How to Engage in ERP by focusing on your strengths

Grappling with OCD is no easy task. There is a continuous need to “boss it back” and face fears without compulsions. The best way to live well with OCD is to accept obsessions and resist compulsions—through the use of Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP.) 

It’s true, ERP is not for the faint of heart. Committing to ERP requires a willingness to experience emotional pain. I’m not saying the pain will definitely occur. To one’s surprise, sometimes it doesn’t—the anticipation of confronting a fear can be worse than facing it!

In comparison, avoidance causes more pain than confronting. But, if facing a fear does cause discomfort, it’s usually short-lived. 

When I give advice to face a fear, a client almost always says, “easier said than done.” Listen, I know it’s scary to give up trying to prevent bad things from happening. But, you’ve got your head in the sand if you think it’s easier to live a life of compulsions! No matter what you do (Feed OCD or Boss it Back), it ain’t going to be easy! 

No matter what you do, it’s going to be hard. But you have strengths to help you face any challenge. By tapping into your strengths you will feel stronger and more daring.

After you answer those questions you’ll hopefully make the right choice and boss it back through Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP).

Once you take the plunge and immerse yourself in ERP, the reward of freedom and independence is well-worth the hard work of saying “no” to OCD. Besides, most people admit that feeding OCD only turns fear into terror, and pain into long-lasting agony.

It’s best to confront and not avoid; accept uncertainty, and not seek reassurance. BE DARING. You’re stronger than you think. You can endure the difficult times. You can defy OCD.

Focus on your strengths and not your shortcomings and you will be able to confront OCD. Theodore Roosevelt, (yes, the man who once gave a 90-minute speech just after being shot, with the bullet still lodged in his chest) said it best:

The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

What’s interesting about this quote is that Teddy Roosevelt is bringing into focus the need to emphasize strengths, not shortcomings. He displays a growth mindset and highlights the importance of being daring.

Daring people believe everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people with OCD, it’s this: being daring is your superpower. But, I’ve also noticed that your superpower vanishes quickly when you get down on yourself.

Every person is unique and has the potential to change. You can live well with OCD. The key is to capitalize on your strengths and pay no mind to your shortcomings. You reinforce your shortcomings by focusing on them!

The secret to being daring is to focus on your strengths, not weaknesses or deficits. Imagine what is possible when you take advantage of your strengths! Did you know that by focusing on your strengths your shortcomings will spontaneously combust? Focus your efforts on developing your strengths and the rest will take care of itself. 

Here’s an interesting article about focusing on strengths: What are your strengths and why you should list them.

You’re an over thinker and this is a shortcoming. But it’s not a good idea to try and improve by thinking less. We know where that takes you. Trying not to think makes you think more! But perhaps one of your strengths is that you are known for your high level of energy. Focus on your strength of being more action-oriented, and you won’t have time to overthink.

Spend your time nurturing your strengths and not your shortcomings. This will make you more daring. Focusing on your weaknesses makes it harder to confront fear because your shortcomings make you feel weak. Whereas, developing and improving upon your strengths increases brain activity, releases happy juices (serotonin/dopamine) and makes you feel strong.

Think about who you want to be and how you want to spend your time. Do you want to be the person in the arena that Teddy Roosevelt is describing or, do you want to be like this person:

At the moment, I’m feeling like a victim. I’m having bad thoughts one right after the other. This is depressing. I thought I was done having intrusive thoughts. I feel like I’m being attacked from all sides. My family refuses to acknowledge how hard my life is. Yes, I have a victim mentality, but I don’t think I always have this. I’m trying really hard, and no one is giving me any credit. Having OCD is frustrating.

What’s interesting about this person is that s/he is focused on the problem, not the solution. There is no mention of this person’s strengths. We are not responsible for being down but we are responsible for getting up.

Focus on Strengths and Be More Daring

When an exposure exercise starts to get easy ask, “How can I be even more daring?” Dare to feel uncomfortable and life changes. Your strengths can help you be more daring.

Conduct a personal inventory NOW of all your strengths—these might include: 

  • Personality traits
  • Favorite activities/hobbies
  • Special interests passions/desires
  • Skills/abilities talents
  • Work/education accomplishments
  • Cultural/spiritual/ethnic ties
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Community resources
  • Knowledge/experience
  • Environmental assets/tools/equipment/aids
  • Sensory awarenes

If you have trouble describing your strengths:

  • Imagine being 60+ years old. What would you tell your younger self to focus on? Would you tell your younger self to self-loathe and hopelessly concentrate on weaknesses?
  • What if you could be someone else for 30 minutes. What would your other self be like?
  • Try identifying your strengths from someone else’s point of view. “My best friend says that I am willing to be vulnerable (yes that’s a strength) and that I’m thoughtful.” 
  • Recalling one of your own strategies from a past success of risk-taking, what advice would you give to a friend who doesn’t feel very daring.
  • What personality traits help you to keep going even when times are hard?
  • Think about something you’re good at. Now, ask yourself, “why?” Why are you good at it? Next ask if you can get even better at it. How?

