Living with tinnitus can feel draining and overwhelming. Sometimes we can’t even remember what works or helps us to manage our tinnitus. We might even think that we don’t have any tools or techniques. We might start using a tool and it doesn’t seem to be the quick fix that we thought it might be, and we put it down and label it as useless.
I try and apply myself to a regular practice of self-care including yoga and meditation. I don’t really notice what it brings me at the time. It certainly doesn’t make my tinnitus go away or cure it. But what I do recognise is that when I haven’t done any self-care, meditation or yoga for a while, I start to become aware that things irritate me a lot more.
I become impatient sitting in a queue of traffic. I become highly offended of a driver not indicating a ‘thank you’ when I give way to them. I may hold a small grudge with my husband when usually there wouldn’t even be an issue.
These all seem quite insignificant things. And they are insignificant, when they are separated from each other. But when they start piling up one after the other it can affect us on a deeper psychological and physiological level. The brain starts to interpret these insignificant events as stressors.
When we start to become stressed the brain responds by releasing the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline to help us manage these stresses. This can trigger the fight/flight response. We are now in the mode of reacting instead of responding. We may overreact, feel highly charged and emotional and experience irrational thinking and worst-case scenario thinking. This mode can perpetuate a negative downward spiral. It seems a bit overgeneralised to say this, but I recognise that when I don’t practice self-care, my day to day ability to manage how I feel about my tinnitus decreases. My resilience is lessened.
I have cycled through this pattern many times and the outcome is always the same. I don’t really notice huge benefits of self-care when I am doing self-care. It is only after I have stopped self-care (usually because I am too busy, and I don’t have enough time to fit it in) that I notice how helpful it had been. Because without it I don’t have a full battery, I am not fully resourced and I am no longer able to help myself or others. I start noticing my tinnitus a lot more and it becomes an issue. I no longer have the ability to self soothe and remind myself I am ok, life is ok, my tinnitus is ok. With Self Care, my battery becomes more fully charged, I feel more resourced and capable and I can remind myself I am ok right now. My tinnitus is not the enemy or the threat. It’s how I think and feel about my tinnitus that causes the distress.
So, maybe it’s ok for me to reassure myself I am ok and doing a good job. Maybe it is ok for me to sit down and have a cup of tea and take a break. Maybe it is ok for me to soak in the bath longer than normal. Maybe it is ok for me to make time for myself to read a magazine or meet a friend for a coffee. Because I now know that when I start to carve out time in my day or week for ‘Me’ I am telling myself I am ok and I deserve to have a break. I am also telling my brain that all is well with the world so it doesn’t need to be in fight/flight mode right now. And when I start to ‘do Self Care’ I become less stressed. And being less stressed means I am less likely to notice my tinnitus.
My conclusion-SELF CARE ISN’T SELFISH.
What’s in your Self Care Tool Box?
Listening to Music
Watching a favourite TV Show or Movie
Reading a Book, Magazine or Blog
Spending time with Friends and Family
Being in Nature
Hobbies and Interests
Have a Massage or Pamper Day
Warm Bubble Bath
Finding a Support Group
Buy yourself a Bunch of Flowers-Because YOU DESERVE IT!
Buy yourself a Small Treat-because you deserve it!
Have a Nap or Take a Break
Have a Cup of Tea