Dealing with OCD is an interesting experience. For most of my life, I was unaware of the fact that my anxiety was obsessive compulsive disorder. Having intrusive thoughts is a normal part of life but for individuals with OCD there’s a hyper focus on them. I can spend literal hours doing mental gymnastics. I repeat phrases to myself and try to ensure my own or others safety. The reality of living with OCD can be somewhat harsh. The only way to truly beat or overcome OCD is to endure. This is a therapy known as Exposure and Response Prevention. The therapy consists of exposing yourself to your fear. Then you have to resist the urge to engage in compulsive behavior. It’s not easy but I’ve experienced first hand how effective this can be. Although I still experience OCD daily, it is infinitely better than eight months ago. The following are strategies I use to cope or deal with my OCD.
- Release Your Thoughts
This can be extremely difficult. Often admitting my intrusive thoughts can be embarrassing or even terrifying. Even if I’m simply writing them down it can provoke more anxiety before calming it. After a bit the OCD settles. Writing or speaking your intrusive thoughts can rid them of their power. It can help you take back your power and understand the fear your brain is trying to alert you to. This threat that your body senses isn’t a threat at all, it’s something perceived as “dangerous.”
- Mini Exposures
This strategy can be very useful. Setting up mini exposures in your day to day can help control your anxiety when presented with a trigger. Exposures look different to everyone based on what their fears are. Some people use flashcards, videos, or apps that send notifications at random like intrusive thoughts. I’ve used all of the above. I find that on good days these can cause very little stress and on a bad day they can be beyond overwhelming. Either way, I survive them and my brain is shown that they are not as threatening as I believe.
- Having Support
Meeting others with OCD changed so much for me. When I was a child, I thought that everyone’s brain worked like mine. When people were confused by my anxiety or obsessions it only fueled the fear that already existed. Once I found a therapist that understood OCD, my world changed. I wasn’t weird or wrong for having these thoughts. I was normal. They didn’t define me, I stopped fearing their existence. Having a group of people that can laugh and cry with you about the struggles and pitfalls of OCD is comforting. I’d highly suggest a support group if you have OCD, even if it’s mild.
- Meditation and Mindfulness
I know this can be the worst for people dealing with any kind of anxiety. I enjoy meditation. I find it calming and peaceful but on days when I’m struggling it can be 50% intrusive thoughts and 50% meditation. Sometimes it’s all intrusive thoughts but the reality is my brain has a chance to take a step back. Being mindful is vital. Accepting that I am having intrusive thoughts and choosing to focus on something else is a powerful tool. It can be so rewarding to shift your focus. That doesn’t make it easy or mean that it always works but it’s another tool for your belt.
- Finding an Activity
Finding an activity that allows you to detach from your OCD is powerful. For me, this is running or exercise. I find that when I’m very focused on one goal and I’m pushing my body, my mind can’t play tag with intrusive thoughts. This can feel like a great escape. I find that for me, this activity is a form of meditation. Exercise has so many health benefits period but this is an added bonus. Exercise was something that took me years to get into and find joy in but finally, it stuck. I’d h different activities you enjoy and find one that helps you relax.
I’m writing this article because my OCD has spiked today. It’s difficult to have had such a mild week and then one day that’s worse. I do recognize that some of this is my own doing. I scheduled a lot of events on top of eachother. Each appointment had its own stress on top of my surgery recovery. Surgery tends to spike my OCD anyway but added triggers don’t help. Once you find yourself down a rabbit hole it can be difficult to dig yourself out but it’s always possible. Sometimes it’s all about taking a step back. Some days it’s about getting through the day and doing your best. Finding a balance between pushing yourself and having relaxation is important. I know it may be tough but it always finds a way back to baseline or even forgetting about OCD altogether.