Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

What’s Your Secret: Distraction

In this What’s Your Secret video, we discuss ways to distract ourselves when dealing with pain. Living with chronic migraine can often mean living with some amount of pain on a fairly constant basis. The most severe migraine pain, of course, means a dark room and being still – but if we are at a moderate pain level, how do we distract ourselves so that pain is not the focus of our lives?

How do you distract yourself?

The answer to this question is unique to each of us as for some people, an activity that works just fine can trigger further pain for someone else. Still, it can help to share ideas and learn from one another as we all navigate this world of migraine together.

In the comment section below, please share your strategies and techniques for distracting yourself from pain and thanks for participating!

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

Comments

  • lizard123
    4 weeks ago

    This article could not have come at a more perfect time. I have chronic migraine, and lately I have been so restless and honestly bored, when I am so bad it prevents me from doing things. I can watch Netflix or Youtube with the volume almost off and sunglasses if I need to, but I run out of patience, being so passive. I have been trying to find a “hobby” that is simple enough to not tax me mentally or physically, but is more than laying around. I like the idea of beadwork, especially if I’m following a pattern so I don’t have to think. People have suggested coloring, but I am very phonophobic, and I think the sound of pencils or markers rubbing on paper would be too irritating (though maybe great for someone else!). Migraines make my eyes sensitive, and can’t make sense of text, so reading isn’t an option. But maybe I could take up crocheting again, and if the pattern was very simple I might not even have to look. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @lizard123– Thank you for speaking to that boring part of having chronic migraine. It really is such a true part of this disease. We are paralyzed by the pain and made to live in fear of movement. The result of this reality day after day? Boredom! https://migraine.com/living-migraine/managing-multi-day-intractable-migraine-attack/

    I also have extreme eye sensitivity such that reading will trigger a migraine- so that’s not an option for me, ever. So, I agree, this is a helpful thread. Glad it’s resonating with you too! Hope you’ll keep in touch. So thankful you’re a part of our community.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hi @lizard123– thanks so much for writing back. Yes! I know exactly what you mean. It’s so comforting to know there are others out there navigating the same terrain, even though I’d never wish this pain on my worst enemy! I think, ultimately, it’s just such a relief to know we’re not alone in this- as it’s so very isolating- and most times we’re the only people we know in real life who have this kind of pain and other symptoms as badly as we do. This is so strange as we’re likely surrounded by others who are living with migraine- it’s just the awful downside of it being an invisible disease- there’s no way to identify each other in the real world. If we all had a big M on our foreheads, I think we’d be amazed to see how many of us there are out there. Imagine the knowing glances, warm hugs, and supportive conversations we would share. Short of that, we have the weird internet and the wonderful migraine.com to connect, relate, share, support, and learn and from each other. I’m so grateful for this place – it shores me up and lifts me up when I’m low. Glad to ‘meet’ you, today. You’ve definitely brightened my day.

  • lizard123
    4 weeks ago

    Wow! So many similarities in that article! It’s such an odd feeling finding someone who experiences things similar to the way I do. On the one hand, I wouldn’t ever want anyone to feel the way I do. Yet there’s something “nice” and encouraging knowing someone else understands how I’m feeling. Thank you for all your writing.

  • Luvlee
    4 weeks ago

    I have had migraines for as long as i can remember and For me I find that if I just go for a long walk that helps. Of course I have to wear sunglasses because of the light. I also find that if I get absorbed in my painting I don’t intensely focus on just the pain. I know that for most people this doesn’t work but over the years I have tried many things , i look at anything that slightly helps is better than nothing at all. My heartfelt good wishes to all.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Love the idea of painting, @luvlee. Sounds peaceful and absorbing. I’m also a walker- and I’ve found a great hat to block the light, I take my dog out in nature where she doesn’t require a leash so I don’t get pulled around— and I find that, and pacing myself, can make all the difference in terms of giving me perspective in reminding me that I am not my pain. Thanks so much for sharing what works for you.

  • Bee123
    4 weeks ago

    It’s interesting to hear others using the hot water method like myself. I too find that often hot showers and baths help moderate migraine. It can also help with the weak and dizzy feelings that come with mine. Though too much heat can make the sickness worse so it’s a fine balance.

