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BelAnna

Does anyone have any tips for coping with OCD on holiday?

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Does anyone have any tips for coping with OCD whilst on holiday / away from home?

I have a week's holiday in Cornwall coming up this weekend, which I'm feeling very anxious about.Most weeks I only leave home for once-daily dog walks and a once-weekly Psychologist appointment so I really don't do very much or go anywhere! (not even to things like the supermarket or for GP appointments). I'm simultaneously really glad that I'm getting to go on holiday this year and very concerned about how I'll cope (and about the impact this will have on my family members). 

I am anticipating that my severe contamination concerns will be a problem, particularly for example if the holiday rental isn't perfectly clean; if there's puke on any of the pavements that we have to walk along; if we eat out; if any of family members feels unwell etc. etc. Due to my Emetophobia I am particularly terrified of catching a stomach virus/bug and as I have several memories of family holidays ruined by stomach bugs in my childhood/teens, some of which took place in Cornwall, I feel even more anxious about going back to Cornwall! 

My responsibility obsession is also likely to be a problem as I fear harm coming to my dog and there are likely to be several triggering situations. I usually only allow her to walk on-lead and she rarely meets other dogs or people- there will be situations like allowing her off-lead on the beach; the possibility of there being highly poisonous blue-green algae on the water or items on the beach that she could eat (she sometimes eats inedible objects), which I might find overwhelming. 

I also have Social Anxiety Disorder and Emetophobia to contend with so at times I am dreading the holiday! 

I really want to make some progress with my OCD this summer but I don't know where to start! Should I set CBT tasks for the day each morning? Should I plan ahead of time?

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The same as you would have to deal with ocd anywhere, it's in our head, I do understand the anticipation, its building it up with fear of not knowing, chances are you will have great distractions,new things to see,just do your best to just let it be,seems impossible but we just have to keep trying x

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I struggle on holiday, for different reasons, but I find the best thing is to just keep my mood in a calm place as much as I can, and "postpone" sorting out issues until I get home. Keeping busy helps. I went on holiday recently and I looked for exposure opportunities rather than waiting for ocd to come to me. It worked sort of although did have a couple of rough patches. If you think "what would someone without ocd do" and then do that at much as possible. 

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I'm afraid I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to say I hope you are able to enjoy your holiday once you get there. It's great that you are going. :)

P.S. You're going to be in my neck of the woods!

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Anxiety is a forward  thinking emotion and anticipation can be a positive emotion and a negative emotion. But life for all of us is full of mixed emotions.

You could get the GP to prescribe a short term drug to help you relax. I have taken them for brief periods in my life lasting no more than one week on each occasion. Once when my finals involved, in part, 10 three hour exams in five days.  And once when I had very noisy neighbours and I had a very important project to complete. You could have them on standby. 

I suppose your holiday is like an extreme exposure exercise. Say that on average you are away from your house 10 hours a week. You will now be out of you house for a longer period. You are taking an important step.

You could switch responsibility for dog walking to another family member. Avoidance I know. But a possibility, in the short term. Go to restaurants displaying five stars for food hygiene.

My instinct is to take it a day at a time. Do not do plans now. Try to switch your mind to the positives. Picture in your mind what you would like to do. Picture in your mind positive memories of your time in Cornwall  and dwell in these memories.

Edited by Angst

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When I go on holiday I seem to leave 90% of my OCD at home.

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BelAnna, you have spent years crafting your faulty thinking and engaging in completely unnecessary behaviors. That goes for all of your anxiety conditions.

Bottom line, for you to begin to recover, you have to change your thinking and behavior.

Deep rooted issues such as yours won't be fixed in the time between now and your holiday. However, you can take some steps during that time period to calm things down. And really, the biggest step you can take is curbing your compulsions.

How much time did you spend learning about poisonous algae that could harm your dog? You should know that was a compulsion that will cause you anxiety on your trip. You should also know that no one else in Cornwall cares one iota about poisonous algae.

I'm sure if you think about it, you can figure out a whole bunch of compulsions around this trip that you have either done or are planning to do. Curb them. Stop them. Don't do them. 