Another way to identify your strengths is to take an online assessment:

  1. Find out more about yourself here: personalitydescribed.com/knowyourself 

There is a $15 fee but the results are worth it. Just make sure you rate yourself fairly. No self-loathing allowed! Use plenty of positive adjectives. Be comprehensive. The more adjectives you use, the better your report will be.

2. Here’s an assessment to find out about your hidden strengths: https://portal.howtofascinate.com/you

Use this free code (YOU-bossitback) to discover what’s fascinating about you. (This code can only be used a limited number of times—so 1st come 1st serve!) Go to HowToFascinate.com/YOU  Enter the code (YOU-bossitback) + your information. Click the “Start Now” button.

3. This is a more costly assessment but highly informative and popular.

NOW WHAT?

Once you have identified some of your strengths, it’s time to take advantage of them! 

Nurture Your Strength

Take one of your strengths and on a scale of 1-10 how high would you score this strength? For example, let’s say you think you are a 7 when it comes to being kind/loving. Now think about steps you could take to raise the score to an 8 or 9. Perhaps one of the steps would be to set Alexis to start your day with a daily affirmation. (Developing self-compassion.)

Communicate Your Strength When Talking Back to OCD

“I know you are afraid right now OCD. You’re leaning toward being stuck. Afraid to be daring. But daring is my superpower. So hold on…it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I’m a mover and a shaker. I got this.”

Use Your Strengths to Take Risks

Always, always, always pat yourself on the back for initiative and effort regardless of the outcome. Better to take risks than be paralyzed.

Find Your Hidden Strengths

We all have strengths we don’t even know exist. We use them every day but we haven’t identified them because they run in the background of our consciousness. Taking one of the online assessments can be helpful with finding hidden strengths, but asking friends and family is often even more enlightening.

Keep Track of Your Strengths As They Improve

It’s beneficial to have a visible way to keep track of your progress. Download an app (e.g. habitbull) on your phone or keep a diary. I like apps because they provide graphs which are rewarding to look at and see the progress.

Share Your Strength with Others

Maybe someone else isn’t as organized and as good at planning as you. Offer your services. Design a planner and sell it on Amazon.

Collect More Knowledge About Your Strength

Instead of reading a self-help book to improve upon a weakness, read a self-help book or listen to a podcast or Ted Talk about one of your strengths. Reinforce your strengths by learning more about them.

Use your strengths to be daring. Dare to be uncomfortable and you’ll leave OCD crippled by your superpower. By sharpening your skills and reinforcing your strengths, you’ll be more motivated to engage in ERP.

In summary:

Get Rid of Your Fear of Anxiety

Do you think it’s possible to get rid of anxiety? Read the title of this post again. It doesn’t say to get rid of anxiety. It says to get rid of your fear of anxiety. And, yes. It is possible to accept anxiety as an annoyance but nothing to be feared.

Get rid of your fear of how it feels to be anxious. If anxiety makes you feel lightheaded, stretch your arms out like an airplane and start spinning round and round. Make yourself lightheaded. If anxiety makes your heart pound faster, get up and do 50 jumping jacks. Get your heart pounding faster. Go ahead and drum up the feeling of anxiety. Give yourself a good dose of it.

Get rid of your paranoia about being anxious. If you’re worried that people will think less of you because you have a panic attack or act ditsy, then by golly, act more anxious! Get it over with. Don’t complete sentences during conversation. Bite your nails. Jiggle your legs. Wet your armpits with a sponge. Stutter. Make sure people know that you are super duper anxious. If someone thinks badly of you it’s because they’re miserable. Only a person who is hurting will judge you.

Get rid of your fear of the anxiety never ending. Maybe it won’t end. Maybe it will. Time will tell. Anxiety isn’t dangerous. It’s your reaction to anxiety that can make life chaotic. You can do anything anxious. You can do nothing by avoiding. Set your intentions. As an anxious person, who do you want to be? If the anxiety never lessens you can choose to acclimate. Become accustomed to feeling anxious and come to terms with having a thorn in your side.

Get rid of your fear of anxiety as a signal of bad things to come. Someone once said of me, “You don’t understand that we actually experience this stuff as real.” No one can know what it feels like to be in anyone’s shoes. But I certainly have been afraid of something terrible happening. And it sure felt real to me: “This time it’s really going to happen.” The truth is, if it’s not happening now, it’s not happening. If something bad does happen in real time, so be it. Bad things happen to everyone and we deal with them as they occur.

I’d rather be anxious than afraid of being anxious. How about you?

ERP With a Different Twist

Compulsions Are Nothing More Than a Coping Skill Gone Rogue

If you use avoidance behaviors or mental neutralizing rituals to manage anxiety and obsessional thoughts, then you’ve selected compulsions as a coping mechanism. You believe compulsions have value. Naturally, if a coping skill seems useful, you’ll use it often. The more you use a coping skill, the more mindless or automatic the use of it becomes.

Bossy-Pants OCD
A Compulsion Is a Coping Skill in Excess

Your brain perceives a threat or senses something unpleasant, your body reacts, and your brain selects a coping mechanism—and in your case, it’s often a compulsion. You employ a repetitive and well-oiled skill that has helped you cope in the past. You can employ this skill mindlessly—with no concern for consequences.

