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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.


  • Beth
    3 weeks ago

    I’m struggling with the slow and steady pacing once again. My 5 kids are all grown and having babies of their own. Unfortunately my grandson is living with us. There was a fire in February in their house and we got him. His mom, our daughter, died 3 years ago and his dad doesn’t have a place to live. Long story short I went from a slow and steady empty nester to a Grandma raising a 8 year old grandson who has ADHA. Nothing is easy or slow with him but we wouldn’t let him go no matter what!!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Beth–I’m so sorry to hear about the fire in February and the passing of your daughter three years ago. I’m the mother of a (newly turned) 6-year-old so I can certainly identify with trying to find a balance with the “easy and slow” routine of a child and migraines. I hope you find your balance as well! Keep in touch! Best to you! 🙂

  • DavidWilliamson91
    3 weeks ago

    It would be awesome to hear from the men out there that live with migraines. I do fine until your article went to mother hood instead of parent hood. Us guys struggle with our family’s too. I have done a lot of research and reading up on migraine life. I have learned to adapt to the hormonal struggles that are always in the article, but we guys have are unique struggles to. Please think about the audience that you and others are communicating with. It would be great to see what the rest of all you men or women have to say about my comments.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there! Thanks for sharing your experience as a man with migraines. My husband suffered from migraines as a teenager and so it was definitely interesting comparing stories and seeing how they differ from male to female. We certainly did find some similarities which was gave a common ground from which to work. I’m so glad Joanna linked some of the male contributors for you to check out! Everyone here has such a wonderful perspective to share, and I love reading their stories and much as writing! Best to you!

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi there @DavidWilliamson91, I think many men can relate very well to feeling a bit “left out” & not represented as much as they should as a male! We sure hear that! If it puts your mind at ease at all, rest assured we do have male voices/contributors in the community if you would like to explore some of their articles, I have linked to them below should those topics relate more to you. We absolutely agree that it is SO important to shed light & accurately represent the male population & topics which may be “unique” to them too. I also fully understand that this particular article did not speak to you as it focused more on the aspect of motherhood, but our writer’s discuss topics which are specific to their personal experience with migraine.

    @bethyoung thank you for joining in to share your support!! 🙂

  • Beth
    3 weeks ago

    I understand the hormonal issues as I went through menopause when I was 37. I imagine that you must feel left out! I hope that they can get more guys to write articles about their struggles. I’m interested because I know a man who gets them. I’m sure he’d enjoy things written by and for guys

  • Drea99
    1 month ago

    I really love this forum. I don’t feel like anyone of my friends or family understands what it’s like living with migraines. Slow & steady is something I’m learning!

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Hey there! I’m so glad that you enjoy this forum. I agree that it helps to have people around that can understand the experience of migraines. Yup, slow and steady is still something I’m learning! Thanks for commenting!

  • kelgar
    4 months ago

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

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    2 weeks ago

    Thanks for the support! It’s something I’m constantly working on too and still have to remind my husband of 15 years that I need some downtime. 😉

  • josephinestar
    6 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
    6 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
    6 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
    6 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
    6 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
    6 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
    7 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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