Thought Stopping Techniques
My biggest problem with tinnitus is that it disturbs my sleep. I have never been a good sleeper. But now that I have this constant ringing and buzzing in both ears I find it impossible. In the quiet of the night all I can hear is my tinnitus. Often I will toss and turn for hours on end. I will often lie there thinking: "I can't stand this. I have to get some sleep. How will I ever function at work tomorrow? This is awful".
Thinking these thoughts just made me more and more upset. I could feel myself getting tense and uptight – I just wanted to scream! I tried a number of things to try to stop my negative thoughts. One thing that does seem to help is that I focus on my breathing. I think the word blue as I breathe in (I've always found the color blue to be relaxing), and then when I breathe out I think the word relax and just focus on letting all of the tension flow out of my muscles. I just keep focusing on relaxing my body. I then pick some number, like 424, or whatever, and mentally I just subtract 7 and slowly count backwards by 7s – I don't bother whether my calculations are correct – and as I count back.
wards I try to become more deeply relaxed. I do find this helps not thinking about anything else, such as my tinnitus. The more I practice this, the easier it's getting.
I thought the idea of snapping a rubber band against my wrist was a bit silly when l first heard it. But I thought I'd try it. See, I'm wearing one now! I find that if I'm tired or under some sort of stress I am more likely to think very negatively. The first time I used the band was one day when I had been very busy at work. I was tired and I had to go to the movies that night with a friend. I often find the noise at the movies so loud! I was worrying that my tinnitus would be worse when I got home afterwards. When I first noticed myself thinking about this I "slapped" the band against my wrist.
Well, that made me forget about those worries! Then I spent a few moments thinking about how good it would be to catch up with my friend. I've used the rubber band a few times since, but I have actually found that wearing the band and just the sight of it on my wrist helps me to be more aware of the thoughts that are running through my mind. I seem to notice them earlier. I think this is just to help me stop the thought sooner. Then I don't have to use it – I just distract myself by focusing on some positive aspect of whatever situation I find myself in.
Maybe I'm cheating – but I am beginning to feel more in control of my thoughts. I am often asked why I have a rubber band around my wrist! However, this doesn't bother me at all – in fact it only reminds me how far I have come in regaining control over my tinnitus.
Tipping the Balance: How to Increase Positive Thoughts
People often tend to focus on negative aspects of their lives (e.g., their personal shortcomings, failures, tinnitus, etc.) and ignore the positive aspects (e.g., their achievements, successes, family, friends, pleasurable hobbies, etc.). Another way of learning to manage negative thinking is to use techniques that will increase the frequency of positive thinking. Here are some suggestions to try.
1. Focus less on those personal factors that you consider to be negative and begin to focus more on your positive or good points. First, you need to put together a list of positive thoughts about yourself. If you have difficulty, then ask people whom you trust to tell you what they consider to be your good points. Write these thoughts down on small sheets of paper, one thought per page.
Arrange these pages in a pack – just like a pack of cards. Carry them with you each day in your wallet, pocket, bag, or even in the glove box of your car. At random intervals throughout each day, take out your pack of positive thoughts, pull out one sheet, and read the thought and pay serious attention to it. Add new thoughts to the pack as they occur to you. Also, begin to place "wild cards" within your pack – that is, a blank sheet of paper. When you pull out a blank sheet (i.e., a "wildcard"), come up with a new/additional positive thought about yourself on the spot!
2. You can increase the frequency of positive thoughts by pairing them with things that you do frequently. Use frequent behaviors, or activities, as reminders to think a positive thought. For example, remind yourself to think a positive thought each time you eat, brush your teeth, use the telephone, read something, get in and out of your car, use public transportation, and so on.
Next, I'll show you how to challenge negative automatic thoughts. Before that, you can check out Thought Stopping Techniques for more details.
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