Managing OCD: 7 Ways to Calm Your Compulsions

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition with two main characteristics: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unrealistic thoughts or feelings and compulsions are uncontrollable actions that are often repeated to reduce stress and fear.

When you’re living with OCD, finding ways to cope with your compulsions can be extremely helpful in allowing you to live out your daily life. Here are some methods to try.

1. Meditate

Living with OCD means that you’re often living in your head a lot. You’re caught up on unrealistic thoughts or worries that eventually lead you to act out your compulsions. Meditation can be a significant help because it can bring your awareness to the present moment and the reality of the world around you, rather than being caught in the thoughts in your head.

2. Do Something With Your Hands

Compulsions are often very active practices – you’re washing your hands, checking a door or folding a napkin several times, for example. Giving your hands something else to do can be a really helpful distraction when you want to act out a compulsion. Try playing an instrument, doing a puzzle or knitting to keep your hands active with something else.

OCD Distracting Behavior

Image Credit: Hans

3. Model a Person’s Behavior

It may sound trivial, but sometimes when you’ve built up habits as a result of OCD compulsion, it can be hard to know how to do ordinary things in a different way. This is when others can help. Do you have a routine of compulsions you must do before leaving the house? Consider asking a family member to show you how they leave the house, then model their behavior without completing compulsions.

4. Practice Deep Breathing

As OCD is a type of anxiety, using tips and tricks to help reduce anxiety can be a significant help. Breathing is one of these techniques that can help improve your overall mental health and outlook while aiding in the production of endorphins (chemicals that trigger a positive feeling in the body).

OCD Breathing & Meditation

Image Credit: brenkee

5. Challenge “What Ifs”

Obsessive thoughts come with a lot of “what if” scenarios. Using thought stopping processes or trying to rationally challenge these patterns in your mind can help you move past your obsessive thoughts before you get to compulsions. “What if you don’t wash your hands three times?” It’s very unlikely that you’ll get sick.

Of course, this can be easier said than done sometimes. But challenging yourself to think beyond your obsessions can be helpful in your long term healing.

6. Listen to Music

Music can be a great distraction and help to relieve feelings of anxiety. Trying to feel calm? Try to listen to something soothing and relaxing, like classical music. Trying to distract your thoughts? Something more upbeat or loud like rock or pop might do the trick. Different types of music can be distracting in different ways.

7. Get Into Nature

Nature has so many benefits and can actually help reduce anxiety. For example, One study links this to the concept of “biophilia” or the connection between humans and nature. Nurturing this connection allows you to relax physically, connect to your senses and bring awareness into the world around you, rather than focus on the stress in your mind.

Of course, you’re not alone when handling your OCD and friends, family and mental health professionals can also be support systems for you as you learn to manage your symptoms.

Feature Image: offthelefteye