Ta-Da…You’ve mastered a coping skill!

Just because you’ve mastered a coping skill doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Even when you think it’s a healthy coping skill because an authority or role model told you to do it—it can be a compulsion.

Have you ever been taught this coping skill: “A thought is just a thought.”

If you’ve read Brain Lock or talked with a therapist who doesn’t use ERP, then no doubt you’ve been reassured, “Just because you think it doesn’t mean you want it.” Many people have become proficient at repeating, “It’s just OCD, it’s not me. I am not my thoughts.” 

Yeesh! It’s a coping skill gone compulsive!

Compulsions aren’t spontaneous. They’re learned. Through trial and error, and reinforcement a compulsion is born.

It’s true; you are not your thoughts. You are your compulsions.

Compulsions form your loss of identity—and your lack of sense of self. I wish I had a nickel every time a client said to me, “I don’t know who I am without my compulsions.”

You and your compulsions are joined at the hip. Two peas in a pod. But, let’s get this straight…if you are engaging in compulsions you CAN’T know who you are. Drop the compulsions, and you WILL find yourself again!

Coping skills are employed for a reason—to achieve a goal. When you employ a compulsion, what is your goal?

Maybe you’re saying, “Tammy, I use compulsions to stop something bad from happening.” ~or~ “I use compulsions to try and figure out something important. I’m trying to answer a question that is gnawing at me.”

Ummmm, nope. That’s nothing but a hoax. Compulsions have no effect on anything but the quality of your life. Trick. deception. Fraud. Scam. I know you won’t argue that compulsions are all of that and more. Nevertheless, it’s how you cope.

Peel off the many layers of why you profess to engage in compulsions. You will discover you perform compulsions as a way to cope. You use compulsions to fire up or extinguish a feeling.

If you were willing to experience any feeling—all feelings—what would life be like for you? You’d be compulsion-free!

If you agreed to coexist with your feelings and obsessional thoughts, there would be no need to neutralize an intrusive thought. No more mental acts. No more trying to get to the bottom of who you are. No more rewinding, replaying, or forecasting. No more fixing. No more controlling what you can’t. No more hypervigilance. 

If you were willing to experience uneasiness the quality of your life would significantly improve. I’m not saying you have to enjoy anxiety or fear. I’m just saying you’d be compulsion-free if you agreed to coexist with your thoughts and feelings.

Tired of compulsions? Then apply the principles of Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP).

But hold on!!! If you decide to engage in ERP, the reason you’re doing it is critical. What is your goal? What do you hope to achieve through confronting OCD and resisting compulsions?

Are you engaging in ERP to stop thoughts? Bzzzzz. Wrong. Are you participating in ERP to avoid feeling unsettled or anxious? Bzzzzz. Wrong. Are you employing ERP to get rid of OCD? Wrong! Are you engaging in ERP to fire up anxiety or an uneasy uncertain feeling? Ding ding ding. RIGHT!

How else can you learn to tolerate an unpleasant emotion unless you hunt down ways to feel it?

You can’t heal what you won’t feel!

Now I want to give you, the reader, a peek at a therapy session:

Let’s say that for an exposure exercise you put a big piece of spinach in your teeth and talk to people all day.

ERP With a Different Twist

Predicting what will happen if you do this exposure is not new to the practice of ERP. The different twist is to make sure you lay it on thick. Don’t make little of what could happen. Be vivid. Go beyond saying you’ll “be laughed at” or people “will stare.” 

What do you predict will happen? Think about your worst fears. Go for it! Don’t just predict someone will think “less” of you. Use your words! Use foul distasteful adjectives! Amplify, magnify, go into detail and elaborate what you fear could happen.

Okay, I predict this will happen: People will be disgusted with my poor hygiene. They’ll accuse me of not bathing too. They’ll think I’m of low intelligence. I’ll be accused of never brushing my teeth. Someone will hand me floss and say, “Here, floss. Your teeth are disgusting.” Because of that spinach in my teeth, people will call me, a big fat pig! Oink Oink.

Now that we have gone hog wild and been thoroughly descriptive with your predictions, it’s time to put the spinach in your teeth.

ERP With a Different Twist

Make sure it’s noticeable. You might think, “Maybe we should start with a small piece.” Not really. You can if you want. That’s traditional ERP; slowly working your way up to a higher level of anxiety. But then you’re not fairly testing out your hypothesis. We need to see if your predictions come true!

We need to make sure the spinach is in plain sight! We need to find out what happens! Uh-oh…you’re losing your nerve, aren’t you? What are you having a hard time believing? Are you worried you can’t handle this experiment?

I’m worried I will be looked down upon. I’m going to fret all day long if that spinach is in my teeth. I’ll be demoralized and just want to die.

Do you feel like the anxiety is too much to tolerate?

YES!!! A thousand times yes! This is a horrible idea!

Okay, so that’s another prediction you’re making…”I can’t handle the anxiety if I do this.”

