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Pacing at the Holidays to Cope with and Manage Migraine Disease

Pacing is an incredibly important aspect of coping with migraine disease all year round, but especially essential during the demands and pressures of the holiday season.

In a nutshell, pacing is the idea of monitoring your levels of pain, fatigue, stress and depression/anxiety on a scale of 1-10 to ensure you’re not overdoing it and driving your body or mind toward a nasty crash.

Here’s how the numbers break down:

1 – 6 = Keeping doing what you’re doing, but check again later.
7 – 9 = Slow down and continue to check your numbers as you make adjustments.
10 = STOP immediately and take care of yourself.

A great way to view this technique is like the dashboard on a car. Just the same way that you use the gauges on your dashboard to monitor the speed, fuel and oil levels and other messages your car gives you, monitoring these numbers helps you assess what is happening with your body in an objective way at any given moment.

As much as we’d love to be able to do everything we love during the holiday season, the reality of living with a chronic illness like migraine disease is that we have to pay attention to our limits and respect them. If we don’t, we risk missing out entirely on everything the holiday season has to offer by way of not only time with our family and friends, but also our ability to create special memories through experiences with them.

Pacing as a practice, just like any other technique, is always a work in progress. Even for someone like me, who has been using this technique for a few years now, sometimes I completely blow it. I refuse to listen to the clues my body is giving me and crash into a pile dysfunctional goo. As a result, I miss out on everything, rather than being able to pick and choose the activities that are most special and important to me.

Now, I must also admit that the reality of living with migraine disease is that it can be difficult to predict our attacks. Sometimes even when we are diligent about pacing our bodies take away our ability to be part of special events. Pacing is no guarantee that you’ll get to do what you want to do. But it certainly does help increase the likelihood of it.

Do you have questions about the concept of pacing? Please share them in the comments.

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.


  • CG
    7 years ago

    I learned the concept of pacing about twenty years ago, about midway through my migraine journey. I just retire last April. I made it to age 65 in my occupation by reducing hours to 30 a week (flexible) and focusing the remaining energy (?) on my family and trying to maintain my own physical and mental health. So many things stopped or were done halfway. Every day continues to be one of pacing, even in retirement. I’m delighted, however, to have more time now to explore leisure activities as I pace my days, headache And all.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    That’s wonderful! I can only imagine how much better I’ll be at my pacing practice with the benefit of that kind of experience using it. 🙂

  • rpigg
    7 years ago

    When I first started rating the migraines, I set my numbers too high and my activities were severely limited compared to what they are now, I did things when I shouldn’t have. I decided to be nicer to myself and treat myself more like a child that hurts. When the aura or pain starts thats when I take my first med and slow down or sit for a while rather than push thru, if it increases I don’t try wait it out because I know I will lose. I always check my face in the mirror and say “Do you feel ok?” If no I go to the next level of meds and rest. By putting myself first I’ve went from being in bed all day to maybe laying down for a couple of hours. It is also amazing what a nice pair of dark sunglasses or eyemask, 3 or 4 bags of heated rice socks placed in different spots around my head and body and ear plugs can do.

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I think your comment really reinforces the way we get better at using this kind of system with time. It can take a while to feel comfortable using it, and that’s okay. And being nicer to yourself is always important!

  • arden
    7 years ago

    Is it just migraineurs who think they can do it all and just keeping pushing for one more thing especially if they are feeling rather ok at that moment? How do we read the signals before they are knocking us on the side of the head? With danger of collapse around the corner isn’t it natural to try and do do do while the sun shines? Once I realized I’ve overdone it, its too late. The evil brew has begun to bubble, I down every remedy I can think of and wait for the oh so familiar scenario to develop into a screamer if unlucky or an uncomfortable painy night if I caught it in time.
    This is a valuable concept. Wish you would elaborate some more. How can we not deceive ourselves?

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    It takes lots of practice to learn your own clues and how to listen to your body and the subtle clues and messages it gives you.

  • DebbyJ56
    7 years ago

    Too late, I already over did it today!

  • Diana-Lee author
    7 years ago

    It happens. But every day is a new chance to practice.

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