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gingerbreadgirl

Little things which have helped me with OCD

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Obviously good, structured CBT is the best and only way to tackle OCD.  But I have found over the last few months that sometimes I have ups, sometimes I've had downs, and I've discovered a few everyday things which I think help keep the ups "up" and the downs to a minimum.  Obviously everyone is different but thought I'd share.

1. Not changing day-to-day life too much because of OCD. 

At the beginning of this relapse (~5-6 months ago) I was desperate, I took time off sick, I spent most of the day in bed, I cut out caffeine, I ate bad food, or else not much food at all when things were really bad.  I thought "I'm ill I need to recuperate".  But all this did was send my brain the message that "something is very wrong" which just made things worse.  I realised that keeping my day-to-day life much the same as it was before is key, even if I really don't feel like it.  So I went back to work, I tried to exercise, I had a cup of coffee in the morning, I tried to eat more healthily (with varying success). This made a big difference.  I said to OCD "OK you're here - fine - but I'm not letting you call the shots."  I realise what counts as "normal" is different for everyone and not everyone is able to work or get out and about (I am lucky in this respect) but I just think that as much as you are able to not give in to OCD, all the better. 

2. Being aware of little, underlying compulsions.

When in the midst of OCD, we generally have one big "topic of the moment" at any given time which consumes us.  But I found that often I was doing little, under-the-radar compulsions as well such as lots of checking (doors, windows, sockets) and so on.  Addressing these made the big things easier to deal with.  Look after the pennies, as the saying goes. 

3. Have lots of things going on.

Not as a distraction per se, but to give yourself the message that "there is more to life than OCD.  I don't have to focus on this 24/7."  A couple of months ago work got really busy because I was training in a new skill alongside my job  - I had a lot on, was working some evenings, and so on.  It was stressful and seemed to actually make things worse for a while, but I realised after a bit that I hadn't been thinking so much about OCD and my brain had 'cooled off' a bit.  

Also, as trivial as this sounds, I had a good book on the go, and I also had a new lego set! (yes, I am 32 years old... :blushing: ) which absorbed a lot of my attention.  This also made things better. 

4. Be aware of things that make you stressed and anxious... but at the same time don't excessively try to counter this.

There are varying opinions on this.  But I find - in my experience - that going too far out of my way to make myself "calm" and non-anxious can be counter-productive.  Similar to no.1, it makes me feel like something is wrong, I can't cope with normal life.  So while I stayed away from things that would make me very anxious (i.e. lots of caffeine, or very stressful situations) I also tried not to go too far in the other direction.

5. Lots of CBT

And finally, this is the most important thing and the only thing that will really address the issue.  Whether with a therapist or by yourself, this must be a priority.  There are many other posts about how to go about this, as well as numerous self-help books, and I am still learning, so I won't go into too much detail.  But pretty much every day I sit down at my computer and write stuff down, make a plan, do cognitive stuff, plan exposures, or whatever. 

I am not OK yet, but I have tried never to lose hope that one day I will be.  And things have gradually improved and continue to do so.  There are lots of people on this forum who have recovered and can offer much better advice than me, but just thought I'd give my thoughts in case they help anyone :) 

 

 

 

Edited by gingerbreadgirl

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Very good post GBG. 

Keeping busy is a helpful thing. It leaves the OCD with less time and space to dominate, and we can do beneficial things. 

My work was very much part of my therapy, and I relapsed when I retired and needed to build a sensible structured schedule of being happily and usefully busy , and then some quality fun and enjoyment time. 

Keeping stress at bay is helpful, as it is a regular OCD trigger. So look at ways to reduce stress and you will help your resilience. 

Watch for OCD trying to marginalise us, shut us out socially. This illness likes to impose rules and restrictions - note that and don't allow them, challenge them see them for what they are.

Resistance is not futile, we don't have to give in to the " rules" and restrictions of this disorder. 

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A fantastic post, GBG. Thank you so much for sharing. I can relate to so much that you said and it's been so helpful, thank you. X

Edited by Emsie

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Agree pretty much 100% with all you say.

I'd just add watch out for that first anxiety thought or physical feeling and refuse to buy into it.  So often we can wake up feeling that knot of anxiety in our stomach (or similar), think "OMG, not again" and in a flash buy into it, worry about it and in a blink of the eye the whole row of domino's comes tumbling down.  Know your enemy, refuse to follow that habitual anxiety response (much as you describe)

Also,  watch rumination.  Not just about intrusive thoughts but in general.  I think we do often develop an obsessive mind-set and can ruminate on other worries.  That may be work, finance, relationships, pretty much anything.  Be aware of what you're thinking, what conversations you're having in your head.  If that rumination/problem solving hasn't offered useful results after 10 minutes stop it.  If those same conversations, thoughts about a situation are on replay, stop it.  We can stop rumination, much of it has become habitual, the way we've got used to thinking.  I've had a real life situation recently...nothing majorly major, certainly not OCD but I realised I was processing it in exactly the same way.  Thinking the same things, going over conversations etc....it had no beneficial purpose, I must have gone over the same things hundreds of times.  The effect is pretty much the same as with OCD rumination, stress, anger, anxiety.  You have to realise you are ruminating, decide what you really want/need to do about a situation and change the outcome accordingly.  The OCD personality and habits can stray into other areas of life.

