO READ / I’M GOING TO GET FIRED IF THIS GOES ON / I CAN’T FOCUS WITH THIS PAIN / WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? IT WAS MY TURN TO PICK THEM UP TODAY…”—Every migraine sufferer at least once in their life
Our aim and that of all Migraine Friendly Workplace companies is to change these thoughts and create a safe workspace for the migraine worker. Colleagues are key to this. So here are 4 ways to help your colleagues with migraine:
1. SHOW INTEREST.
People with migraine often do not want to worry people about their illness. That is why they usually pretend to feel better than they really do. They may feel exhausted, dizzy or foggy from medication and hide this pain so as not to be a concern for their colleagues.
So if you notice or know someone suffering from migraine, try to find a moment to ask them how they are feeling.
○ I heard you had a migraine yesterday, are you feeling better?
○ I haven’t seen you in the office today, is the migraine returning?
○ Are you starting to feel sick? If it is a migraine you should go home or lie down in the break room for a while.
Also if you use work chat tools such as WhatsApp, Telegram or others, you can promote a conversation through them, either in a private chat or in a group chat with other colleagues. This allows us to show our support even when the person is not nearby.
2. BE FLEXIBLE WITH THE TASKS
One of the biggest worries of a worker with migraine is not being able to carry out his or her duties because of the illness. It is normal for them to have to stop for a few hours or days to recover from the attack.
When this happens, the best way to cope with deadlines and tasks is to reorganise work.
Can we reschedule?
The best way to support a worker who has a migraine is to give him or her time to recover and return to work at a slower pace.
The worker is the first one who wants to do their job, but also to do it properly. Therefore, trying to get more time or postponing the delivery is an effort that will be rewarded, because when the worker returns to the office, he/she will face his/her tasks with more motivation and responsibility.
Can another worker take over the task? Can I?
If the work cannot be postponed, ask for backup! Hold a team meeting to see who can lend a hand.
If you think you can handle the job yourself, volunteer. The person with a migraine will be grateful and, if you are unwell in the future, you will know that your colleagues will be there for you.
3. DON’T JUDGE AND ADVOCATE.
Sadly, people with migraine too often feel that they are in a game of catch and chase. It is common to hear comments accusing migraine sufferers of faking their symptoms, exaggerating how bad they feel or using migraine as an excuse to avoid responsibility.
The most frequent comment is to compare migraine to a simple headache, minimising the impact of migraine on their lives and making them feel under surveillance and judged by those around them.
When this occurs, don’t question: listen, believe and advocate. A helping hand means the world to a migraine sufferer. Therefore, if you hear someone questioning or making negative comments about a person with a migraine, stand up for them by praising their strengths and their commitment to the company. Be the first to promote an environment of respect among employees, whether they have migraine or not.
4. TALK ABOUT MIGRAINE.
Migraine is a very common disease, affecting 1 in 7 people worldwide. For this reason, it is almost impossible not to know someone close to you who suffers from migraine. Think about your family members, your friends or the people you have met in your life… there is sure someone who suffers from migraine.
Talk about it! By encouraging informal conversations about migraine, migraine sufferers can feel more comfortable explaining their condition and sharing their experiences about living with it.
5. BRING SPECIFIC HELP.
When you see a colleague starting to feel unwell, offer support by making specific suggestions rather than “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”. In difficult moments, it can be hard for a migraineur to verbalise exactly what he or she needs.
○ Do you need me to drive you home or call you a cab?
○ Shall I get you some water?
○ Shall I take you to a room where there is less noise so you can try to relax?
○ Do you want me to let the rest of the team know that you are not feeling well?
BY FOLLOWING THESE SIMPLE TIPS, YOU WILL SOON FIND THAT MIGRAINE WORKERS BECOME MORE CONFIDENT IN SPEAKING ABOUT THEIR ILLNESS AND BE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THEIR HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE.