In “Defining Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” we talked about the difference between obsession and compulsions, and how individuals will display repetitive and odd behaviors in an effort to squelch undesirable worries and fears. To combat some of these obsessions and compulsions, there are steps that an individual can make to regain control of their lives.

The first step is to seek the advice of a qualified mental health professional. The professional may want to utilize a treatment plan that includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). The Anxiety and Depression Association of America say that “most people who seek treatment experience significant improvement and enjoy an improved quality of life.” The ADAA provides a list of questions and other tips before attending your first appointment.

It’s also important to consider your lifestyle and what changes may need to be made to help you achieve better equilibrium. People who have a lot of stress at work or home, suffer from a lack of sleep or exercise, or had a traumatic event or illness can open the door to OCD behaviors. To help maintain control, try some of the following suggestions:

Take a timeout: Give yourself at least one day a week or a couple of hours each day to turn off the cell phone, shut down the laptop, and simply decompress. Read a book, watch a movie, or take a walk.

Stay connected to family and friends: When experiencing OCD symptoms, it’s not uncommon to socially isolate yourself. Unfortunately, this may intensify your anxiety. Instead, meet friends for coffee, or take the kids to the park. Invite family members over for dinner.

Live a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy meals and snacks throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and make time for exercise. Participate in local 5K runs or walks that will help get you moving and introduce you to new people. You should also reduce the use of alcohol and nicotine, and get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Use diversionary tactics. If you feel the onset of OCD symptoms, go for a walk down the street or around the park. You can also try diverting yourself by watching TV, playing a video game, talking to someone on the phone, or listening to soothing music.

Learn to recognize triggers. Triggers could be people, places or objects. Understanding how your body and mind respond to certain types of stimuli will help you develop a better response when you become anxious and start experiencing OCD symptoms.

Try relaxation techniques. Yoga, mindful meditation, and deep breathing have been successful at reducing symptoms. Relax your breathing and muscles by closing your eyes and taking ten deep breaths through your nose. Visualize yourself in a serene location such as a stream with the water flowing gently by, or the shoreline with gently cresting waves.

Just remember that changes will occur gradually by taking one step at a time, one day at a time.

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