Migraines can be a tough condition to live with, especially if you're trying to juggle a career at the same time as managing your symptoms (not to mention jobs that make you feel worse!) If you're willing to consider a career change and possibly even improve your health in the process, then this article may benefit you.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE BEST AND WORST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH MIGRAINES
As a migraine sufferer, it's important to know what your triggers are when starting to plan your new career. For some people, the sleep disruption caused by late shifts can make migraines worse. For others, it can be bright lights or strong smells. Of course, you can't control these factors all the time, but you can avoid the worst of their effects on your health.
Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace (including people with migraines in some cases), your employer is required to provide you with accommodations (source). Of course, the letter of the law and its enforcement are two different things. If it's going to be a continual hassle to get the help you need, you might want to find a more flexible position.
THE WORST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH MIGRAINES
While migraine sufferers may have different triggers, there are some jobs most people with migraines are better off avoiding:
There are many migraine-aggravating factors present in factory work. From heavy chemical smells and loud noises to the flat glare of fluorescent light, it can be the perfect recipe for disaster. The sleep disruption caused by shift work has been shown to have a multitude of poor effects on your health, including exacerbating migraines (source).
On top of all that, there's the actual physical danger you may put yourself in. For many people, migraines manifest with a loss of mental or visual focus or balance problems. These symptoms can make operating heavy machinery very dangerous, which many factories house. Thus, it's a good idea to stay away from jobs that could put you in harm's way.
The unpredictable nature of the classroom environment coupled with the importance of regular attendance makes a typical teaching job a challenge. Many schools tie performance evaluations with teacher attendance and this can translate into lower pay for an increasing number of districts.
In addition, perfumes, cleaning chemicals, non-adjustable lighting and other factors can make traditional teaching roles quite difficult for people suffering from chronic migraines.
It's easier to qualify for retail work than many other jobs and the variety of workplaces lets you decide the kinds of products you'd prefer to work with and the environments you'd prefer to work in. That said, it has its own set of challenges.
For one thing, retail scheduling is notoriously unreliable, and since you can't exactly schedule your migraines for an afternoon off, you may find yourself getting too few hours, or limited to working shifts that don't suit your needs. Plus, retail positions don't offer much job security.
While it's illegal to fire someone on the basis of a disability, there's a high enough turnover rate in retail that your position could be eliminated for plenty of other reasons. So, if you value stability in a job, stay away from retail work!
THE BEST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH MIGRAINES
While not an exhaustive list, here are a few jobs that may work well for you given your limitations as a migraine sufferer:
Whether you're writing journalistic pieces for the local newspaper, stories for magazines, or ghostwriting content online, there are lots of jobs available for people who enjoy writing and are good at it.
Yes, this line of work requires a lot of screen time, which can be triggering for some migraine sufferers. But you may be able to get around this problem by making some changes to your set up, like adjusting the lighting in your room, using a screen filter, or wearing tinted reading glasses (this goes for any computer-based work).
And since you'd ideally work on your own schedule, taking frequent breaks can also help. If not, writing longhand may be an option, or perhaps you could try dictation software, which allows you to write by speaking!
If your forte is pictures rather than words, a career as a graphic designer may be a good fit. There are lots of opportunities to offer your skills online on freelance sites like Freelancer.com and Upwork.com; you can even create your own website to market your skills and creations.
If you prefer a bit more stability, consider partnering with one or more local copy centers or print shops. Many of these stores offer graphic design services; you can provide some additional assistance from home, either regularly or on an as-needed basis.
And no, you don't have to get a 4-year degree in graphic design to become a professional graphic designer. There are plenty of great courses online that can give you all the training you need without breaking the bank, like Coursera.
Down the road, you might also consider setting up an online storefront where customers pay to download your pre-made icons, logos, templates, illustrations, and other graphic materials. With digital assets, you never have to worry about items running out. You create them once and set up a payment system on your website for customers to download your work.
If you have a passion for teaching, but struggle with the environment of a traditional classroom, consider becoming a private tutor on a platform like TutorMe.com and many others.
You can offer lessons on subjects of your choice, at any level and in any location. Math, science, reading, and writing are obvious subjects, but you can also offer lessons in other things, like sewing, painting, knitting, or cake decorating.
Know other tutors who'd like to partner with you? You could set up a website advertising a whole range of lessons. Best of all, your time is your own, and you can schedule and reschedule your tutoring sessions as needed.
Digital Personal Assistant
Time is precious, and these days plenty of people are willing to pay to save more of it. As a digital personal assistant, your job is to handle the little tasks others find a hassle like booking reservations, scheduling appointments, and helping to coordinate calendars.
While you can make arrangements to work directly with particular clients, it's often easier for people with migraines to work for an agency that aggregates these tasks. This way, rather than being on call whenever you're needed for one employer, you can sign on and take care of tasks for a number of clients whenever you're available to work.
One thing most of these positions have in common is the ability to work independently from a private office or even your own home. This allows you the flexibility you need to take time to recover when your migraines get bad. The downside is that it can lead to less income, so it's important to diversify your revenue stream.
Everyone has a unique perspective, and if you have the ability to capture it in words, that's all you need to start a blog.
Since this type of work involves many tasks including writing, finding and uploading images, sending out email newsletters, and posting to social media channels, blogging is best suited to those who can be front of a computer screen for hours on end without triggering massive migraine attacks.
As your blog begins to grow in popularity, you'll be able to monetize it in a number of ways, from selling advertising space, promoting other people's products (aka affiliate marketing), or creating your own. You can even take consulting work or charge for guest blog posts on other sites.
Of these monetization strategies, I'm most partial to affiliate marketing as it's the easiest to start with and virtually stress-free. With effort, anyone can succeed at this. Best of all, selling products and services created by others in exchange for commissions allows you to set your own schedule, which is so important when coping with chronic migraines. Are you ready to jump in?...
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What do you think? Are there other jobs you'd recommend for fellow migraine sufferers not mentioned here? What about tips for dealing with migraines at work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!