What is happening to me?!
The room is spinning and I cannot make it stop!
Why do I feel so dizzy and nauseous?!
I'm so afraid it might happen again....
This is the worst thing to ever happen to me, I feel like I could die!
These are some of the exact words I have heard from some of my patients.
And I get it, these symptoms are SCARY!
When we are dealing with vestibular disorders we feel like these symptoms will never end… the dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and motion sensitivity are just so miserable and just nothing seems to make it stop! After a while, just the thought of moving and it causing vertigo and dizziness can make your head spin.
Sometimes it feels like it would be better to be walking around with a casted ankle and be on crutches, because at least everyone can see that.
But not with…this.
I know it can seem like symptoms just come out of nowhere.
Laying down in bed… BAM! Vertigo.
Walking around the grocery story…BAM! Dizziness.
Moving my head too fast…BAM! Light-headedness.
So now you're afraid to go out, live your life, move your body because… what if it happens again?!
The link between dizziness and anxiety is a complex relationship.
The Link Between Dizziness and Anxiety
Both anxiety and dizziness can both activate the sympathetic nervous system, or more commonly known as the fight and flight response. The sympathetic nervous system located in the amygdala, is part of the limbic system of your brain.
The limbic system is responsible for regulating emotions, such as joy, excitement, but also stress and fear.
The limbic system and the vestibular system are deeply connected through the neurons in your brain.
Therefore, these neurons in your brain often fire together. So when you feel stressed, you may notice that you have increased symptoms of vertigo.
So how do we break this cycle?
The idea is that we need to counteract an over-stimulated fight and flight response, with it’s counter part: rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system).
For the most part, this rest and digest state should be our “normal”.
This is when my body is relaxed, my mind is at ease, and my body is just doing all the things it needs to at a normal steady state (like regulating my heart beat at a calm rate, normal breathing, and digesting food all happens without us having to think about it!).
To help stimulate the parasympathetic symptoms and decrease your dizziness and vertigo, here are a few techniques to try:
Grounding is telling your body that everything is okay, even when it doesn't feel okay.
This can be done seated in a chair, or standing with your back against the wall.
Push down into the ground with your feet, into the back and bottom of the chair with your body. Visualize you are a tree with deep roots going into the earth.
Finally, fixate your eyes on something small (like the hole of an outlet, corner of a door frame), this your visual anchor.
2. Boxed Breathing
Step 1: Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.
3. Positivity and Gratitude
This is a tough one, because when we are feeling awful we feel like there is nothing we can be thankful for.
But actually taking this time and self reflecting can be a powerful tool to get your mind off of what you can’t do and onto what you can do!
I like to tell my clients to have a little mantra to say to themselves when they are feeling frustrated from their symptoms.
This can be something like:
“Motion is good, motion is healthy for me”
“I am strong, my body is able, and I’m safe”
Focusing on what you can’t do, honestly, won’t help you feel any better. Remember, your feelings are not facts. But by starting to focus on the little things you got done each day that shows progress!
Today I am thankful for:
Waking up without symptoms
Walking around the grocery store for 20 minutes without symptoms
Attended a dinner party with my friends and I only needed to step out for 2 breaks!
Surprisingly, you may notice that with this approach your activity level improves before your symptoms catch up. So keep at it!
The gold standard to dizziness related to anxiety is vestibular therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medical care.
Vestibular therapy can seem like a scary first step when you are seeking help for your dizziness and vertigo. But, if you find yourself avoiding activities because you are anxious about having dizziness or vertigo, then vestibular therapy is for you!
Vestibular therapy is specifically designed to help ease your anxieties around movement in a safe and controlled space. You will work with a physical therapist to help rewire your brain to help strengthen your vestibular system and rewire your brain to learn that “motion is good and motion is healthy for me”!
We are here for you, and happy to help you on your journey to wellness!
Ready to stop living in fear of your next episode of dizziness?
Start with a free phone consultation!