After a two-week long cold I was hoping I was over the worst of it. My tinnitus had other ideas. I fully expected my tinnitus to be a bit more vocal while I was ill – after all illness, stress and tiredness are common tinnitus triggers for most of us. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to continue shouting at me once my cold had gone. And not just in my ears, but seemingly throughout my whole skull. Urgh! I am not impressed.
It’s so tempting when our tinnitus behaves unusually like this for us to start worrying – has the cold virus damaged my ears? Is my tinnitus going to stay like this? How will I cope? Those kind of thoughts are perfectly natural. If we sit still for a moment and observe how we feel we might notice that those thoughts are making us feel worried, scared, despondent or anxious. We might also become aware that our stomach has butterflies or we’re gritting our teeth – classic signs of feeling stressed.
This cycle of thoughts, feelings and emotions impacts our behaviours. We might speak irritably to family or colleagues, or feel so restless we can’t concentrate on work or watching a TV programme.
credit: Dr Sarah Edwards PhD
This all happens as an automatic reaction to the increased tinnitus challenge. We’re not conscious of it. We certainly don’t choose it! But how do we interrupt this cycle on days when we’re really struggling?
STOP is a simple mindfulness practice that I love to use whenever I’m struggling. It can take moments or minutes – whatever you need to get back on a slightly more even keel. Try out these four steps:
STOP what you’re doing right away, whatever it is. Stand or sit right where you are, then:
TAKE a deep breath in and a slow breath out. Do this at least twice more, noticing the sensations of your chest or belly as it rises and falls. Become aware of your feet on the floor, your bottom in the chair (if you’re sitting down), your hands against your side or resting against a surface.
OBSERVE any thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations as you become aware of them. Try just to notice them, rather than get caught up in them. You might try adding labels such as “worry”, “frustration” “tight shoulders”.
PROCEED with your day, remembering to STOP again whenever you need to.
This short practice has so many uses – you don’t need to keep it just for those challenging tinnitus moments. It’s great for times when your boss dumps a load of work on you with an impossible deadline, or your child tells you it’s show and tell 5 minutes before you need to leave for school (teach him this STOP practice!).
You can learn a whole range of mindfulness techniques to help manage your tinnitus on my live, online Bee Empowered course.