Ziva, our rescue dog had a hard start to life, and she is easily spooked. Something as gentle as a piece of paper floating from my desk to the floor startles her and she’ll get up and run away.
We can be the same when it comes to changes in our tinnitus. Just like Ziva, we can live in a hyperaware state attuned to the smallest alteration in the sound or volume of the noise in our head.
When Ziva is startled, I say: “it’s only [insert harmless thing she is scared of]”. I don’t mock her skittishness – “You scaredy-cat, it’s only paper.” Nor do I get exasperated with her: “For goodness’ sake, Ziva, it’s only paper.” I say the phrase in a calm and gentle voice to reassure her it’s nothing to worry about.
We can soothe ourselves in just the same way. When we notice our tinnitus has changed, or when we become aware of it, having not noticed it for a while, we can say to ourselves “it’s only tinnitus”. We say this in a calm or neutral manner. Our aim is to reassure our brain, so it disengages the fight or flight mechanism which is often activated when our tinnitus changes. That helps to relax our muscles and return our breathing from shallow to normal.
Saying “it’s only tinnitus” also diminishes the importance of it and its power over us. We’re reassuring ourselves that there is nothing to worry about, and we can ignore whatever sound has captured our attention.
Next time you find yourself tense or taking shallow breaths because of your tinnitus, start telling yourself “It’s only tinnitus”. And I mean ‘tell yourself’. Say those words out loud or under your breath. Use it as a mantra.
If it helps, write it on pieces of paper and place them where you need to see them. If you notice your tinnitus changing when you’re stuck in commuting traffic, stick it on your dashboard. If you notice it at 3am when you’ve got out of bed to visit the bathroom, stick it by the sink or on the mirror. If you notice it as a work deadline is imminent, stick it on the side of your laptop screen.
If you found this useful, you’ll learn lots of hints and tips like this on my tinnitus course. Group courses start in September. 1-2-1 courses start at your convenience.