Self management allows people with long term conditions to remain in control of their lives by working along side medical professionals to manage their condition. This involves supporting and encouraging people living with long term progressive disorders (e.g. Ménière’s) to access information and to develop skills to help them live with their condition, cope day-to-day and make informed decisions about when and how to draw on different types of support. It is important to:
- get to know your condition and how it affects you;
- accept that you’ve got this condition and that it may limit what you can do;
- understand how your condition makes you feel so you can identify the support you need, plan for the future and use the support available to get on with your life;
- recognise that you can get on with life but you may have to make some alterations;
- talk to people who are in a similar situation to you, for mutual support and to share experiences—it can be a great comfort knowing that you are not the only one living with this condition.
By learning to cope with the dizziness you can continue to enjoy a full and active life. Some people find themselves restricting all sorts of work and social contacts in case they have a dizzy spell in public, or avoiding some physical activities in case they provoke dizziness. Try not to let the dizziness change your lifestyle too much. You may want to arrange for someone to be available for support if you have a severe attack; you may need to rest or keep to quiet indoor activities on your bad days. You might also want to take a stick or shopping trolley with you when you go out so that you can lean on them if you feel a bit giddy. But try not to cut down on activities you really enjoy. Dizziness can be frightening, unpleasant or even embarrassing, it is not actually dangerous. Once family, friends, and colleagues know about your problems and how to help, they are likely to be very understanding, and may be able to give you the extra help you need to maintain your lifestyle. So do not allow the vertigo to get in your way. With help you can find practical solutions to most of the problems caused by dizziness, and its effects on your life can be kept to a minimum.
Anxiety and stress
Vestibular disorders can leave people feeling isolated and helpless, especially when newly diagnosed or enduring a particularly nasty bout of vertigo. A large majority of sufferers experience feelings of anxiety just at the thought of having vertigo symptoms in public or at work. These high levels of anxiety can manifest and lead to panic attacks or even bring about an attack of vertigo.
Anxiety and the feeling of dizziness can be a vicious circle. When you feel anxious, stressed or fearful you are more likely to experience dizziness as your body’s natural reaction is the fight or flight response. This response is controlled by hormones, and is an alert state that allows the body to take instant action in the event of danger. Signs include sweating, fast breathing, increased heartbeat, wide eyes, dryness of the mouth, hair standing on end and a tight knot in the stomach. This response is designed to occur as needed and then dissipate, allowing the body to return to a normal level of stress in which it works most of the time. If this does not occur fully the body remains in a state of continual, heightened stress which can increase over time until undesirable symptoms of stress appear.
Coping with a chronic illness is made more difficult if you are excessively stressed. High levels of stress are often linked with the onset of a vertigo attack. It is therefore very important to manage stress and, if necessary, adjust your lifestyle to minimise stressful influences.
Anxiety and stress are very common and most people are able to overcome these without the need for professional help. For others they can become harmful if they begin to affect physical health and day-to-day life by preventing you from doing the things that you normally would. This is where self management comes in; helping yourself by indentifying what support you need and knowing what support is available to you.
Talk about it
It is important to talk about your condition and how it makes you feel. Try expressing your feelings, worries and anxieties to a friend or a family member. Not only does this stop negative feelings bottling up, but it helps your friends and family to gain an understanding of what you are going through.
Contact with others via peer support groups and the Ménière’s Society can provide valuable support and information by sharing experiences and offering advice to one another. Simply knowing that you are not alone and that there are other people in a similar situation can be a great comfort
Counselling is a type of therapy which involves talking about your problems, worries and anxieties. The relationship with the counsellor is confidential and their aim is to help you find ways within yourself to adapt to make the most of your situation and the confidence in yourself to try new ways of thinking and feelings to improve the quality of your life. The counsellor is trained to listen therefore you are able to express your thoughts and feelings freely knowing that they will understand your situation. It can be a relief to share your worries or fears to someone who acknowledges your feelings and can reach a positive solution. Change of employment, financial problems, as well as personal and relationship difficulties can occur. Counselling can help with these and improve the quality of life.
Useful contacts: British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (external site).
The Ménière’s Society provides a forum for people living with vestibular disorders to get in contact and support one another. The Society has a list of local groups which are run independently across the UK and also provides support to anyone wanting to set up a new group. Our popular quarterly magazine, Spin, includes member’s letters; sharing views, experiences and tips on coping with symptoms. The Society also has a very successful penpal/e-pal network and members contact list, both of which are fantastic ways to get in touch with others to share experiences and offer mutual support.