Let’s regroup for a minute. Do you want to live well with OCD?

Yes.

Well, then we need to test out your hypothesis! 

Be willing to find out what happens, and you can live well with OCD.

Before you put the spinach in your teeth, I just want to point out that it’s important to engage in ERP for the experience, not the outcome.

Be willing to find out what happens when you put your hypothesis to the test. In summary, what is your hypothesis?

I predict

People will think I’m a disgusting pig. I’ll be cast aside. I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.

I predict 

I can’t handle all of this anxiety. I’ll have a panic attack and never recover.

It’s been two weeks since our appointment. How’d you do?

Surprisingly, great!

Awesome! Despite your predictions, you feel great about your efforts! 

So, did your prediction turn out to be factual?

No one even seemed to care about the spinach in my teeth. There’s no way they missed it, but nobody seemed grossed out. Eventually, somebody pointed out I had spinach in my teeth, but it was no big deal. We laughed.

Your predictions were false. There was no catastrophe. Nothing bad happened. Nobody called you a pig or accused you of not bathing. And, you’re happy about your discovery!

The purpose of the exercise was to poke holes in your prediction. Did it work?

Yes.

But, if someone had called you a pig, would that be factual or an opinion?

An opinion. I can’t be a pig. I’m a human.

And by the way, only a person who is in pain would call you a name for having spinach in your teeth. A happy or caring person would have no need to bring you down. If someone calls you a name, we must have compassion for that person who must be hurting.

Alright, but there’s more to ERP than trying to disprove a hypothesis.

What if your fear cannot be readily disproven? Maybe you fear something that could happen months or even years from now. Or, what if you fear something where the outcome can never be known? Lesson #1 will be of little help to you.

ERP With a Different Twist

When does the exposure end? Hint: It doesn’t end when your anxiety comes down.

It’s not so bad to look foolish, be stared at, ignored, or called names. It’s unpleasant but not dangerous. The purpose of exposure exercises is to discover you’re more capable of tolerating anxiety and unpleasant events than you thought.

I didn’t think I could walk around with spinach in my teeth, but I did it! I didn’t panic! 

Did you keep the spinach in your teeth until your anxiety came down, or did you stay in the situation until your brain got an update about your ability to cope with the discomfort?

I ended the exposure when my anxiety came down. It came down when I realized my predictions were false.

How will this help you for obsessions that can’t be disproven? 

The lessening of anxiety because you recognized a discrepancy between what is predicted and what occurs is nice and all…but it’s not enough. There are many obsessional thoughts you can’t disprove. And many obsessions consist of questions that simply can’t be answered.

But, I could probably do that spinach experiment again now that I know my anxiety will lessen.

Yes, but will that be true at a later time or in a different context? Let’s not care so much about your anxiety lessening. If we place emphasis on reducing the anxiety, what kind of mixed message is that? That’s teaching you that you should be able to control your anxiety. And isn’t that what compulsions do?

Anxiety is inevitable, a part of life and it can be tolerable. Accepting this as the truth is how you can live well with OCD.

It’s important to stay with an exposure until you discover it’s okay to be anxious and have weird thoughts. Instead of trying to fix your anxiety through exposures, learn to be with or experience your anxiety.

If I ask you, “what surprised you about this experiment” and you answer, “I was surprised by how well I tolerated the fear” then hurray mission accomplished! But, if you answered, “I was surprised nothing bad happened,” that’s probably not going to translate into long-term benefits. Nor will it be applicable for every obsessional thought.

It’s about the lesson, not the lessening.

It doesn’t matter if your anxiety comes down. It’s all about the experience, tolerating it and discovering it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone. 

ERP With a Different Twist

The exposure ends not when your anxiety comes down, but when these objectives are met:

  • You realize anxiety is unpleasant, not dangerous.
  • You’re surprised by how well you handled the anxiety without a compulsion.
  • You accept it’s important to coexist with unpleasant feelings and obsessional thoughts.
  • You exceed your expectations about being able to continue an exposure even while feeling anxious and having obsessions.

If you’ve achieved those objectives even though your anxiety is still high, the exposure is considered completed.

Focus on the anxiety being tolerable; not the anxiety being fixed or controlled.

ERP With a Different Twist

You don’t even have to rate your anxiety. Instead, pay attention to your ability to withstand and tolerate anxiety and obsessional thoughts.

I end the exposure when I learn that I can stand uncertainty and anxiety. I tolerate experiencing these feelings and admit the feelings are unpleasant, not dangerous. And third, I must reinforce my strength and courage by admitting how surprised I am. Only then do I stop the exposure?

Exactly. 

Wait, that last objective . . . How do I exceed my expectations about being able to continue an exposure?

Step outside your comfort zone even more. Demand the anxiety become worse.

Not only put spinach in your teeth but also part your hair differently. Talk to someone really important with spinach in your teeth. Adding a bit more discomfort to the situation, and the fact that you survived it, would have even surprised you more! You would have exceeded your expectations.

One more time, what do you mean by “coexist” with my anxiety and obsessional thinking?

