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Eight Ways to Cope When You're Dizzy

Updated on January 15, 2017
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I suffer from dizziness due to unilateral vestibular hypofunction. I use these techniques to reduce my symptoms and get on with my life.

Round and round we go
Round and round we go | Source

When the going gets tough...

As a long-time sufferer of dizziness, I've built up a toolkit over the years of coping strategies. It is important to clarify that these strategies do not cure dizziness. However, with practice, they can help you cope with the sensation of dizziness and help you get along with things you need to do. What works one time may not work another, so be prepared for trial and error.

Remember, there are many causes of dizziness. You will need to see a doctor for proper diagnosis.

I have inner ear nerve damage, am prone to vertigo and dizziness, and can get "spaced out." I'm magnetically drawn to door frames and trip over specs of dust. It's not how I'd choose to live life, but there are things I've learned along the way.

So here, in no particular order, are eight ways to cope when you're dizzy.

Consult Your Doctor

If you experience recurring and/or unexplained dizziness, you should see a doctor for proper diagnosis.

1. Driven to distraction.

When my boys were little, distracting them from a problem could work wonders. So it made sense to give it a go myself. For example, waiting at the checkouts in stores is particularly hard for me. I've got the goods and really, really want to go. My head starts to float. Moving conveyor belts don't help. So, it's time to think about the words of that favourite song. How about remembering the names of Snow White's seven dwarves, or counting backwards from 300? Give your mind something to do apart from imagining you're about to pass out on the floor.

Stay in the moment
Stay in the moment | Source

2. Learn to go with the feelings rather than fight them.

This is a tough one. (Most of them are.) I absolutely hate, loathe, detest being dizzy. It makes me feel out of control. It's hard to function when the world's revolving and your thoughts splinter. I guess this is like the "mindfulness" technique - learning to stay in the moment.

Wishing things were different causes frustration, feelings of powerlessness. Accepting that this is how things are right here, right now,can make time pass more easily.

3. Be your own best friend.

You know that little voice in your head? The one that tells you that you'll mess up, you look stupid? Learn to change how it talks. It takes effort, but is possible, and worthwhile. Switch to saying, "You're doing fine. Nothing bad's going to happen. This is uncomfortable, but you'll get through."

It can be scary to find yourself suddenly "all at sea." You may get a sudden adrenaline rush, the old fight or flight instinct kicking in. Think of encouraging things you'd tell a best friend, then tell it to yourself.

If you worry people may think you're drunk, practice saying it doesn't matter - you know the truth. Last time someone asked, "Did you have one too many?" my response was "No, I have unilateral vestibular hypofunction, but thanks for asking." Stick up for yourself.

4. Go for a walk.

Sometimes all you want to do is curl up in a corner. Head spinning, you just feel like staying still. But there are times when getting on the move is more helpful.

If you need to, use a cane or a volunteer's arm for support - it won't make you more dependent in the long run. It does help judge where the floor is. Problems with spacial awareness and depth perception often hit along with inner ear issues.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? It was easier to go fast rather than slow.You may find that's true of walking.

Being out and about can help change your perspective, and blow a few cobwebs away. Maybe you can't go far some days, but at least you've tried.

Make a mental note of which shoes are best for walking. It doesn't always mean flats or trainers, but ones which you find most suitable. Experiment a little. I tend to trip less in some shoes than others, preferring soft soles as they make less noise - not as obvious if I do a quick side-step, otherwise it may sound like a tap-dance.

5. Take time out.

This sounds like the opposite of the last suggestion, because, in fact, it is. There may be times your head feels like a shaken snow dome and you need to let the flakes settle. A quiet spot, some calm breathing, eyes closed or looking at a fixed point may help. It's a judgement call.

Find your comfort zone for focussing. Is it nearby, or distant? Do what feels right. It can be helpful to zone in on letters, or a shiny object like a door handle. Note - looking in a mirror can be challenging and unsettling if you're dizzy.

Remind yourself that this is a physical problem.

6. Keep in contact.

If your head's spinning, it's helpful to have extra input via sense of touch. Sitting down is good because you get sensory messages from your beautiful bottom, telling you which way is up. It's not always possible to sit down, though. Can you borrow an arm to hold? Rest your hand on a shop counter or lean a leg against a low wall?

Subtly pat things as you pass or turn a corner, and keep the back of your leg against a chair when standing. You don't need to grab at things as if you're on a ship in a storm (though that may happen here and there). Just learn to put a hand out gently.

So much to see!
So much to see! | Source

7. Retail therapy

"Shop till you drop" doesn't take long for me. Even on a good day, things can start to go wrong soon after walking through the shop doorway. There's so much visual input, people moving round, music blaring, things to remember.

