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How to create migraine friendly interiors in your home


I have suffered with migraine attacks since I was around 16, although they weren’t properly confirmed to be migraines until I was in my first year at University.


I remember every ‘headache’ being the most severe pain I’d ever experienced, but it was just a headache. So I felt I should always struggle on through the pain, whether I was socialising with friends, at a concert with bright lights and loud music, or trying to make an essay deadline!


Just. Power. On. Through.


I tried so many different medications but couldn’t find one that made a difference to the migraines themselves without causing a bunch of less-than-ideal side effects!


So here we are today, no preventative medication other than the odd vitamin when I remember to take them, and purely lifestyle changes to keep them at bay.



Migraines are a very interesting beast, in that no two people really experience them in the same way. I know people who have to go to bed for a week or are physically sick with them. I count myself as one of the lucky ones because although I get them pretty often (if I can go a whole week without one, it’s a great week!), it’s mostly just pain, mixed with a little nausea, and some light and noise sensitivity.


I have tablets to take when I feel one coming on, which usually takes the edge off pretty quickly. The next few days I’ll have a migraine ‘hangover’ where I might struggle to find my words, can get quite clumsy and occasionally one side of my face looks a little puffy! But otherwise, it’s not too bad.


Recently I was at an event during the day, and felt one coming on. So I took a tablet and thought I’d be fine, like I usually am (I’d like to say I’ve got better at the powering-on-through thing, but nope, I still try!). For some reason, my migraine started to get worse and worse, and lights, smells and sounds were making the nausea ten times more unbearable.


All I wanted to do was get home, put my comfy clothes on and curl up on the sofa.


And when I eventually got home (a little more forced socialising, one tube ride and delayed train later!), that’s exactly what I did. And honestly, I have never been so grateful for my neutral decor, soft blankets, thick curtains, and dim lighting!


Our home is a long way from ‘finished’ but it made me realise how you can put certain things in place no matter what stage of your interior journey you’re at. If you also suffer with migraines, I wanted to share some tips that might be worth considering to help your home support you when you’re feeling unwell.





Colours


This may seem like an obvious one but there’s actually no real right or wrong when it comes to which colours work best if you suffer with migraines.


I love this article in the Guardian about Belinda Den Ouden’s home, who is a migraine sufferer with a fragrance allergy. Belinda’s family took the radical approach of moving house and starting over, and through lots of research and careful planning, she has managed to create a home that is non-toxic, fragrance-free and importantly suits her and her family, with and without migraines.


Anthracite walls might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely worth avoiding bright white paint, especially on walls that get a lot of natural daylight, as white will reflect the light back more strongly. Matt paint is also a wise choice, to avoid any glare.


You may also want to avoid any harsh contrasts and patterns in your colour scheme. This article in Ideal Home explains why:


“It seems the brain can become overstimulated with extreme patterns that don’t exist in the natural world, and as our minds struggle to process the images of unnatural tones and busy designs together, a headache can occur.”



Texture


Always prioritise comfort over aesthetics when it comes to choosing textures for your home. I very rarely buy soft furnishings for my home without seeing (and most importantly feeling) them in the flesh first!


Natural textures are usually my go to, so I look for linen and cotton in fabrics, I like a lot of wooden pieces and stone or leather accents. Glass, metal and ceramics also often feature in my designs because they feel ‘cleaner’ than other more synthetic materials.


The important thing here is to start to notice what feels nice to you. I want things to be practical and inviting so that people can feel at home when they come to visit. The last thing I want is to be panicking about shoes on the rug, or a coaster on the table! Who needs something like that to add to any pre-existing life stress?



Lighting


Now this is a big one. Get yourself some dimmers! And if that’s too much hassle, take a look at how many lamps you have! I will rarely choose to have the overhead lights on, if there’s the option for a table lamp instead.


If you’re at the stage of designing your lighting from scratch, look into strip lights (also on dimmers ideally) under shelves or around mirrors for example. Subtle and indirect lighting like this can make the world of difference.


Also consider the warmth of your bulbs. I like to stay somewhere around 2700-3000k so it’s not too yellow, but still cosy and inviting. I find cool white lights very harsh on the eyes, but again this can be a personal preference.



Curtains & Blinds


I highly recommend opting for both blinds and curtains to give you the most flexibility when it comes to letting light in. I’m a big fan of horizontal wooden blinds as you can also control what angle the light comes in at. Alternatively, you could look at a sheer blind or curtains, to diffuse the light and avoid too much glare.


Having curtains over your blind or sheers gives you the best possible chance at total black-out darkness, for when a dreaded attack comes on.



Biophilic Design


Personally speaking, I crave the feeling of being in nature, whilst also in the comfort of my home when I’m feeling unwell. This is what Biophilic Design is all about.


“Biophilic design is a human-centric approach to interior and building design that focuses on the human connection to the natural world.” - Masterclass

You can increase this feeling in a number of ways, but here are 5 of my favourites:

  1. Adding house plants and greenery to each room

  2. Using natural textures and colours throughout your home

  3. Choosing organic shapes and patterns that ‘mimic’ nature in your furniture and accessories

  4. Look for landscapes and nature inspired artwork

  5. Incorporating materials that will weather and patinate with age - there’s something very calming about observing small changes over time




Fragrance & Ventilation


And lastly, a note on fragrance and ventilation. This again is a very personal choice, but there will likely be certain scents that can worsen, or potentially trigger a migraine attack.


Make a note of what those are (for me it’s anything particularly floral or sweet), and also any fragrances that actually help when you are suffering. Peppermint and eucalyptus are often great for migraine sufferers.


It is also important to keep your home well ventilated, to keep any built up scents at bay. You might be in an area where you can open your windows for fresh air, or alternatively you might want to invest in air purifiers. Also worth noting that carpets and upholstered furniture can trap dust and odours, so a regular vacuum clean and freshen up is 100% worth it!




Aside from interiors, the old stress-management and good nutrition are always a good shout too, but if you’re reading this post I’m sure you’re well aware of that! You’ve got to love a doctor’s first two questions: “would you say you have a stressful life?” and “have you tried keeping a food diary?” *eye-roll!


The migraine community is so much bigger than we may think, because so many people suffer in silence, so if you do ever want to chat come say hello on Instagram - my DMs are always open!


Thanks so much for reading.

-Jess x





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