Be a person not willing to be overcome by anxiety or obsessions. Accept that anxiety and weird thoughts will be a part of your life and that you must live with this fact and tolerate it. Do not try to eradicate or influence thoughts or anxiety. Despite your anxiety and obsessions, agree to live together.

Remember, the practice of ERP is about the lessons, not the lessening!

ERP is more effective than any other intervention. AND, research continues to find ways to improve the short and long-term benefits of stepping outside of the comfort zone. Incorporate all three lessons into your daily life and you can live well with OCD.

“My Therapist’s Crazy Science Experiments”

The following post is from a Guest Blogger who is new to living with OCD. He’s confronting three whopping obsessions, all at the same time and is using ERP to do it. Here’s his triumphant story:

At 27 there were many things I expected to be happening at this point in my life… engagement, getting a dog, planning the next vacation, enjoying life in a brand-new city… the list goes on.

The reality of it has been much different, thanks to my OCD diagnosis. Instead of what I had envisioned, I found myself doing things I never would’ve imagined to confront my fears and obsessive thinking.

Growing up with two older sisters I was used to being dressed up. However, that was over 20 years ago. I didn’t think I’d be playing dress up at 27, trying on my mom’s dresses and jewelry while “I am woman” plays on YouTube. I wish I was kidding but my therapist focuses on Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (E&RP) and this was one of the first exercises she assigned to me.

At first, it was terrifying but it ended up being very entertaining and my parents got a good laugh and some pictures to blackmail me with for the rest of my life. At least I know if I end up trans I can rock the s%&t out of a nice dress.

living with OCD
Another exposure exercise my therapist has me do is a bit more intense… Imagine having to hold a knife to your wrist and gut while having thoughts of killing/stabbing yourself play in your head.

When completing an exposure you’re not allowed to self-talk or re-assure that nothing is going to happen. To make the exposure even more intense my therapist has me say bloody and dark statements as I hold the knife… this definitely gets the anxiety pumping.

I’ve also had to hold the knife to strangers throats in group therapy and also to my parents. If you ever are looking for a way to spice up your weekday nights give it a try… but in all seriousness confronting these fears has been incredibly difficult.

Finally, in a group therapy setting, I came out as “gay” to a bunch of strangers who don’t know anything about me… hitting all three of my fears.

To others reading this post it may not seem like a big deal but to me all of these experiences were terrifying. I always get self-conscious when completing exposures because on top of the anxiety I feel ridiculous and embarrassed I’m having these obsessive thoughts.

But in the end, I can’t worry about it… I must continue to face my fears and continue to be a guinea pig to my therapist’s crazy science experiments because, in the end, it does appear to be working.

My anxiety and compulsions are improving… I still have thoughts but they don’t have the same amount of power over me as they used to and they aren’t as frequent. A lot of trust goes into my relationship with my therapist… I wouldn’t dress up as a woman for just anyone.

In the end, maybe one of these fears/obsessive thoughts will become reality but I can’t continue to live in fear and not attain my hopes and dreams. I will continue to embrace any exposure exercise that comes my way and hope that one day I can look back at it and have a good laugh. In a weird way, this is helping me become more comfortable in my own skin… an unforeseen perk of OCD.

Living With OCD

This young man’s account of the lengths he must take to break free from OCD is astounding. He is brave and strong, with a huge funny bone and an ever-growing mindset. He is determined not to be held hostage by fear. There is nothing he won’t do to #bossitback.

He is a blogger and openly shares his journey at Millennials for Mental Health. He’s candid about the many twists and turns he has encountered along the way. It’s not been easy for him and there are times he still gets tricked by OCD. Visit his blog and he’ll tell you how he stays strong and focused.

You can leave a comment here to help celebrate his victories!

One Thing Bossy-Pants OCD Hates

Bossy-Pants OCDTo cope with bossy-pants OCD, you might have gotten the idea it’s necessary to perform compulsions to feel “just right” or prevent bad things from happening.  Performing compulsions or mental acts might be what you’ve been doing for years. In your mind, it’s what you’re supposed to do or what you’ve got to do. At least, that’s what Bossy-Pants tells you.

Hallelujah, there are times you defy OCD! Somehow you pull it together, and you say, “NO!!! I’m not going to do that ridiculous compulsion.” In this precious moment, you have gained clarity and recognize that OCD is nothing more than a BFL (big fat liar). You resist the compulsion.

The anxiety rises. You ride it out. You use self-talk like, “Maybe it’s true OCD. Maybe it’s not. Time will tell.” Strangely your prediction doesn’t come true. It’s not the end of the world. Nothing bad happens. You tolerate the anxiety better than predicted. The discomfort dissipates. All by itself. No compulsion was needed. 

OCD strategiesTo your surprise, you don’t feel particularly anxious. But, alas you don’t feel amazing either. You don’t even take the time to pump your fist in the air and say, “Take that bossy-pants OCD!!! KAPOW!”

When you win the battle and outlast OCD are you reminded of your strength and courage? Do you feel blessed to have what it takes to be tricky enough to outwit OCD?