Over time, I've learned that some shops are harder to stay in than others. Store lighting can play a big part, along with its size and the width of the aisles. Shops crammed with display items are a problem. (I once walked into a pile of special offer eggs. They un-piled.) So it's worth noting which stores are worse for you, and go with the more dizzy-user friendly ones. Personally, that's mid-sized and clutter free.

Following a tip, on a bad day I'll shop half an aisle at a time. This means going along looking only to the left (you may find the right easier), then work the other half of the aisle, again looking left. You therefore cut out a lot of side-to-side searching.

Remind yourself that you'll feel better once you leave the shop. Use a trolley for support and concentrate on the items you're looking for.

If you're going to a shopping mall, try to pick a quiet time of day. Wearing tinted spectacles may help if the artificial lighting is a problem.

I choose the stairs rather than elevators, which can upset my balance. Escalators are also a problem, particularly going down. Just think of the extra calories you use when taking the stairs!

Have you ever suffered with dizziness?

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8. Avoid avoidance behavior.

If something makes you feel bad, you tend to avoid doing it. With dizziness, this can lead to a vicious circle. Only by repeating difficult tasks will your brain learn to adapt.

If you constantly dismiss going places, or doing certain things, you'll soon find your world very limited. Be realistic, of course - ladder work would be unsafe.

Break things down into "bite sized," manageable sections, then build up. For example, going for a meal in a restaurant may seem daunting. You could start by walking up to the restaurant and looking at a menu pinned by the door. Next time, pop inside to have a look around. Another visit, go at a quiet time and order a drink. By the following trip you may feel like having lunch there. You can always skip desert. The point is, don't write something off. Keep chipping away, be creative, surprise yourself.

And Remember...

Although I've had balance problems for years, it's relatively rare to suffer from dizziness long term. Please don't think you'll have a problem forever. Depending on the cause, there may be treatment available to aid recovery. Hopefully, you'll soon be dizzy-free. In the meantime, maybe you'll benefit from these eight ways to cope when you're dizzy.

Struggling to find a diagnosis? Here are seven causes of dizziness and vertigo.

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    • profile image

      Andy Harchar 2 months ago

      This is a great article it took me two books to get this info. use it it works. You must stay calm and fight it

    • RJ Schwartz profile image

      Ralph Schwartz 15 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

      Thanks - been suffering from undiagnosed dizziness for about a year on and off - this makes me want to stop ignoring it and find out how to better manage it

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 23 months ago from uk

      Hi David, sorry to hear you're having so much trouble. Labyrinthitis is most often caused by a virus, and unfortunately can take a number of weeks to settle. I had a very similar problem, vestibular neuritis, which affects the nerve responsible for balance function.

      Yes, I did have numbness and sensation changes in half my face at times, also in parts of my scalp and back. Felt rather like when a dentist injection is wearing off. Most doctors dodged questions regarding this, and it wore off over time. Do make sure you report all your symptoms to the docs, and let them make any diagnosis. Just because you read one person had X due to Y does not mean you have the same condition.

      I've had lots of weird symptoms since having vestibular damage, and know from a support group that many other folk do as well. And yes, I've felt like a freak! You are not alone.

      Most people recover completely. Those of us in the minority who are left with long term problems learn to adapt. Just take one step at a time, and hopefully you'll bounce back. Best wishes.

    • profile image

      David M Smith 40 23 months ago

      Hi, I'm currently suffering with all of the symptoms listed for labyrinthitis and struggling to get through most days without falling over! Im on my third 10 day set of ear and oral antibiotic but nothing seems to work. I am using a nasal rinse and steaming myself regularly throughout the day.

      I would also like to know if anyone else has suffered the loss of feeling across half of their face and head, which I'm currently experiencing?

      Since the onset, half of my tongue, my upper and lower teeth, face and head are also numb. Its really strange as I can feel the sensation of a soft touch on my skin but nothing underneath!

      Has anyone else experienced this as I feel a bit of a freak at the moment.

      Thanks ......... David

    • profile image

      hazel 2 years ago

      What a delightful hub page. Helpful, humorous, totally relevant to the needs of folks with dizziness like me, and sowing some hope in there too. Thank you so much. x

    • profile image

      chinnjing 2 years ago

      I think i have the same problem with izzetle, but good to know you have kid/kids. I don't have one and one of the reason is my severe vertigo, i had this since kid and now im married i still suffere tje same. My doctor prescribed me serc24 and nootropill but i dont take them regularly anymore...

      when i came to read this i must say ive been doing some tips and it helps esp. when eating in the restaurants or being in the crowd, thank u innerspin for saying that we all shoul not think this is forever...we have to be our self bestfriend. Thank you for sharing these.

