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Stress + Tinnitus = Help!

“It’s like my life is a blender and it’s stuck on frappe!”

This is a quote from one of my clients. And while we both laughed when she said it, I understood exactly the struggle that lay behind those words.

Many of us find that stress makes our tinnitus seem more intrusive. It can also make those of us with sound sensitivity even more irritated by noise.

Here’s what we can do to help ourselves:

  • Take time to notice. Many of us have signs that we are starting to struggle with stress. Mine is waking up at 3am with a whirling mind that doesn’t want to go back to sleep. Some of us may smoke or drink more and others may notice that we’re more anxious, depressed or are snapping at our kids. If we’re in the midst of a stressful situation we might not notice these coping behaviors developing. A great way to keep tabs on how we are feeling is to spend 5 minutes before we go to bed making a list of all the to-do’s for tomorrow. This can not only help with sleep, because we’ve assured our anxious brain we’ve got things covered, but can also help us notice how we feel physically and mentally - when we’re making this list.

  • Step outside. If possible, we can go for a short walk around our neighborhood. If not, we can take 5 minutes break in our garden or a nearby green space.

  • Relax. Yes, I know, it’s easier said than done! But there are some great apps out there with short guided meditations that can help bring our stress levels down a notch or two.

  • Reach out. We are not alone on our tinnitus journey. Friends, family and colleagues want to help us, but they need to know we are struggling.

  • Set goals and priorities. It’s important to decide what must get done now and what can wait. We also need to learn to say “no” to new tasks if we start to feel like we’re taking on too much.

  • Train ourselves. Be more resilient. Mindfulness is proven to help people reduce the stress in their lives and manage it better when it arises. Less stress = fewer tinnitus spikes.

  • Talk. If stress is badly affecting our relationships, work or tinnitus, we need to let our healthcare professionals know, and find out how they can support us.

As someone my husband used to call a “stress monkey”, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to learn how to manage stress well. It makes a big difference to our tinnitus, our quality of life, our health and our relationships. Mindfulness works for me. Whatever helps you, please make it a priority in your life. In the words of a well-known advert: “because you’re worth it”.

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