    I too like craft. I like to crochet. Bead work sounds like fun what a nice suggestion. I also do arrow word puzzles and read books sometimes. When things get really bad I close my eyes and lie still in a dark room and take as many tablets for pain and sickness as I can.

    Another big thing I have discovered is coffee and caffeine. Though it’s not a distraction it helps with the pain and energy levels.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @bee123 – crochet! I used to know how to do that. I’ll have to see if I can pick it back up. I like the reminder of word puzzles, too. I’m unable to read because of the migraine attacks, but I could handle a puzzle here or there, for sure. And yes, a well-timed caffeinated drink can do wonders. Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas.

  • beezeree
    4 weeks ago

    Was interesting to me that one person said they can go to the gym but can only lift weights, no aerobics. I’m the opposite, if it’s not a zombie migraine and I can leave the house, I do an hour or so on the treadmill to distract me but lifting a weight makes my head want to explode even more. And yes, having a task/hobby you can focus on which enables you to back burner some portion of the pain is very helpful. Also makes you feel productive instead of invalided. Endless Netflix/amazon dramas with 5 or more seasons work for me too lol.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Isn’t it interesting how different we all are, @beezeree? I love that about this site. It makes it such a wonderful place to learn from one another. What’s your task/hobby?

  • darcyshirley
    4 weeks ago

    The biggest help for me over the last couple years, regardless of intensity, is meditating on the pain. I trace out the boundaries of the pain over and over and over, describe it in my head, take deep breathes and try to be still. I’ll alternate that with “residing” in a part of my body that isn’t in pain, usually my left arm, and just focus on how NOT in pain that part of my body is. It can be really difficult to do this when my migraine goes full blown, but it gives my mind something to do while I wait for medication to kick in. It helps put the pain in perspective.

    When it gets “call out of work” bad, I’ll run the right side of my head under hot water until i run out of hot water or I can’t handle the heat anymore, then it some peanut butter toast and try to rest sitting up, propped up by a bunch of pillows in bed. I might do that for an hour and then go back to shower and try again. Those are desperate days. 🙁

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @darcyshirley Love this description- and your offering. This helps so much. Funny- as we were saying below that sitting around and thinking about the pain does nothing but make it worse. What you describe here- is such an artful way of showing the reverse. Thank you. And the hot water offering is so interesting. I wrote an article about allodynia – a side effect of migraine(sensitive skin and hair) and a number of people wrote in the comment section that they addressed this issue by running hot water on their scalp. I’ve been trying it ever since, and it definitely helps with the allodynia. I haven’t tried it for the pain in general. I will now. Thanks!

  • x0gda4
    4 weeks ago

    Hi Holly!

    I make mostly bracelets, rings, earrings. I like projects I can finish in one sitting the best. Just got a super-cool grab bag of beads in the mail today and am bbq looking forward to some play time.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Love this idea! Thank you for sharing. You’ve helped others by offering this idea.

  • Anneke90
    4 weeks ago

    I have about 20 migraine days a month, so my distractions vary by intensity. Severe ones? I just drug myself and pray. For moderate ones, I like to lie in a dark room on my acupressure mat under a weighted blanket and listen to a podcast or an audio book. If I’m not experiencing too much light sensitivity, I can put a show on – Seinfeld and The Office are my go to for such occasions. I might even throw on a hat, large sunglasses, and go for a walk to get some steps in. If it’s a mild one, I try to take advantage of it being a “better” day and go to the gym. I can’t do intense cardio because that’ll trigger a migraine for me, but I can do weightlifting without a problem. Focusing on a muscle group and the pain in that part of my body is more therapeutic than sitting at home thinking about my head pain. Dog cuddles are approved for all levels of intensity. Distractions are a huge deal for me because without them, my mental health really starts to suffer.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your approach to distracting yourself from migraine. I like how you broke things down by level of migraine intensity. Makes all the sense in the world. You are SO right that sitting around and just thinking about head pain does nothing but increase it. And YES- I also couldn’t agree more: dog cuddles are prescribed 24/7- no matter the pain level! Thanks again for chiming in.

