Everyone is different, as we all know. Everyone experiences things differently, including mental, physical and psychological illnesses. This is perfectly fine and natural, but as a result, finding a coping method for a specific problem can be difficult. Many people try to give a “one size fits all” solution, which simply doesn’t exist. So when it comes to misophonia, one of the most important things is to try and find a group of coping strategies that help you, even if they may not help other people.
I like to group these strategies into two particular groups; passive and active. Passive strategies are the methods that usually involve just dealing with the triggers, just coping with it at the time, whereas active strategies are the methods that deal with the source of the trigger and actively try to get rid of it. Both are completely okay, neither is better than the other.
- Wearing noise-cancelling headphones
- Wearing earplugs
- Fidget toys to release nervous energy (cubes, spinners, etc)
- Wearing earphones
- Listening to classical/calming music
- Breathing exercises
- Going out of the room you’re in
- Staying on top of general stress
- Moving to a quieter area
- Requesting certain aids at school/work
- Asking the person making the trigger to stop
Obviously, these are a big variety of coping methods, so that’s why it’s important to find the ones that best help you. In order to do so, you need to ask yourself certain questions and keep a record of important aspects.
Firstly, keep a record (perhaps in a diary or journal) of your triggers and where you’re most likely to experience them. For example, if a trigger is chewing noises, note that down along with “kitchen” or “dining room” or wherever you commonly hear it. Next is considering already existing health problems, both mental and physical. For example, if you’re on crutches or a wheelchair most of the time due to a disability, you need to realise you may not always be able to just leave the room. Or if you have social anxiety, you may be unable to ask the person to stop or leave the room too. If you have any sort of anger issues, you may need to avoid confrontation in case of a violent response to the trigger. Some people can’t use earplugs because they irritate existing tinnitus. Take existing problems into consideration to cross out any coping methods that won’t help you.
Finally, use the methods you have left and just experiment. Some are more accessible than others, such as wearing earphones, whereas noise-cancelling headphones are relatively expensive. It’s important to also note which ones do help. If you try out some fidget toys and they help release nervous energy, keep them with you when you know you may be exposed to triggers. It may be useful to create a small pack to take with you, which may include cards with phrases such as “Please excuse me, I need to leave the room” or “Please stop making that noise” if you can’t speak or are too anxious to speak, any objects that you can fidget and fiddle with, earplugs or earphones with perhaps your phone or an MP3 player, and maybe even a bottle of water; after all, when you’re nervous, you can become dehydrated.
In conclusion, record important things and take action. Experiment to find out what best suits you and create a personalised coping system.Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.