Quite a few of my clients have mentioned that their tinnitus has become quieter over the last week or so.
But others have told me that their tinnitus has increased significantly. They want to know why.
I’ve given both groups of clients the same answer: their change in tinnitus is coronavirus. No, they haven’t got it (or at least not that they are aware of!). Their concern about coronavirus is what’s making a difference to their tinnitus.
For the first group their brain has found something else to focus on. For them coronavirus has replaced tinnitus as the issue that most needs attention right now. As a result their brain has switched focus from the noise in their head to the multitude of practical issues that coronavirus presents such as working from home, self-isolation, home-schooling, and finding toilet roll.
The second group have found that their worries over the same practicalities have increased their tinnitus. Most of us find that our tinnitus seems louder when we’re worried, ill or stressed. So it’s absolutely no surprise to get a tinnitus spike in these challenging times.
What’s interesting for me as a mindfulness teacher is the difference between the two groups.
The way the coronavirus challenge affects our tinnitus give us some very helpful clues about the mindful practices that can best help us manage our tinnitus.
For “focusers” – people whose tinnitus has reduced
If you’re in the group of people whose tinnitus has reduced then you’re a “focuser”. Beneficial mindfulness practices for you are ones where we are focusing on something specific. Here’s a quick mindfulness exercise for focusers who are struggling with tinnitus or coronavirus right now:
The tree anchor
Stand with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart.
Keep your spine straight and rest your hands at your side. Gently close your eyes.
Imagine roots growing out from your feet.
Feel them extend deep below you, through your shoes, the carpet, any floors below you until they hit earth.
Feel the tug as they dive deep into the earth, anchoring you deeply, solidly.
Stay with that feeling of solidity as you breathe deeply, in and out for a few minutes.
Once you feel sufficiently grounded wiggle your toes, feel your feet in your socks and your shoes. Take a deep breath and carry on with your day.
For “worriers” – people whose tinnitus has increased
If you’re in the group of people whose tinnitus has increased then you’re a “worrier”. Beneficial exercises for you are ones where we are observe and allow our worrisome thoughts to appear and then fade away. Here’s a quick mindfulness exercise for worriers who are really struggling with tinnitus or coronavirus right now:
Leaves on a stream
Find a comfortable posture with your feet on the ground and your hands loose in your lap. Close your eyes gently.
Now imagine you are sitting at the side of a sparkling stream. Beautiful autumn leaves are floating gently down it, passing in front of you.
What are you thinking and feeling? If you’re worried, you’ll have thoughts and emotions popping up frequently. That’s perfectly normal.
Try and observe each thought or feeling as it arises.
As each one comes, try not to follow that thought or feeling. Instead, imagine picking that thought or feeling from your mind and placing it on a leaf in the stream. Then watch it float past you and away.
Repeat this with every thought or emotion you experience. It doesn’t matter if you suddenly become aware that you’re engrossed in worrying about where to find paracetamol, or how you can cope with your tinnitus. Simply pause at that point, pick the thought out of your mind and watch it float away.
Try and continue with this exercise for 10 minutes before taking a deep breath and carrying on with your day.
These are just two examples of the mindfulness exercises we practise in my Mindfulness-Based Tinnitus Management courses. The next courses start in May and will be open for registration from Monday 23rd March. To receive an email to the sign-up page on Monday simply contact me.