    • profile image

      vince cooke 2 years ago

      Innerspin, thanks for your comments, I really appreciate them.

      Seems my labyrinthitis was actually misdiagnosed, as in August 2013 I had a stroke and a CT scan showed two 'bleeds' in my cerebellum one new and one old, causing my unbalance and disorientation problems, making it difficult to move around outside safely. But since then I've purchased a mobility scooter, so I'm able to get out and about and not totally housebound. Yes I'm still dizzy, but having a better understanding of it's causes and your coping methods, have really helped to give me freedom.

      Thank you, and all the best for the new year.

    • profile image

      Josh 2 years ago

      I'm not usually one to comment on articles online but I must say that all of these made so much sense and whilst I've adapted quite quickly to my dizziness over the past month, I'm pretty sure this has helped others reading it. I needed a bit of reassurance about the mirror bit because yesterday I realised that even though I was having a relatively good day, looking into the mirror was throwing me off momentarily, so thanks again for that.

      Just as you say not all dizziness is long term, I hope maybe one day you wake and yours eases to the point where it's a bother anymore.

      Seasons Greetings

    • profile image

      boo boo 2 years ago

      The most challenging thing I found was the medical profession taking it seriously. You wobble into the the surgery given anti sickness tablets and dismissed!!!. After about 6-7 months I was finally referred for testing and VRT was recommended after being diagnosed (in 2010) with Vestibular Neuronitis. Four years later, and after several chronic attacks I am on my 3rd referral of VRT. I sometimes get really down but continue to do as much as possible I still work full time - although travelling during rush hour on London Underground ( I never get a seat) is very challenging and sometimes its all a bit too much and I get to work shattered, headache coming on and everything swaying, yes looking spaced out and drunk at 9.00am!!!. This can last all day and then I have to do it all again on return journey!!! You are so right about gently leaning on stuff, I do this a lot at work, colleagues are used to it now!! And plodding on as best and as normal as you can is a must. After four years I have had numerous periods where I have been symptom free and back to normal...but then something will trigger the whole thing off again and back to square one. But, I've learnt some trigger points, Stress, Tiredness, overdoing it, will trigger it off. So, I am trying to condition myself to be kind to myself and stop pushing myself when I know my symptoms are coming on. I have been informed by my therapist that I will always have this weakness, but it's a case of managing it which I will try to continue to do . There are days when I can't do much but I know it will pass. Fellow sufferers I wish you all well and don't let it get you down, you will have better days, weeks, months. Continue to do as much as you can and try to rule it than it rule you!!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 3 years ago from uk

      Thanks for commenting, Jade, I hope you manage to go out. I know what you mean about different surroundings being a challenge. Sometimes, thinking about it can be worse than going ahead and testing yourself. Hopefully things will settle down for you soon.

    • profile image

      Jade 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for such useful tips. I am currently on my bed dreading going to my partners house because i know different surroundings make my dizzyness worse. I had labrynthitis for a few months 3 years ago and now i have it again. Although, now i think of it, i don't think it ever fully left me. These tips have made me think "right, lets just do it! Go to me partners and be strong!" I am saving these tips to my phone so i can read through them whenever i am having a bad day!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      vince cooke, welcome to HubPages. Good to have your comment, though I'm sorry to hear you still have trouble. From online support groups, I know a lot of people with long term problems who have been diagnosed with migraine associated vertigo, sometimes alongside another dizziness cause. Once the migraine is under control, things sometimes improve.

    • profile image

      vince cooke 4 years ago

      Interesting tips innerspin, thanks. And great choice of name by the way, one I can totally relate to. Was diagnosed with labyrinthitis and told it would pass in a couple weeks, that was around 6 years ago and still suffering. The 'experts' don't really know what it is that's wrong with me, and so just default back to the original diagnosis. Was told that a neurotologist might help, but they are as rare as rocking horse poo !!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway, don't you just hate it when the person in front of you stops suddenly? I've trampled toes a few times, stepping backwards when I'm reaching for something on a shelf. It's one way to meet new people!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      I have also found it helpful to go fast when feeling dizzy and unsure of myself on my feet. I am a super fast shopper. for this reason -- and the dread Just don't get in my way, as I'll trip over you. Good tips.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Good to have your comment, Kosmo. I find walking a help, but I know some people have a problem focussing in open spaces. Thanks for adding your tips.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 4 years ago from California