Spend each day looking forward to a wonderful time, not anticipating needless anxiety and planning for catastrophe.

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Thank you battlethrough, gingerbreadgirl, Lost, Angst, Daja and Polarbear! 

On 09/07/2019 at 16:52, battlethrough said:

The same as you would have to deal with ocd anywhere, it's in our head, I do understand the anticipation, its building it up with fear of not knowing, chances are you will have great distractions,new things to see,just do your best to just let it be,seems impossible but we just have to keep trying x

Thank you, that's really helped me to change my perspective and look forward to things rather than spending all my time fearing the holiday! x

On 09/07/2019 at 18:08, gingerbreadgirl said:

I struggle on holiday, for different reasons, but I find the best thing is to just keep my mood in a calm place as much as I can, and "postpone" sorting out issues until I get home. Keeping busy helps. I went on holiday recently and I looked for exposure opportunities rather than waiting for ocd to come to me. It worked sort of although did have a couple of rough patches. If you think "what would someone without ocd do" and then do that at much as possible. 

Thank you- that sounds like a good idea- to deliberately look for exposure opportunities- I'll try that! I might take a little notebook to record all planned and accidental exposures. 

On 09/07/2019 at 19:38, Lost_in_a_Dark_Maze said:

I'm afraid I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to say I hope you are able to enjoy your holiday once you get there. It's great that you are going. :)

P.S. You're going to be in my neck of the woods!

Thank you! I am looking forward to it- especially surfing and walks along the beach! You're so lucky living in/near Cornwall- it's such a lovely area. I live a three-hour drive from the nearest beach and about five hours drive away from Cornwall! 

On 09/07/2019 at 19:52, Angst said:

Anxiety is a forward  thinking emotion and anticipation can be a positive emotion and a negative emotion. But life for all of us is full of mixed emotions.

You could get the GP to prescribe a short term drug to help you relax. I have taken them for brief periods in my life lasting no more than one week on each occasion. Once when my finals involved, in part, 10 three hour exams in five days.  And once when I had very noisy neighbours and I had a very important project to complete. You could have them on standby. 

I suppose your holiday is like an extreme exposure exercise. Say that on average you are away from your house 10 hours a week. You will now be out of you house for a longer period. You are taking an important step.

You could switch responsibility for dog walking to another family member. Avoidance I know. But a possibility, in the short term. Go to restaurants displaying five stars for food hygiene.

My instinct is to take it a day at a time. Do not do plans now. Try to switch your mind to the positives. Picture in your mind what you would like to do. Picture in your mind positive memories of your time in Cornwall  and dwell in these memories.

Thank you Angst! I will try to see the holiday as an extreme exposure exercise! I'm usually only away from home for fewer than 5 hours each week so next week is going to be far more interesting/exciting! 

I think I will get my brother to walk our dog and hopefully only go to restaurants/cafes with 5 star hygiene ratings and just take it one day at a time! 

On 09/07/2019 at 22:15, daja said:

When I go on holiday I seem to leave 90% of my OCD at home.

Wow, you're so lucky Daja! (in that one respect anyway!)

22 hours ago, PolarBear said:

BelAnna, you have spent years crafting your faulty thinking and engaging in completely unnecessary behaviors. That goes for all of your anxiety conditions.

Bottom line, for you to begin to recover, you have to change your thinking and behavior.

Deep rooted issues such as yours won't be fixed in the time between now and your holiday. However, you can take some steps during that time period to calm things down. And really, the biggest step you can take is curbing your compulsions.

How much time did you spend learning about poisonous algae that could harm your dog? You should know that was a compulsion that will cause you anxiety on your trip. You should also know that no one else in Cornwall cares one iota about poisonous algae.

I'm sure if you think about it, you can figure out a whole bunch of compulsions around this trip that you have either done or are planning to do. Curb them. Stop them. Don't do them. 

Spend each day looking forward to a wonderful time, not anticipating needless anxiety and planning for catastrophe.

