It’s not uncommon for people with OCD to start noticing the role stress plays in exacerbating their symptoms. When talking about a recent uptick in OCD,  people will often report noticing specific stressors, such as an increase in  work stress, greater demand on their time and energy from others, and  possibly discord with friends or family. Not only can stress cause an increase in intrusive thoughts, but it can also understandably make it more challenging  for people to resist compulsions and engage in ERP. The combination of  these two factors often leads people down an OCD spiral that they then need to work themselves back out of with response prevention. 

The importance of managing stress may not seem like new info… and you’re  right, it isn’t. We all know the importance of reducing stress and utilizing  positive coping tools to stay grounded. However, for many of us, what we  know is different than what we do! Here are some tips to keep stress down and your body & mind feeling more centered. 

#1: Mindfulness Breaks 

Implementing 2 to 5 minute mindfulness breaks into your day can be a huge  stress reliever. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’m too busy to take a 2 minute  break!”, but in actuality that 2 minute break will help you become more focused and efficient afterwards. So the real question is…. “Aren’t you too busy to not take a 2 minute mindfulness break?”  

This is what a mindfulness break could look like:  

1) Start by focusing in on your breath, breathing in through your nose  slowly, hold, and then out through your mouth slowly (long exhale)

2) Set the intention to cultivate awareness  

3) Focus your attention to what is occurring in the present moment and  simply observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise. What do  you feel? What do you hear? What do you see?  

4) Set the intention to stay in a self-compassionate, non-judgmental mindset  throughout the break. Shift away from judging your thoughts or feelings  and instead view them from a lens of kindness and curiousity. 

#2: Movement

We all know the benefits of exercise on our health, both physically and mentally, but oftentimes we fall into all-or-nothing thinking with exercise. We can also become more fixated on weight loss and appearance rather than the other health benefits it’s providing. I use the word movement because it’s  important to remember that any form of exercise is great! You don’t need to be an avid runner or attend a spin class. You can dance. You can stretch. You  can stroll. All forms of movement help lower stress and produce major health  benefits. If you move your body for 60 minutes… great! If you move your  body for 10 minutes… that’s also great!  

#3: Practice Resisting Rumination 

It’s important to differentiate between the act of ruminating vs. the act of  problem-solving. Rumination is “engaging in a repetitive negative thought  process that loops continuously in the mind without end or completion”.  Problem-solving, on the other hand, is when you are actively thinking about  something with the goal of determining and prioritizing action steps to solve  the problem, and then take action to the solve the problem. As you can see these two things both involve the act of thinking, but they have much different outcomes. Rumination is a significant component of OCD, anxiety,  and stress. Practicing acknowledging the act of ruminating and resisting it, can be a helpful tool in minimizing stress.  

#4: Prioritizing Pleasure 

With everything on our plates these days (Work! Kids! Family! House! Pets! Friends! Bills!) it can be really hard to find time to engage in pleasurable  activities. Whether it’s simply playing a game with the kids outside, taking a walk, reading a chapter of a book you’re really into… these little acts of giving yourself pleasure can be HUGE stress reducers. Life wasn’t meant to be  lived in a state of productivity 100% of the time. Most people find that they are happiest when the time they spend on pleasure and productivity is balanced. When you give yourself the break you need to play or rest, stress  goes down.  

Stress management is something we can do throughout our day in “small” ways. Try prioritizing these 4 things and see whether you feel a bit more centered and grounded on a day to day basis. Let me know how it goes for you! 

Are you a woman struggling with OCD and not sure where to start in getting help? Reach out today for a free consultation to discuss options for treatment or support.