Occasionally it's ok to go back and double-check if you turned off the microwave oven or unplugged your iron. You might also be concerned whether you have germs on your body, and to some extent, this concern and worry are entirely reasonable.
But if such distressing and violent thoughts become too recurrent and start interfering with your life, you might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is characterized by uncontrolled and unwanted repetitive behaviors and thought patterns. You may know these anxieties you have are irrational, but you can't seem to control yourself from going in that direction.
Fortunately, many approaches can help you take control of your mind and have better control over OCD. Let's take a look at the top 10 tips that can help you overcome OCD.
1. Identify your triggers
The first step that you can take towards improving your situation is recognizing what things trigger your obsessive thoughts. Start by keeping a record of things that trigger you daily and start to put labels on those triggers by their intensity.
For example, touching your dog might make you feel like you have germs, and you may need to wash your hands. It's a level 3 trigger, whereas touching the restroom floor will invoke a level 10 trigger, and you feel like you need to clean your hands for 15 minutes. Knowing your triggers beforehand will help you anticipate urges and have better control over yourself.
2. Learn Resistance
It might seem like a great idea to avoid your triggers, but it's not a long-term solution, and it makes things only scarier. You have to learn to resist and face your fears by not running away from them. Instead, try facing them and seeing the actual harm they produce as compared to what you think they do.
This is known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and is also used by professional therapists to treat OCD. By this, you learn to tolerate your anxiety and be more rational with your fears. This practice of continual voluntary exposure helps you see your fears more rationally and get a better grip on your compulsions.
3. Be Mindful
For people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mindfulness can be a great help. Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment and observing your own thinking without judgment. In OCD, you have painful and intrusive thoughts, fears, and anxieties.
By being mindful, you try to see these thoughts for their true rational nature and the impact they have on your well-being. By being aware of them, you can choose not to go in that direction. Although it may be difficult with OCD, mindfulness can help you tackle your troublesome thoughts more rationally.
4. Identify Black or White Thinking
During your journey for improvement, you will slip back many times. But, it should not mean that you are a complete failure. You are in it for the long-term, and you always get another chance. You do not have to be too hard on yourself.
It is normal to make mistakes when learning new skills and trying out new strategies, especially for overcoming OCD. Even if you experience a significant setback, don't let it throw you off. Understand that every human makes mistakes, and it will take some time for you to see improvement.
5. Join a support group
Having OCD can sometimes feel alienating if you're the only one in your circle undergoing this problem. One of the best things you can do to share your experiences and learning about other people's successes is to join a support group.
OCD support groups can help you relate with other people going through the same problems as you are. You find a safe space to share your thoughts and also learn how others cope with their problems.
6. Stay Connected with Family and Friends
Compulsions and obsessions can often consume your thinking and lead you to social isolation. Isolation works as the best fuel for your distressing thoughts, and it only multiplies your stress with time.
It is essential to stay connected with your family and friends and share your thoughts and concerns with them. Talking your worries face-to-face with someone can help you cope better with your concerns, and other people can share their insight that can help you deal with your situation better.
7. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is one of the most effective and natural anti-anxiety treatments. It can help improve your mood and blow off some steam by engaging your body in some hard work. It can also help you stay occupied and reduce symptoms of OCD.
Try to get a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. You can get a treadmill or go out for a jog daily to clear your mind and get some fresh air.
8. Make Some Lifestyle Changes
Anxiety and insomnia go hand in hand. If you have one, you can develop the other. Getting a proper amount of sleep every night can help your mind feel relaxed and be calmer. Having adequate rest can help you keep an emotional balance and deal better with your symptoms.
Join a gym, try spending your free time in some useful activity. Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake. These substances can make you feel relaxed temporarily but disturb your body's natural relaxation causing even more anxiety afterward.
9. Educate yourself about OCD
Many people don't understand their problems from a deeper perspective. Some don't even fully accept that they have OCD. The best approach is first to accept your situation and then educate yourself about it properly so you understand why it happens, and most importantly, what you can do about it.
10. Get Professional Help
Therapy is a beautiful practice that has helped many people change their lives for the better. If you have been struggling with your compulsive thoughts and don't think your situation is getting better, then it's always best to seek professional help.
Therapists can help you understand your concerns and create a customized plan for you, depending on your personality. You can learn different effective coping techniques and can even use medications to treat problems more effectively.
OCD can be a challenging condition to deal with, but many techniques, especially therapy, can help you get a better grip on your situation. It is important to remember that no one is perfect, and you will face many setbacks during your treatment. You will see benefits with time, and these tips will help you understand OCD better and live healthier and stress-free lives.