Thanks Polarbear. That's really helpful and although I'm not sure I can stop the compulsions, I might be able to limit them. I will also try to look for the fun in each day rather than catastrophizing! 

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2 hours ago, BelAnna said:

That's really helpful and although I'm not sure I can stop the compulsions, I might be able to limit them.

Can you stop the compulsions in time for your vacation? No, probably not.  Can you stop the compulsions eventually? Absolutely!  Have faith in yourself!

As to the vacation itself, a few ideas that might help:
1.  Set aside some fixed time each day to go over your worries, maybe at the end of the day.  When you encounter a worry tell yourself that you aren't going to worry about it now, you'll save it for later.  If you don't feel like you can put it off for that long, try putting it off for a short time, say 15-30 minutes.  Tell yourself that if you are still feeling anxiety then you'll take a few minutes to respond, but try and keep putting it off if you can.  Maybe keep a small notebook with you, when you have a strong worry jot it down real quick (don't spend a lot of time here, just a quick note, like 12:45pm - worried about catching an illness from lunch, and then put it away.  Give yourself permission to save that worry for later.

2. Try a few deep breathing exercises. You can find examples on various sites.  If you want to go a little further, guided mindfulness meditations might help.

3.  Altoids.  No really, this worked for me and my emetophobia.  The anxiety would often cause my stomach to feel a little upset, which would trigger the emetophobia, which would cause my stomach to feel upset, etc.  a vicious cycle.  For me, popping an Altoid (or other mint) when I was really caught in a loop helped break the cycle.  I used it as a kind of mindfulness too, I would take a moment to enjoy the sensation of the mint cooling my mouth, focus on the feel of it, etc.  It worked as a kind of circuit breaker for my anxiety spiral.  And mint has soothing properties for nausea.  Now, having said that its important to not go overboard, else it becomes a compulsion.  If you are popping mints every 6 minutes or 60 minutes you are overdoing it.  But for me it was a useful temporary measure to help me get through the worst of my emetophobia.  Back then I might use the minutes a few times a day.  Now I don't use it anymore (except for when my breath is a little bad after lunch or something).  The idea here is to give yourself a concrete way of refocusing your attention away from the anxiety.  It won't cure the problem, a mint isn't going to stop you from getting a virus or from a room being contaminated, so don't fall in to the trap of thinking of it as a cure.  It just a tool, like the notebook in step 1 or the breathing exercises in step 2 to help you refocus.

4.  Most of all, try and give yourself permission to not have to solve all these problems.  Give yourself permission to not have to be ever vigilant.  You can not prevent all illness no matter how hard you try, illness is going to happen and if it does its not your fault.  Its a normal part of life and your own history shows you that its not the end of the world.  Is it less than ideal? Absolutely.  But life goes on, the world keeps spinning.  if it happens, you'll deal with it.  if it doesn't happen, great!  Remind yourself that the rules OCD demands you follow are ridiculous, non-OCD sufferers ignore those rules and lead happy, fulfilling lives.  Its OCD who is wrong, not you.

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15 hours ago, dksea said:

Can you stop the compulsions in time for your vacation? No, probably not.  Can you stop the compulsions eventually? Absolutely!  Have faith in yourself!

As to the vacation itself, a few ideas that might help:
1.  Set aside some fixed time each day to go over your worries, maybe at the end of the day.  When you encounter a worry tell yourself that you aren't going to worry about it now, you'll save it for later.  If you don't feel like you can put it off for that long, try putting it off for a short time, say 15-30 minutes.  Tell yourself that if you are still feeling anxiety then you'll take a few minutes to respond, but try and keep putting it off if you can.  Maybe keep a small notebook with you, when you have a strong worry jot it down real quick (don't spend a lot of time here, just a quick note, like 12:45pm - worried about catching an illness from lunch, and then put it away.  Give yourself permission to save that worry for later.

2. Try a few deep breathing exercises. You can find examples on various sites.  If you want to go a little further, guided mindfulness meditations might help.