Watch rumination, watch physical anxiety sensations and treat them like OCD by recognising them and taking immediate action by not buying in automatically and habitually.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Caramoole said:

Agree pretty much 100% with all you say.

I'd just add watch out for that first anxiety thought or physical feeling and refuse to buy into it.  So often we can wake up feeling that knot of anxiety in our stomach (or similar), think "OMG, not again" and in a flash buy into it, worry about it and in a blink of the eye the whole row of domino's comes tumbling down.  Know your enemy, refuse to follow that habitual anxiety response (much as you describe)

Also,  watch rumination.  Not just about intrusive thoughts but in general.  I think we do often develop an obsessive mind-set and can ruminate on other worries.  That may be work, finance, relationships, pretty much anything.  Be aware of what you're thinking, what conversations you're having in your head.  If that rumination/problem solving hasn't offered useful results after 10 minutes stop it.  If those same conversations, thoughts about a situation are on replay, stop it.  We can stop rumination, much of it has become habitual, the way we've got used to thinking.  I've had a real life situation recently...nothing majorly major, certainly not OCD but I realised I was processing it in exactly the same way.  Thinking the same things, going over conversations etc....it had no beneficial purpose, I must have gone over the same things hundreds of times.  The effect is pretty much the same as with OCD rumination, stress, anger, anxiety.  You have to realise you are ruminating, decide what you really want/need to do about a situation and change the outcome accordingly.  The OCD personality and habits can stray into other areas of life.

Watch rumination, watch physical anxiety sensations and treat them like OCD by recognising them and taking immediate action by not buying in automatically and habitually.

 

 

 

totally agree Caramoole - general rumination is a killer. 

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Good post GBG. A book and lego sounds fun, I hope you built something good :)

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Thank you for posting this Gingerbreadgirl - there's a lot here that is helpful to my current concerns! (And in Caramoole's comment!)

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1 hour ago, Gemma7 said:

lego sounds fun, I hope you built something good :)

I built a diner, and now I'm building a high street :) - think I need to get out more!

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Next a village then a town :a1_cheesygrin:

Incidentally folks, i found solving small jigsaw puzzles is a great way to keep the mind beneficially busy. I recently did one of a group of penguins - that was very involved! 

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11 minutes ago, taurean said:

Next a village then a town :a1_cheesygrin:

and then the world!

Although think I will have to abstain from my lego habit for a while - they cost an extortionate amount!

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I like Lego, it feel its a wholesome yet useful toy to play with. My son loves it. There are plenty of adult enthusiasts too. People whom even run a Lego magazine. Channel 4 have run a few Lego based programmes such as the Lego masters where people compete against each other to build different things, also Lego at Christmas this was behind the scenes at one of their flagship London stores. if I remember rightly they had a photo booth that would take your picture (obviously) them print the image onto loads of Lego bricks that you took home to make to reconstruct the full image. It was £100 quid a pop and the queue of people was massive to use this booth.

Very interesting it was.

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That sounds really awesome, Avo!

I have got really into lego.  I've been doing the 'lego creator' sets, which are supposedly lego for adults (although apparently my six-year-old nephew is not far off doing them!).  It's so addictive! 

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Yes my 5 yr old son is quite adept, where as I am not! We spent a good hour or so this morning building things together and his imagination is better than mine I would say. I agree it's very addictive, cue old person rant (well I am 40 in a few months :a1_cheesygrin:) it's nice to see something that is not reliant on a computer or tablet to entertain kids these days. It feels like a blast from the past that is bucking the trend. 

I am thinking of changing my user name to luddite! 

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haha I totally agree! I am a total luddite (even though I work with computers) - and I love how tactile lego is.  I also think we're on the verge of a technology backlash, lego and boardgames etc. are all making a comeback!

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Yay! Lego,Ludo,Cluedo Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit..... :)

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Great post gbg :yes:with some great advice from both yourself and  caramoole  xx

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Excellent advice, GBG. :thumbup:

And I agree with Caramoole's point that ruminating can become a habitual way of thinking which needs to be nipped in the bud at every turn.

Personally I don't think trying to stay permanently calm is the right way to approach life - it's very restrictive. Learning to 'roll with the punches' is my preferred way of coping with anxiety. Each to their own. :) 

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53 minutes ago, snowbear said:

 

Personally I don't think trying to stay permanently calm is the right way to approach life - it's very restrictive. Learning to 'roll with the punches' is my preferred way of coping with anxiety. Each to their own. :) 

I agree snowbear. Life throws we people problems, and it is all about how we manage and resolve them.

