How to Live with OCD - 6 Tips to Cope
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by obsessive thoughts and repetitive behavior that interferes with one's daily life. A person with OCD will feel an intense compulsion to act a certain way or think obsessively about something. For example, an obsession with washing hands, picking dirt from the floor, or having things symmetrical at all times.
Even when things are going great, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors can disrupt your day and leave you feeling embarrassed. The anxiety that comes with OCD can also leave you drained.
Although OCD has no cure, medication and therapy are key to coping with the condition. However, there are other lifestyle tips to cope with OCD, considering it's a lifelong condition.
Let's dive in.
1. Don't slack on your prescription
It's hard to stick to swallowing pills multiple times daily every day for your entire life. Sometimes you just want to stay away from your OCD pills, thinking you've got this. Perhaps, you're looking for alcohol or other more pleasurable substance to cope with OCD. But that is often a wrong choice. In fact, you should avoid drugs and alcohol while dealing with OCD.
The best way to cope with OCD is to stick with whatever prescription or therapy you have. Your healthcare provider will typically work to find a treatment plan that works best for you.
2. Eat mood-promoting foods
When living with OCD, you want to steer clear of caffeine, coffee, and energy drinks. Caffeine and cigarette stimulants can kick your anxiety up a notch, and that's no good. Instead, consume:
- Protein sources like fish and eggs that fuel you up slowly but in a balanced way;
- Complex carbs from whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, which help keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Don't stay hungry for long, as a drop in sugar level can leave you feeling cranky.
Journaling helps us become aware of our feelings and intrusive thoughts. Whenever the thoughts come, write them down in your journal. What did you feel or experience right before that thought emerged? Write that down also. This information will also help you realize the triggers or events that stimulate your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior.
4. Stay physically active
Regular physical exercise promotes better health and well-being. Physical activity is known for improving mood and reducing anxiety, precisely what you need when living with OCD. Fortunately, you don't have to lift heavy weights to get the benefits. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), "aerobic exercise is a key complementary intervention that can work to improve the quality of life for people with OCD."
5. Avoid idleness
An idle mind opens up a world for obsessive thoughts to surge into. But when your brain is occupied with an activity, it becomes more difficult for your thoughts to stray.
Deliberately planning activities -- such as chores, work, and hobbies -- to keep your mind busy can help you keep your obsessive thoughts at bay. "Simply doing other tasks helps keep your mind away from the obsessions and compulsions," says NAMI.
Note that you can't keep up with this all the time. But of course, having a loose sense of your to-do throughout the day will give you a sense of being occupied.
6. Create a sleep routine
Anxiety can make falling asleep challenging. It becomes more than just lying down and drifting off to dreamland. To make it easier, create a sleep routine. This will force your body's clock to adapt to the pattern and get drowsy when the hour approaches. Take advantage of your body's circadian rhythm.
Living with OCD can be difficult, and these tips aren't your typical walk in the park. It will take effort and consistency. However, they can help. Also, seeing a therapist is in your best interest if you haven't visited one already. They'll help prescribe the right medication and treatment plan suitable for you.