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The Art of Not Pushing: Slow and Steady

As an adult, I figured I was done with juvenile warnings like “Don’t stay up too late!” or “Don’t drink alcohol!” or “Don’t sit too close to the TV!” But when my migraines started, my body took over these parental warnings. Since I wanted to avoid the searing-hot waffle iron that adheres itself to my head, I listened. Occasionally, though, I’d see friends enjoying their wine too close to the TV and feel left out. That’s when I would push myself.

Learning that pushing myself only made migraines worse

When my migraines became a daily event, I learned quickly that overexerting my body or trying to push through my many triggers like drinking wine, exercising, or trying to multiply large sums in my head only lead to immense pain later. All of those red flags from my inner-migraine parent were clear: Keeping it gentle was a piece of my healing puzzle.

Migraine’s impact on motherhood

Of course, playing it slow wasn’t always a game my young son was into. Not wanting to feel like a mom left out of motherhood, I’d push through the aches or fatigue, because that’s what real mothers do. I’d end up in bed with that invisible waffle iron frying my head—and saddest of all, no waffles. Slow and steady keeps my migraines at bay. Gentle is how I roll, but rolling slower than a snail can make a person feel left out.

Taking the slow and steady approach to exercise

My migraines keep me from participating in activities like running marathons, hiking arduous trails, or taking mime classes. Still, I was looking to try something slow and steady, and walking the track where my kid takes swim lessons seemed like a safe place to start.

Initially, I felt like a toddler toddling along as the real runners in their Lululemon track pants whooshed passed me. Me and my baggy sweatpants felt a twinge of jealousy as I marvelled at their effortless strides, but as the weeks went on this slow and steady pace seemed to work—no migraine! My body seemed to be able to handle it, and I started dreaming of making own whooshing sound in my own pair of Lululemons!

Ending up pushing myself too far

Then it started—the fiery feeling in my belly, that familiar push. The thing is, though, I’m not pushy. If a waiter brought me the wrong dinner, I’d happily eat the entire the plate of brussels sprouts without (much) complaint. I may not be pushy in life, but on the track that day I was. I pushed myself. I forced my pace to a quick march and walked double my norm.

It only took a couple hours for the attack on my head to start.

My migraines chained for days and days.

Slow and steady can feel a little like being picked last for Tee-Ball (not that that ever happened to me, except for every time we played Tee-Ball), but perhaps all those overprotective warnings are more like caring reminders to keep me out of pain. Slow and steady helps me win my migraine race.

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.


  • kelgar
    1 month ago

    Exactly. I often have to remind family and friends that pushing myself is a bad idea.

  • josephinestar
    4 months ago

    thanks heaps for sharing that… I am in day 8 of my MOH detox…no 2 in fact … I have lived with migraine for 35 years and I have had a revelation or 2 in this past week and I reckon your piece has just about crowned the week. So spot on. I am now almost 58 and have worked myself into this state by taking more and more rescue meds just so I could go to work… what kind of insanity is this I ask myself… I have to have 10 days of annual leave to go into detox… more insanity… people wishing me “have a great break / holiday ” at work… and you know what … I have had the best week so far in ages … I haven’t the horror week I was fully expecting … because maybe I didn’t have to get up and drug myself to go to work… and I could do everything at the slow and steady pace and win my migraine race… so thank heaps Tonilyn… you are Awesome.

  • Tom Picerno moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks for taking time to visit and leave a comment. I’ve had to do the detox thing and it’s no fun at all! I also get the work comments….You just want to say I’m not on vacation! I’m living the slow and steady life and it helps but is also frustrating at times. I hope that it works well for you. Be well

  • ERAyers
    4 months ago

    Story of my life except for the parental warnings. My mom has always been the hare pushing herself past exhaustion. She always gets frustrated when I take the tortoise approach. The funny thing is I get things done just a little bit slower, but with less mistakes.

  • Tom Picerno moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks for the comment ERAyers! I think moms are programed to push themselves past exhaustion. I know my wife does it all the time. It’s like a super power lol. Enjoy your day and be well

  • sus1675
    4 months ago

    I am completely with you! It can be a constant battle. I am an athlete that struggles with migraine. Although I have run two marathons and a halfs. It’s a constant balancing act.
    I’m always afraid to push to the next level in fear of a migraine attack.
    I am jealous of those who can go out and run a few miles and then be fine. I have a whole regimen of resting and icing and rehydrating just to hope I don’t get a migraine….
    Good luck and remember, you are not alone.

  • Tom Picerno moderator
    4 months ago

    sus1675 thanks for showing your support. It means a lot to let others know they are not alone in this fight! Good luck with the marathons! Be well.

  • glassmind
    5 months ago

    Slow and steady. So, true!

    I’ve also learned that if I push myself, migraine just pushes back.

    Better to pull back and keep that migraine at bay.

    Thank you for explaining this so well.

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