  • Moom
    4 weeks ago

    My distractions- If I can’t rest, I focus on one thing while being still. I work from home which reduced my migraines in half. Now they are 9-12 a month. I can work by focusing only on what my project is at the time. Excessive movement is avoided. I do have to stop and lay down sometimes but I have learned my way to manage the migraine and minimize the many other symptoms with triptans. I am 70 and have had migraines since I was 12. Sometimes I get so tired of coping☹️

  • lindaann
    4 weeks ago

    Oh I relate to you so much, I had my first migraine at age 11 and I am still getting them at 62. I was told they would let up in menopause but they have only gotten worse. Aimovig has given me some relief but it is the chronic daily pain that gets the better of me. I feel like I am just broken. To cope, I stay active, busy and try not to dwell on it. I get lots of doggie cuddles and I try to give back to others. On bad days I listen to pod casts as I can’t read or watch TV. I walk and I remind myself of the good things in life.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hi @lindaann– your comment about the chronic daily pain related to migraine reminded me of this piece: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/chronic-bodys-slow-leak/. I can SO relate. And yes, so important to remind ourselves of the good things. I try to keep a wellness journal to that end- almost the opposite of a headache journal: https://migraine.com/video/new-take-headache-calendar/. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hi @janlan12– what a long journey with migraine! Your wisdom is quite earned. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us so that we can learn from you. I’ve followed a similar path of shifting to working from home and learning to stay still and rest quietly when needed. And yes, despite all of those good strategies, it is still quite a challenging path we’re on. Glad to be on it with you – I hope it helps you to share the load here and to remember you’re not alone. I wrote a piece recently on the topic of coping with those intersections that feel especially hard: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/turn-corner-when-feeling-down/ You could probably write a book on this and many other migraine-related topics! Hope you will continue to share here on migraine.com. Thanks for being here.

  • x0gda4
    4 weeks ago

    I find doing beadwork is the “just right” for when it comes to mild/moderate pain. It’s fun to follow a pattern or make one of my own, and see the results. For high moderate pain, I like to binge on Netflix or another movie streaming app.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hi there, @x0gda4 – thank you for sharing this strategy that works for you. By beadwork, do you mean jewelry-making (necklaces, and such?). What a lovely idea. Similarly, I have recently found that knitting is a helpful strategy. It helps to engage myself in something concrete that, as you said, results in something to show for all that time that can so frequently feel lost to migraine. Of course, when the pain is high, there is no focusing on anything- and like you, I think most of us have to do something much more passive.

    Thanks again for sharing. It really helps to see what others are up to- it’s validating to feel the similarities and eye-opening to hear new ideas!

  • forresthowie
    1 month ago

    That’s a tough one. Listening to something funny on audible (Ricky Gervais works for me) or soothing (Michael Palin reads his own work on audible) helps. Staying still and watching something – has to be funny / relaxing or it doesn’t work. I’m fortunate to not have any visual issues. What I can’t cope with are conversations – I can’t focus enough on what the other person is saying or what I need to say. A hot shower also almost takes the pain away, as long as I’m under the water. Once I’m out, the pain returns. It’s a nice respite though.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    @forresthowie– glad you spoke about the conversations piece. I’ve had friends and family members who offer to come over to be with me while I’m battling migraine- they say they’ll just sit with me- that they’ll do the talking so I can just listen. It’s so kind of them, but it’s the listening that’s so hard. It’s impossible to focus- and the pressure of doing so does ultimately make things worse. Thanks for sharing.

  • Moom
    4 weeks ago

    Yes. Listening is very difficult!

  • Marci Kallick moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Hi @forresthowie– Thank you for sharing what’s been working for you. It’s always helpful for our community to learn from others. I’m completely with you on the staying still part…I find keeping very still helps with the nausea and pain (as well as keeping sounds and lights to a minimum haha…). If you have access to a tub, I wonder if relaxing in the hot water would offer you the same positive benefits the hot shower does? Glad you’ve found some solutions! ~Marci, Migraine.com team

  • Rons
    1 month ago

    Video games and reading books is my go to.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi Rons- thanks so much for sharing what works for you. I wish I could do either of those- but my migraines trigger from my eyes being busy either from books or watching engaging videos. I can picture how both of those things would work to take you to another place and provide an effective distraction from the severe pain you’re experiencing.

  • Poll