      For me, walking is the best medicine for dizziness or nausea. And if it isn't convenient going for a walk, as when I'm trying to sleep, I'll pop one Excedrin-like pill with a couple gingko biloba tabs, opening up the blood vessels and thinning the blood, and that usually gets rid of it. Later!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Hi, Judi Bee, thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you found it interesting. It can be hard to pinpoint the root of dizziness and vertigo, as you say sometimes it's more than one thing. Not nice, whaterever the reason!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 4 years ago from UK

      I suffer with dizziness occasionally - sometimes due to sinus problems (I think), sometimes with a migraine, occasionally for no reason that I can fathom. Interesting hub, I'm off to check out your "causes of dizziness" hub :)

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Hello izettl, thanks for an interesting comment. I was told my dizziness was anxiety related before proper testing showed inner ear damage. Yes, being dizzy can cause anxiety, yes, being anxious can cause dizziness. I actually think some people diagnosed with agoraphobia or anxiety have inner ear malfunction, it gives rise to many weird symptoms.

      Hyperventilation associated with panic will bring on dizziness, ( as will chronic hyperventillation) also sudden dizziness can cause an adrenalin rush, leaving you shaky. The overlap of symptoms, and the huge number of things that cause dizziness, can make diagnosis difficult. It does help if you can understand what's happening. Hope you keep well.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Voted up and useful. I have had periods of dizziniess throughout my life. Had it as a kid and mostly due to anxiety and clausterphobia in crowded place. Got over that and it came back with vengeance while pregnant with my second child. Try being dizzy and worrying about falling on your baby in the belly. Scary. I thikn they said it had to do with blood pressure fluctuations. Either way I noticed a lot of your tips have to do with anxiety and I wonder if some dizziness is due to or in combination with anxiety- it makes sense. I've had panic attacks earlier in life too. Great hub.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Hi Thundermama, thanks for reading and commenting. You're right, staying at home does feel like the best option sometimes. Unfortunately, we need to get things done, and seeing the same four walls all the time gets dull!

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Some very good tips here. It's a very difficult thing to deal with while you try to go about your every day life and certainly makes you feel like hiding out at home is the best option sometimes.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Many thanks, Rob, I hope your father-in-law has a diagnosis for his vertigo, which can at least help with understanding the problem. Make no mistake, it's difficult to handle. I'm sure he will appreciate any support you can offer.

    • Rob Winters profile image

      Rob Winters 4 years ago

      My father in law was having difficulty with vertigo when we were out for a walk today so this hub caught my eye. I agree it may be difficult for people to follow these tips when suffering but it's clear your advice is borne from personal experience and each of your points makes perfect sense. Great practical advice here.I'm sure many people will find this helpful and appreciate you sharing your tips & experience.Up,Useful & Interesting.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      You're welcome, I hope that tip helps you when shopping - it certainly helps me. Thanks for commenting.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Ooh... the tip about shopping one side of an aisle, then the other will be very useful! I am often dizzy (medications and constant sinus/migraine problems), but it much worse a few years ago. At the time, I had to drive long distances for work, but luckily I didn't have any bad spells while driving. Great tips - thank you!

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks for your comment, Doc Sonic. I like to think there are some options available to help when dizzy. Sorry you have to deal with it too, it's a pain in the proverbial!

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      These are terrific tips, innerspin. I can identify with much of what you've written here, and I know these tips will be helpful. Voted up and useful.

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 5 years ago from uk

      Gosh,thank you, Redberry Sky. I'm so glad your vertigo lessened, it's such an unpleasant sensation. Let's hope you don't need the tips very often.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      This is fantastic advice innerspin (and now I understand your monika). I suffered with severe vertigo for about five years, and what you say is absolutely right -fighting it makes it much worse and distracting yourself (and making your inner voice be more kind to you!) really helps. I'm mostly over vertigo now, but occasionally I have a little relapse, and these are incredibly good tips, and ones I'll be returning to. Thanks for these :)

    • innerspin profile image
      Author

      innerspin 5 years ago from uk

      You're very welcome, thank you for commenting. It's taken me time to build up these strategies. If it helps anyone else, that can only be a good thing.

    • ImaSurvivor74 profile image

      ImaSurvivor74 5 years ago from Upstate NY

      GREAT hub! Thank you! It is the little things sometimes that help us cope the most, isn't it. You are a strong person, thanks for sharing your tips. :)

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 5 years ago from Northern Ireland

      This is a very interesting hub. I have suffered from vertigo on occasions myself and I know several other people who have had it too. Most were the temporary (inner ear infection) type but one person had meniere's. You have provided some very useful information and encouragement for other sufferers. Voted up.