Living with tinnitus requires us both to be a patient and to be patient.
When we have tinnitus, it can be very difficult to cope with delays in our treatment. In the UK it can take several weeks to get a first appointment with our GP in order to start investigating our tinnitus. And, thanks to Covid, that first appointment will often be a telephone conversation. Then we have to wait again until we can have a face-to-face consultation with our GP so they can check our ears for wax and inflammation.
Once we have been given a referral for Ear, Nose & Throat it can take over six months to see a consultant. That requires huge patience when we are stressed and distressed by the symptoms we are experiencing.
Once we have been seen by ENT we have to wait again. For medication to alleviate anxiety or help us sleep, for cognitive behavioral therapy, or for hearing aids or maskers. And, let’s face it, we’re ALL waiting for a cure!
How can we make that waiting time more bearable?
Here are four steps to help you cope with impatience – whether that’s in your tinnitus journey or in life generally.
1. Recognize that you are being impatient
It can be difficult to realize what kind of emotions we are experiencing if we’re not used to exploring them with curiosity. Sometimes we just feel like one big ball of emotion. But, if we sit down and unpick those feelings, we might find emotions such as frustration, anger, fear and impatience.
How do we learn to recognize when we’re being impatient? We might notice our impatience in many other scenarios. I particularly notice my impatience when I call an organization to find that I am #9 in the queue and will have to sit and endure muzak for ages. I also notice my impatience when I want to be somewhere quickly and every light seems to turn red against me.
Where do you normally feel impatient? Next time you’re in that situation become aware of what that feels like. You might be drumming your fingers on the steering wheel, breathing slowly or even shouting at the phone queue to reduce more quickly (or is that just me?).
2. Label your impatience
Once we become aware that we are being impatient we can label it as such. This isn’t as a way of beating ourselves up for being impatient but simply enables us to acknowledge that we are feeling this way. All you need to say is something like “I am feeling impatient”.
3. Feel your impatience in your body
We feel a lot of our emotions in different parts of our bodies. Thanks to my mindfulness practice I know that I feel anxiety in my belly, powerlessness in my throat, impatience in my chest, and stress in my shoulders. We all feel emotions differently. Next time you’re impatient, for example waiting on hold for someone to answer the phone, label it as such. Then close your eyes and spend your time waiting noticing where there is tension or tightness in your body. This will give you a good clue as to where you feel your impatience.
When we feel tension in that area in future, we’ll be able to recognize it as impatience. That helps put us back in control, because we then have a choice whether we react or respond to it.
4. Changing your impatience
Once you recognize impatience, and the impatient thoughts that accompany it, you can choose whether to continue reacting to the situation (which means the situation is controlling how you feel and what you think) or you can respond to the situation. While waiting on the phone you might notice that impatience is making your shoulders tight and your hands clench. You can choose to relax your shoulders, open your hands and take deep breaths while you’re waiting for somebody to answer.
That is the wise choice. After all, the tension in your shoulders and hands, and your impatience is not going make anyone answer the phone any more quickly. And getting more and more frustrated at the time it takes for your call to be answered just increases your stress and – you guessed it – your tinnitus.