Bossy-Pants OCD Hates Gratitude

Developing the skill to break free of OCD involves much more than Exposure & Response Prevention. Without self-appreciation and gratitude, you will only end up white-knuckling your way through most of it.

Whenever you resist a compulsion be sure to savor the victory. If you have OCD then celebrating victories might not occur to you. Patting yourself on the back doesn’t come naturally to you.

Not honoring your achievements is a problem that needs your attention!

Don’t wait for OCD or anybody else to say, “Good job.” You must take time out to be thankful for all that you are doing to break free from OCD. Each success that you experience is a reason to be thankful.

Your ability to #bossitback means that you are developing a hard-earned skill. Give thanks for the ability to say no to OCD. Even if it’s only once in a while or some of the time–give thanks. Don’t ever, EVER minimize your ability to defy OCD.

beat OCDStay in the winning mode and keep your skills sharp by giving thanks. The more time you spend recognizing your victories, the higher the likelihood of beating OCD the next time, and the next time, and the next time.

If someone wants to give you a high five don’t deny; fortify!!!

Accept compliments. Put your hand on your heart and say, “thank you that means a lot to me.” Welcome the support you get from loved ones who are honoring your quest to break free from OCD. Their emotional support and encouragement will help you face the next fear. Recognize the gift your family and friends give to you when they applaud your efforts. Don’t deny or pooh-pooh their praise.

Truly appreciate when others point out your victories. Don’t take for granted people’s acknowledgment of your successes. Give much thought to their praise. Let the sun shine inside your mind and heart. Be happy to hear their kind words. 

When someone tells you how happy they are that you resisted a compulsion, allow yourself to feel inspired and you will endure again. 

When you say, “thanks that means a lot to me” it readies your mind to repeat the success. Embrace the positive feeling of being appreciated. Accept recognition from others. They too are being positively impacted by your hard work.

Even when others forget to recognize all your hard work know that the impact of resisting a compulsion is still just as significant. Other people don’t live in your mind. They don’t know what you’re up against. So if they fail to acknowledge your victories, don’t use it as an excuse to downplay your achievements. Minimizing your success will only cripple you.

It’s quite simple. There are negative consequences if you don’t celebrate your victories.

It is an astounding blessing to be able to accept challenges and bulldoze your way through OCD. Whenever you feel your hope and determination waning, take a moment to recount all of your successes. Don’t drift away from recognizing even the tiniest step forward. If you make light of your victories, you’re leaving the door wide open for OCD to close you out of future triumphs. 

Be grateful for each time you overcome OCD’s senseless demands. Be proud and give thanks when you resist a compulsion. Let the gratitude wash over you. Savor the moment of your victory. Basking in your achievements will rewire your brain!

Be thankful for each opportunity to learn and grow. Find the silver lining. 

Self-Reflection Questions:

  1. When you #bossitback how do you celebrate your victory? Eating a special treat? Listening to your favorite song? 
  2. How do you savor the moment of a triumph and anchor it in your mind? Do you do a happy dance? Clap your hands? High five somebody?
  3. How often do you express gratitude for all your hard work? Not often? How’s that working out for you?
  4. Do you say ‘thanks’ to others when they compliment you?
  5. Can you feel the gratitude of others even if they don’t thank you? If they don’t acknowledge your hard work does that mean they don’t notice it? Maybe in the past, you’ve shown discomfort when they spoke about your accomplishments.
  6. Are you treated differently by others when you pooh-pooh their praise? Do they become less verbal about your triumphs?
  7. What moves you forward: Putting yourself down or picking yourself up?

Gratitude

Gift Idea: Gratitude the Great OCD Sanitizer

How to Turn Off Your Inner Critic

Gratitude: The Great OCD Sanitizer (How to Turn Off Your Inner Critic)

Can gratitude sanitize OCD? You betcha! Count your blessings and discover how the words of gratitude come to be a feeling that warmly washes over you. Sound too good to be true? The benefits of gratitude are scientifically proven! 

The voice of OCD always sounds like a critic: “You can’t handle it. You’re not good enough. You should be doing [this], and you should be doing [that]. You’re going to make a bad decision and mess everything up. If you’re not careful something horrible will happen. What did you do to cause this? It’s all your fault.”

OCD continually questions your motives and intentions. “Why do you have such [weird] thoughts? What do they mean? How come you didn’t use to think like this and now you do? What are you up to? You should feel guilty for thinking like this. Shame on you.”

Practicing gratitude is highly effective if you want to turn off your inner critic.

Decontaminate OCD’s sharp tongue by finding the silver lining. When you speak gratitude, you get energized and gain the courage to face anything OCD throws at you.

With an OCD sideshow running all the time, practicing gratitude isn’t easy to do. Once you get the hang of it though, in just a few minutes you can disinfect the negativity.attitude of gratitudeBy reflecting on your abundance and shifting your focus away from what you lack, you’ll soar above your worst worries!

Once you’ve worked gratitude into your daily routine, you’ll start to notice that your inner critic is much less stressed.

When you have finally let it sink into your subconscious mind that you have many blessings, your stress will start to slip away. OCD loses its grip on you.