After learning and using  risk management for businesses, I found it helpful to apply some of the techniques to daily life. We have to make choices and decisions, and if we consider them carefully we can avoid things that could be unnecessary and cause us problems e.g.too much  debt. We can manage things we can't step away from, and we can offload things e,g, get help, or arrange for others to do them.

Managing day to day life better helps us ride those punches, but also enjoy to a sensible level some challenges without becoming "adrenaline junkies".

 

Edited by taurean

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One other thing I want to mention is that I've also found it helps to do exposure "on the fly". Again there are different opinions of this.  But I've found that every time I'm triggered in some way - which recently is a lot - it is either a downturn or an upturn, depending on how I respond to it.  Often I think "oh no, this thought is clearly true, I must give it my full attention" and off I go down the OCD rabbit-hole - and it is definitely a downturn.  BUT lately I have been *trying* to respond with: "great, an impromptu exposure opportunity, how can I make this trigger even worse? What can I do to ramp it up?" and I try to not engage with it with any compulsions.  My anxiety gets bad, then it passes. 

For me this is better than planned exposure for three reasons: (1) it teaches my brain to deal with OCD in a real-world setting, the kinds of things that actually do make my OCD worse, so I am never caught out (in theory); (2) it means I end up doing exposure many times a day, whereas I would probably be too lazy/scared/unimaginative to come up with this number of planned exposures; and (3) it gives me a positive reasons to encounter triggers, it changes my mindset towards them, even makes me seek them out. 

For me it is also better than a neutral response of "not engaging" because it is active rather than passive.

It does have its downsides though - if you're not prepared for ERP and you're not sure what its purpose is, it can be difficult to stay with the task and very easy to fall into ruminating, as I often find.

But since the alternative for me would be to avoid triggers altogether - which I find are everywhere, on TV, in office conversations, on social media, in the news - then I find this is a much more productive way of dealing with them.  Again I just want to stress that this is what I've found - everyone's different. 

 

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1 hour ago, gingerbreadgirl said:

But since the alternative for me would be to avoid triggers altogether - which I find are everywhere, on TV, in office conversations, on social media, in the news - then I find this is a much more productive way of dealing with them.  Again I just want to stress that this is what I've found - everyone's different. 

Everyone is different and it's what suits the individual, and it is important that we stress that, in treating OCD, one size does not fit all. 

A large number of us will be shouting out "yes I agree triggers are everywhere" but it is important I think that we rationalise that. It "seems"  that triggers are everywhere, because our mind has been programmed - like radar - to seek them out, scan for them, then when it finds them,home in on them. 

Let me tell my own story.

With me , I had this "triggers are everywhere"  feeling when out and about. My OCD harm theme was turning sometimes bland things into threats, and teaming up with the cognitive distortion of "personalisation"  to make out I could be involved with, say, violent news stories. 

So my mind would draw me to a news headline - especially "banner" headlines, a poster advertising a - possibly violent - film etc etc. Up came the desire to avoid, feelings of not wanting to go out (which would mean I couldn't work). 

The therapy we decided on in CBT was a different solution to that which works for GBG. 

Firstly, we went through the cognitive side - above, but also in harm OCD the OCD targets our true core values such as love care gentleness wouldn't hurt a fly, and alleges the exact opposite. 

Then I was told to mentally consider the external triggers as simply part of this unwanted OCD obsession. 

I was to continue with my normal going out, but see the triggers for what they were - and when travelling to work say, refocus onto the view outside. Noting the trigger, reminding myself of the cognitive side for a short while, then refocusing. 

With the news - and I had a real urge to avoid - I was to buy a newspaper and get used to catching sight of the banner headlines, then gently easing my mind away onto another story. 

As the exposure built up, I got to reading the story but reminding myself that it was third party, nothing to do with me. 

Similar exposure re the posters - also adverts. 

This methodology has worked well. Currently I no longer notice these triggers "that were all around me".  If for some reason I do, then just like anyone else my mind just moves on and away without dwelling. 

I read the news every day, I can even find I enjoy the TV and radio news, and we are signed up to Sky Movies - something I could never have tolerated before. 

I think this emphasises the massive power of CBT methodology in treating OCD. But also that we are all different, what ERP methodology that works can be different. 

It's important I think that we take this onboard. A really good therapist experienced in OCD may still have their own strong views and opinions - but flexibility in approach may still be needed. 

So sharing what works for us here has a real part to play in recovery. What works for one just may work for others. 

Well done GBG for opening up this thread saying what works for you so may work for others. :worthy:

It inspired me to open up here with my own story in more detail than I have ever I think given before on the main forum. 

Roy 

Edited by taurean

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I don't really believe it's about what suits who best, i think it's more picking the appropriate behaviour for the situation. Planned exposures are great for targeting specific beliefs and working towards goals, exposures on the fly are for learning that you can take charge and go against OCD at any point and non-OCD behaviour is for getting on with your day not letting OCD get worse and reducing belief over time. 

I think the best thing someone can do is pick what's suitable for them at any given moment and use all of them at some point during therapy so that they become more resilient to OCD once therapy stops :)

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