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Distracting Myself From Discomfort

When I am hit with a migraine attack, I can usually roll with the punches.  If it’s not too bad, I’ll take my prescription medication and do my best to function as well as I can.  If it’s a really bad migraine, I know to back away from that day’s activities and do my best to know that I need peace, quiet, and, yes, medicine, to get back on the mend as soon as I can.

But at times I do not greet my migraine attack very congenially. I am angry at the migraine, angry at myself.  I start thinking about how much it hurts, how uncomfortable I am, how the illness is out to sabotage me.  If I’m out in public somewhere and my triptan medication is either ineffective or impossible to find, I tend to focus on every little thing that is irritating me.  The lawn crew’s terribly loud blowers get all my attention; this particular bag is pulling on my neck and hurting it; those evil fluorescent lights are flickering in my eyes and making my head pain even worse.

Then something will happen and I’ll get distracted.  I’ll step outside my own thoughts, my own pain, and notice a sweet little toddler reaching up for his babysitter’s hand as they cross the parking lot.  I’ll hear the tiny chirps of baby birds and start looking for the nest.  I’ll pick up a book and read a few pages and find myself caught up in the story. I’ll get a text message from my cousin and start smiling. For those few moments, I forget the discomfort and pain of the migraine.

Once I can break away from it, I am reminded of how easily I can distract myself from all but the worst migraine episodes.  I’m thankful for the fact that my migraines rarely approach that awful, terrible realm where I am virtually incapable of thoughts beyond the pain and sickness.  Most of my migraines are between 3 and 7 on the discomfort scale, so if I give myself the chance, I can often distract myself with books, TV shows, a good conversation, and even videos of kittens on the internet (and I’m not ashamed to admit that! J).

What do you do to distract yourself from a migraine episode? What works, and what does not work? Are you able to read during a migraine?  Are there any comforting distractions that once worked for you but no longer do?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Leigh K
    6 years ago

    For one of my ‘typical’ migraines I’m usually able to distract myself with tv, the computer, knitting… Unfortunately I can’t really read with a migraine. I find it too hard to focus. Most of my migraines, while being daily, are easy enough to ignore now that I’ve gotten used to them (not sure if that is good or bad lol) and I am very thankful that the really bad ones are only about 1-2 a month now (thanks to medication.)

  • Diana-Lee
    6 years ago

    I am SO with you on being grateful I can usually distract myself. If I can’t, then I know I’m in trouble! :/

    My favorite distractions are mainly media/entertainment related. I’m lucky to be able to watch TV or use my computer most of the time without it making me feel worse, which gives me lots of options.

    I routinely turn to my favorite sitcoms (Parks & Rec, New Girl, The Office, Arrested Development) and funny movies and my vault of things that cheer me up online. Sometimes it’s great to immerse myself in a well written dramatic TV series, too (The Good Wife, Scandal, Breaking Bad).

    Slightly less frequently, but still pretty often, I can also read during a Migraine attack. So mindless, entertaining stuff is the name of the game there. I especially like to churn through the popular young adult series during those times. I just started The Mortal Instruments series, and it’s fitting the distraction bill nicely.

    My furbabies Felix the cat and Maisy the dog play a huge role in distraction & comfort, too. They’re such good cuddlers and companions.

  • lisacooper
    6 years ago

    We have long suspected my son’s biggest problem was the anxiety associated with his severe headaches. When the pain gets bad, he doesn’t breathe right and then the pain gets worse. He’s been going for biofeedback and his therapist has him practice with this at home:

  • 100dollarheadache
    6 years ago

    nothing can distract me from the pain of a migraine, nothing. it is overwhelming. the pain is worse than a broken bone and the vomiting goes to the point of dehydration. i am not trying to be negative but nothing distracts me from the pain.i take my triptans and hope it works. i hope i caught early enough. it can make the difference between being sick one day or three.i take some compazine for nausea and i am out. passing out is all that ends the pain, unconsciousness.i have slept 16 hours after a migraine episode. at times i awake and still have head pain. it feels like a hangover. everything affects me, light, sound and the smell of food. it lingers, sometimes for 2 to 3 days. avoiding triggers and having more knowledge has reduced my episodes. 6 months of keeping a journal helped me to discover some of my triggers.lack of sleep, skipping meats, stress, overexertion, diet coke, artificial sugars and bright sun among others. my migrianes have gone down for 10 to 12 a month to 5 to 7. even at 5 to 7 migraines a month i lose 1/2 the month to sickness. there is not a day that goes by that i awake and i say i hope i do not get a headache today. it is always on my mind or i am always trying to prevent it. there is a little window of opportunity to fight back and get my meds in me asap, i will suffer. the aura always sets off a migraine for me. that is my signal to act fast. some of the worst migraines i have encountered were headaches i wake up with. the pain is already very intense and usually leads to vomiting. friends and family members who do not really understand migraine seem to dismiss it. try this or that. a family member has even mentioned that she knows how i feel. when i get my allergies i feel terrible. i will take allergies 7 days a week rather than 7 migraines a month. mkm (100 dollar headache) the reason i use the name 100 dollar headache is because my needle i use to combat migraine is one hundred dollars a piece. there have been months when it was a thousand dollar headache…….

  • kateymac
    6 years ago

    To 100dollarheadache:
    I don’t think you are being negative at all. You’re very, very sick. Big difference.

    I spent MANY years in the kind of pain you describe. When there’s no relief, there’s no relief. That’s why it’s such a horrible illness that people can’t begin to understand. I would guess that those who have written here about being able to find relief at times in distractions have also been in your spot in the past. When I was there, all I could do was take meds as able, pile ice on my head, lay in a dark & silent room, and wait. Sometimes my headache specialist at the time would prescribe Valium for those impossible bouts; 4 a day for 4 – 6 days would finally bring it back to a dull roar until next time, which usually happened within just weeks. In between, constant migraines continued, just not at the Valium-run level.

    I tried all kinds of things, traditional, nontraditional, and outright flakey. The only thing that took it all down a few notches was to get on a daily, long acting narcotic. My doc and I finally turned to that after four years of disability due to the above levels of migraine. It’s not everyone’s answer, but it was the best I could do. And I still need other pain meds with it.

    It’s a horrible illness. Many sufferers are in the hell you are in now. You are not alone. I am so sorry that you are finding no relief. I hope something changes and you somehow find something that helps soon.

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