How Grateful Are You? Take the Gratitude Test!

12 Fantastic Ways to Express Gratitude With Your Words

  1. I feel grateful for everything I receive today. No matter what occurs find the silver lining. If you end up with a challenge on your hands ask, “What does this make possible?”
  2. Be grateful for all that you have and shift your focus away from thinking about what you lack. Don’t bother comparing and contrasting how much better off someone seems to be. In a split second, all of that can change. “In this moment I have not needed to start a gofundme.com account. For this I am thankful.”
  3. I am grateful for all the activities of daily living I am able to perform. I scan my body and am grateful for the parts that function and help me throughout the day.
  4. I am continually amazed that my circumstances don’t stop me from giving love! No matter what is going on inside my mind or world, I am always capable of showing love.
  5. I overcome, I grow, and I prosper all the time. My abundant blessings, as well as my difficulties, make me better, stronger, and more alive. There is no destination. I choose to grow as I take this journey.

  6. I am so grateful that I GET to take out the garbage. I GET to go to work. I GET to go to school. I GET to have life experiences.

  7. I appreciate and show my sincerest gratitude to my loved ones. Once a day I tell at least one person how they are loved, unique and important.
  8. The universe is looking out for me. There may be trials and tribulations, but I am never alone. 
  9. OCD is a strangely wrapped gift. For [this], I am exceptionally thankful. 
  10. I am so amazed by the tiniest of creations. Just look at how this little inchworm moves or how this tiny ant carries a heavy leaf.
  11. I give thanks for all the abundance that is yet to be revealed to my friends and family. I wish them the strength to endure and the courage to explore.
  12. I am grateful for the experience that caused me to forgive someone.

attitude of gratitude

Spending some time expressing gratitude is one of the most natural “stress relief drugs” you’ll ever take. Gratitude comes with no ill side effects, and it’s free. Giving thanks is user-friendly. It’s also portable–it goes wherever you go.

Strategies to enhance feelings of gratitude:

  • Journaling about things for which to be grateful.
  • Thinking about someone for whom you are grateful.
  • Writing/sending a letter to someone for whom you are grateful.
  • Meditating on gratitude (present moment awareness.)
  • Undertaking the “Count Your Blessings” exercise.
  • Practicing saying, “Thank you that means a lot to me.”
  • Writing thank you notes.
  • Praying about gratitude.

Turn Off the Inner Critic With Gratitude

Studies: The Benefits of Gratitude

Loving Someone with OCD

This is an open letter to those of you who are loving someone with OCD. 

I can’t imagine how frightened you were when your loved one was first hijacked by OCD. Everything was suddenly turned upside down. I’m sure you were terrified that things would never be the same.

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In the beginning, you tried to do whatever made your loved one less anxious. It hurt so much to see your child or family member in such agony. So you tried to end the horror as best you could.

Enabling and Reassuring Doesn’t Work

160_F_87314604_cXY7LMNX2XytR4PZrfpMnu823xukjMrCYou offered constant reassurance and tried over and over to use common sense and logic to get rid of your loved one’s fear and worry. But that part of the brain didn’t seem to be functioning properly. (There’s no logic in OCD!) So you ended up talking and talking until you were blue in the face.

You complied and met every OCD demand because it just seemed easier. You even joined in on some of the rituals like saying “I love you” five times or washing your hands when they weren’t even dirty.

160_F_76900683_xLdS4hkfytRXqf2KOLFEtKVyObB0sn7gYou kept the environment free of triggers and censored people’s words to keep them from triggering your child or family member. People stopped visiting because they didn’t want to make the situation worse.

You lost a lot of sleep and resorted to lecturing and giving the cold shoulder. You lost your cool many times. You thought, “This is so ridiculous. Just stop it!” 

I hope you know that you were coming from a place of love, not doubt, when you cried. And a place of fear, not hate, when you yelled or walked away in frustration. 

Your loved one has a problem with self-compassion. I don’t have to meet you to know you have the same problem. Maybe you weren’t always resourceful but you were always doing your best. Always.

In desperation or out of convenience, you kept enabling and reassuring. But, the relief was only temporary. OCD seemed to just get bigger and bigger. It robbed all of you of everyday pleasures and new experiences. The world got smaller with every passing day.160_F_101490863_zrPBrMmSdlxiWuDh94SwpgK0sRPut9ci

You thought all the reassurance would help ease the anxiety but it actually made it worse. The demands were getting more intense and frequent. Accommodating wasn’t helping anything other than providing one very brief moment of relief.

And then your prayers were answered. You found out that giving in was actually feeding OCD. 

Gradually Stop Accommodating

You knew that if you stopped feeding OCD your loved one would protest. Things were going to get worse before they got better. You worried: What if we’re biting off more than we can chew? 

160_F_111735791_JTouzhQEZie5tshllaRTtlFzFqSq38mDBut, you believed that in order to get a better outcome, the approach needed to change.

You stopped giving in and your loved one cried, “Don’t you love me? Why aren’t you helping me?” Talk about being stabbed in the heart—ouch.

