Level 3: Resigned
At this level you start noticing that your tinnitus changes according to how you are. Get angry or frustrated, and it flares up. Do something that makes you happy or relaxed, then it seems to calm down. I have called this level RESIGNED because after all the stress and struggle of the two lower levels, something starts to give here and you start being able to accept your tinnitus. You start to realise that it is not the outside world that is directly responsible for this, but you have an important role too.
In the yellow level tinnitus behaves like one of those rather unsympathetic, old-school doctors that gives you stern advice. If you get upset, wound up, frantic or frightened the tinnitus will punish you. However, and this is the new revelation for this level that doesn’t really exist at level two, if you really start looking after yourself, then the tinnitus does in fact back off. You are now coming to terms with the realisation that you can actually have an effect on it, after all. It may irritate you, and you may have to admit begrudgingly to yourself that maybe wallowing in misery and self-pity is not all that helpful. Here the first sense of taking responsibility starts creeping in as you start being a bit more constructive in thought, at least.
Now is the time to start listening to the advice your tinnitus is giving you. Of course you will notice if it gets worse. Rather than just focusing entirely on feeling distraught, at this stage you should start being able to step back a little and keep an eye on what is going on. The way out of tinnitus is to notice what makes you better. There will be times when you manage it better, or it backs off. When this happens look at what has been going on in your life, and pay attention to this. Your central nervous system is giving you invaluable information: it is telling you what is right for you, what works for you. Think of tinnitus as your in-built doctor who will give you better advice than anyone else. Pay attention to it, and you will find your way to well-being. This is the best ticket out of tinnitus.
Too much anger, frustration, tiredness, pressure, stress, living it up, stimulation, medicine, surgery, physical trauma, loud noise, exposure to cold, change, worry, alcohol, coffee, tea, sugar, unhealthy food, sex, intensity, racing in your head, all these can have an affect on tinnitus. The list is endless. I think the key phrase to be aware of is TOO MUCH.
More comfort, calm, support, manageability, predictable and safe routines, baths, healthy diet, gentle exercise, early nights, yoga, tai chi, meditation, letting go, down-time, fun, ease, snuggles, gardening etc makes your tinnitus back off.
For each person the specific triggers will be different, just as certain things will help certain people more than others. The more you work with your tinnitus and notice all the things that help it back off the better you will be. Some people think that nothing helps their tinnitus. If you are one of these, I gently suggest that you haven’t paid enough attention to what helps. If you can reel off things that make it worse and cannot think of a single thing that helps, then this reveals a lot about your approach.
It can swing either way at this level. You can have a down day when tinnitus is giving you a stark reminder that you are not looking after yourself enough or that you have too much unprocessed baggage inside that needs therapy. You feel negative, but at least you manage to keep one eye open and notice what it was that set you off again, instead of drowning in it.
Other days you feel much better and admit that Julian’s technique or that session with your therapist or the wonderful, happy long walk you had with a great friend has genuinely made you feel better. The tinnitus is still there but you feel better in yourself with it.
You are starting to ACCEPT that your relationship with tinnitus is a two-way process. It may feel like it has moved in but start working with your tinnitus and take its advice, and you will find your path to freedom.
As you start to realise your mind and body need attending to and looking after, you will start reaping the benefits. The moment you start finding things that work for you, then progress starts to accelerate. This gives you some relief, which means that you can let go more, focus on other things more, which in turn distracts you away from tinnitus, which in turn makes it easier to release.
Take positive action when tinnitus gets to you
One thing that really helps at this stage is to get into a habit of doing something positive every time you find yourself reacting negatively to tinnitus. Literally every time your mind starts fretting, take a few deep breaths (see breathing technique at the end of level 6), go for a walk, lie on the floor and do the clenching and relaxing exercise, or anything that makes you feel better. If you get into a regular habit of meeting your negative experience with a positive one, you will start to associate tinnitus with something good.
In your subconscious every time tinnitus starts threatening, your body will get used to starting to relax and feel better. It doesn’t matter if it is a hot shower, yoga or having a sing or rubbing your feet, just get into a regular habit of meeting tinnitus with something positive, and it will very quickly start to matter less. The last thing you should do is stew in negativity! This compounds the whole pattern. Take positive action instead.
I used to just take my focus to whatever felt good in my body. I asked the question: can I find something that feels OK just now? I would take a moment and find something warm, comfortable, strong, clear, free, loose, calm, smooth, centred and then focus on it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it, but it is amazing how few people with tinnitus know what feels okay inside. Its there all the time, its just that we tend not to connect with it.
Buy yourself a foot-spa, create a space in your living room where you can practise relaxing every time you need to. Leave the cushions and blankets out because you may well need to do your relaxation techniques more than once on some days. It’s useful to aim to bring in something positive every time your tinnitus triggers a negative response in you. You may think you stew and think about your tinnitus all the time. Well, in actual fact, you may surprise yourself how much less you focus on it than you think. I challenge you to sit for five minutes and focus on your tinnitus. I can almost guarantee that your mind will wander onto something else!
If you are reading this and you haven’t yet started the process of bringing in support and looking after yourself better, then at some stage you may need to look at why this isn’t happening. Check in with that saboteur in you, the part that says, “This won’t work. It’ll never go,” and so on. Be honest and ask yourself what is holding you back. If you stay stuck at any level, there will be an important reason for doing so. What is stopping you from getting therapy, practising the techniques? Are you one of these people that has to cope by themselves? Is it hard letting support in? Does it feel like a failure or too self-indulgent attending to your own needs? Be really honest, I dare you. Deep down inside you’ll know.
Believe it or not, I have met some people who crave everyone’s sympathy with tinnitus, as if they have never had enough attention in their lives. Getting better removes the attention they are getting. So, as a result, they end up doing everything in their power to keep their tinnitus in place. Others don’t want to get better because they can’t be bothered, or actually quite like being miserable. Sounds unbelievable, but its true. I regularly experience people who, the moment they start getting better and start understanding what tinnitus is all about, discontinue treatment. It seems that there is too much to lose by getting better. We must never underestimate the power of symptoms and how they can give us what we need!
The fact that you are reading this suggests that you want to get better.
So with Doctor Tinnitus checking up on you, the challenge here is to listen to the health advice it is giving you and learn from it rather than fight it. You should be starting to realise that anything that creates resistence or a struggle is not helpful for tinnitus.
Let tinnitus show you what works for you and what makes you better. You will have your own unique things that work for you as an individual. To be frank, your tinnitus will make sure you learn what these are. It will reward you when you do the right thing, and punish you when you lose your rag, or overdo things. I have shared some of the things that helped my own tinnitus, and what made it worse. You will find what works for you. That’s what tinnitus is for. Finding your health. Now there’s a thought!
This next technique is absolutely essential. Please do it today. Work on it over the next few weeks. You may be surprised how revealing it is about you.