When I start to feel overwhelmed, whether it’s with tinnitus, chronic pain, work, or life in general, I have a place I like to go.
I gather my dog, Ziva, pop her in the car, and we drive to my local cemetery. It’s not the gravestones that give me some much-needed perspective (although passing the burial place of a former work colleague who died far too soon is always poignant). Instead, it’s the situation of the cemetery. How does the saying go…location, location, location.
The cemetery sits on top of one of the hills surrounding the town where I live. Depending on what side of the cemetery I visit I can see my town and the surrounding villages, with their Monopoly-sized houses. And regardless of where I stand I am surrounded by even higher hills coloured ochre and sienna in the winter and lush green and heather purple in the summer.
It’s a visually stunning place to visit for any reason. But my visits generally have a purpose. Seeing the houses so small in the valleys below reminds me of how small me, and my problems are in the grand scheme of the world.
Sitting at home, or even in my office, challenges like tinnitus, chores, caring responsibilities, and the cost of living can feel ENORMOUS! But up at the cemetery they seem less significant, less imposing, and easier to face. I am reminded that the noise in my head, is just that – noise, and I don’t need to let it aggravate me. Those tricky problems I have been thinking about (and overthinking!) become solvable as simple solutions pop into my brain. And, of course, Ziva’s joy in burrowing in rabbit holes in the wilderness at the edge of the cemetery always makes me smile, which makes a BIG difference to my mood.
But we don’t need to climb a hill to get perspective on our tinnitus and our life.
The point of perspective
First things first, finding perspective is not about diminishing our own experience. It’s not about telling ourselves to “get a grip” because “at least it’s not cancer”. All that does is make us suppress the real and legitimate emotional challenges we are experiencing. And when we suppress our emotions they erupt unexpectedly, and we find ourselves shouting at our kids over nothing or raging at other road-users in a way that shocks us.
Instead, perspective is about recognising we are part of humanity, and that everyone in the world (even those celebs and influencers who depict perfect lives) is struggling to some degree. All it takes to notice that, is watching the world around us with curiosity.
This is your permission slip to people-watch! Sit outside a café or on a bench on a busy street and your curiosity will show you exhaustion, illness, fear, sadness, anxiety, and stress. You are not alone in your struggles. We are all struggling with something.
Perspective can also provide often much-needed balance to the way we think about ourselves. Our thoughts can not only be very self-critical, but they also often tell us lies. For example, our critical inner voice might say that we are pathetic because are struggling to cope with our tinnitus, that we are a rubbish parent because our frustration with our tinnitus makes us irritable with our children, or that our struggle to concentrate means we are a useless employee who deserves to get the sack.
Being intentional about gaining perspective, whether through taking a walk, climbing a hill, volunteering for a charity or simply noticing the struggles of every other human on this wonderful planet, can be a big help in silencing our inner critic. It shows us that we are far from inadequate. We are simply human. And, just like everyone else who struggles, we need and deserve compassion.
A personal perspective
You deserve compassion. So look for some perspective and allow yourself to recognise how much you are hurting, and how much kindness and empathy you deserve. There is no better person to give yourself the love and compassion you need but you.
You might like to try this loving-kindness practice I offer as part of my Bee Empowered Course for tinnitus:
Take a deep breath in and a long, slow breath out. Now repeat these three phrases to yourself for the next few minutes. Do so with intention and a firm belief that you deserve all this and more:
May I be well
May I be happy
May I find peace