3.  Altoids.  No really, this worked for me and my emetophobia.  The anxiety would often cause my stomach to feel a little upset, which would trigger the emetophobia, which would cause my stomach to feel upset, etc.  a vicious cycle.  For me, popping an Altoid (or other mint) when I was really caught in a loop helped break the cycle.  I used it as a kind of mindfulness too, I would take a moment to enjoy the sensation of the mint cooling my mouth, focus on the feel of it, etc.  It worked as a kind of circuit breaker for my anxiety spiral.  And mint has soothing properties for nausea.  Now, having said that its important to not go overboard, else it becomes a compulsion.  If you are popping mints every 6 minutes or 60 minutes you are overdoing it.  But for me it was a useful temporary measure to help me get through the worst of my emetophobia.  Back then I might use the minutes a few times a day.  Now I don't use it anymore (except for when my breath is a little bad after lunch or something).  The idea here is to give yourself a concrete way of refocusing your attention away from the anxiety.  It won't cure the problem, a mint isn't going to stop you from getting a virus or from a room being contaminated, so don't fall in to the trap of thinking of it as a cure.  It just a tool, like the notebook in step 1 or the breathing exercises in step 2 to help you refocus.

4.  Most of all, try and give yourself permission to not have to solve all these problems.  Give yourself permission to not have to be ever vigilant.  You can not prevent all illness no matter how hard you try, illness is going to happen and if it does its not your fault.  Its a normal part of life and your own history shows you that its not the end of the world.  Is it less than ideal? Absolutely.  But life goes on, the world keeps spinning.  if it happens, you'll deal with it.  if it doesn't happen, great!  Remind yourself that the rules OCD demands you follow are ridiculous, non-OCD sufferers ignore those rules and lead happy, fulfilling lives.  Its OCD who is wrong, not you.

Wow, thank you Dksea! I feel like printing your reply out so that I can look at it on holiday! I will definitely try keeping a record in a notebook of my worries (and maybe of any successful exposure tasks too!). 

I will also buy some mints (I'm not sure we have Altoids in the UK but I do remember finding mints helpful when I felt car sick in the past) in case I feel sick. I do also have some Anti-Emetics (Domperidone and Buccal Prochlorperazine) but I will only use those if I'm actually unwell, as I did use them as a 'Safety Behaviour' a few years ago!

I also really like the idea of giving myself permission not to be responsible and in control all of the time- thank you!

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I’ve seen Altoids in the UK supermarkets and/or Holland and Barrett.

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6 hours ago, BelAnna said:

I'm not sure we have Altoids in the UK

This surprised me because the packaging (in the US at least) talks about how they are originally from the UK!  I looked it up just now and it turns out they aren't really marketed much back in their original home country as compared to the US! How ironic :D

I preferred them because they were (as the marketing indicates) stronger than most other mints, and I enjoyed the strong flavor.  Of course I also enjoy things like ginger ale, grapefruit, and licorice, so I guess I like strong flavors more than the average bloke, lol.  But yeah, its a nice, physical reminder to stop and take a breath, rethink and reevaluate when your thoughts are running wild.  In meditation terms I guess you could say its a way of centering yourself.  But I wouldn't worry too much about the specifics of what you choose, whatever convenient and pleasant for you should be fine. :)

 

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8 hours ago, dksea said:

This surprised me because the packaging (in the US at least) talks about how they are originally from the UK!  I looked it up just now and it turns out they aren't really marketed much back in their original home country as compared to the US! How ironic :D

I preferred them because they were (as the marketing indicates) stronger than most other mints, and I enjoyed the strong flavor.  Of course I also enjoy things like ginger ale, grapefruit, and licorice, so I guess I like strong flavors more than the average bloke, lol.  But yeah, its a nice, physical reminder to stop and take a breath, rethink and reevaluate when your thoughts are running wild.  In meditation terms I guess you could say its a way of centering yourself.  But I wouldn't worry too much about the specifics of what you choose, whatever convenient and pleasant for you should be fine. :)

 

Thanks Dksea!  I think it might really help to have something physical to bring my attention to when I'm struggling. :) 

 

 

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