You got tougher and your loved one accused you of not understanding, “You just don’t get it! I’m all alone now.” Ouch, that hurt too.

You stopped enabling but your loved one put you to the test, and said, “Fine, “I’ll go without.” Oh no! So afraid. What if things get worse now?

Support Your Loved One, Not OCD

You validated your loved one’s feelings, “I know this is hard. I can tell this is causing you a lot of pain.” Validate. Acknowledge. But, don’t take away the pain. Soften into the pain. It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious.

160_F_88892850_k54dF5pbMxv6ZBXVl1U40GHXPK8Hh43HYou also showed how much faith you had in your loved one’s ability to overcome, “You’re stronger than you think. I know that you can do this. It’s hard, I know. You’ve done hard before. You’re not alone. I’m going to help you boss it back. I’m not going to feed OCD anymore, but I will help you defeat it.”

As time passed you remained patient. You stayed the course and your loved one began to understand there would be no more avoidance. Your message was loud and clear: THE FEAR HAD TO BE CONFRONTED.

Your loved one had no other way out—but in. No more avoiding.

  • OCD said, “Leave.” Nope, everybody stayed.
  • OCD said, “Don’t go.” Everybody left.
  • OCD said, “Avoid.” Everybody leaned in.
  • OCD asked, “What if?” Everybody shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
  • Your loved one sought reassurance, “Could this happen?” You put it back on them, “I don’t know.”
  • “Will it be okay?” You shrugged, “We’ll deal with it. Whatever happens, happens.”
  • OCD warned, “You’re getting too anxious. You can’t handle it. Do something.” You all said, “Good. We want that anxiety. We need to practice handling it.”

It wasn’t easy to Boss it Back. But feeding OCD wasn’t easy either. It was scary bossing it back, but feeding it was scary too. Both seemed like poison.

Boss it Back or Feed It
Boss it Back or Feed It

You picked the right poison. Which ended up being the antidote—the healing potion.

The catastrophes have ended. Life has returned. No more tiptoeing. Your loved one still has weird thoughts. But, they’re fewer and fewer.

There are still triggers but nothing a good shrug or “yup” can’t fix.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Honestly, I’m really happy today because I’ve learned that a number of kids, near and dear to me, have returned to school this week with nothing more than a tiny little hiccup. (I’m thankful for the hiccups because they will only build more skills and cause more mastery.)

What About Those Who Are Still Being Accommodated?

I’m thinking now of those who haven’t been set free. Family members who continue to accommodate and reassure. There’s not a lot of bossing it back going on but, there’s a lot of tension. It feels like a hostage situation, I know. 

Perhaps you have OCD and are reading this, realizing the ways YOU are being accommodated and enabled. Whether you’re requiring your family to accommodate you, or just passively allowing it—how’s it working out? Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Go get it!

If you are a family member who is enabling, write down all the ways you are doing this—feeding OCD. Rate each one in terms of which ones you think would have the least impact on your loved one’s life if you stopped doing it.

160_F_85393917_Ld7cw3wo904aefXzfIgDbj04rNRYBVjMDiscuss the list and your ratings with your loved one. Then ask him or her to rate the same list and to “feel free to add to the list” any missed accommodations. Compare the two lists and acknowledge all the difficulties your loved one faces.

The next step shouldn’t be done unless you’re prepared to follow through. I recommend you do this with the help of a therapist who specializes in OCD. An OCD therapist will tell you that accommodation has been tied to poor treatment outcomes. A nonOCD specialist is likely to get caught in the trap of reassuring your loved one a lot.

You can also find expert help and guidance in several books. There are numerous books to guide you through the process too. 

Loving Someone With OCD

There are some people with OCD who will threaten harm to self or others if they are not enabled. Do not be held hostage with this threat. If your loved one makes such a threat or goes on a hunger strike, take your loved one to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. Don’t mess around! 

But, in many cases, your loved one will (begrudgingly) go along with this plan. They don’t want to live like this either! A 25-year-old feeding OCD for almost 10 years now, was asked by someone else’s parent, “What do you wish your parents had done differently?” He answered, “Not accommodate me.” WOW!!! High Five!

Explain Why Things Have to Change

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Explain to your loved one the current method of accommodating isn’t working. “There’s only temporary relief and that’s not good enough! At this rate, we’re all just hamsters in a wheel.” Try to gain permission to stop the enabling. It can be done gradually by withdrawing some of the easier accommodations.

If you don’t get permission to stop, that’s okay. Your loved one will probably be overwhelmed by this conversation but in their heart, they know it’s what’s best.

You’ll be tested. Mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. Explain if they don’t want to participate in the planning you’ll be picking the accommodations that will be stopping yourself. Look at the calendar with your loved one and write down the day you are going to stop each accommodation.

An Example of An Accommodation

Let’s use the example of contamination fears. Are you opening doors for your loved one so that s/he can avoid germs? This is an example of YOU feeding OCD. It’s one thing if your loved one, unfortunately, chooses to feed OCD, but why are you? Your loved one might still feed OCD by using a Kleenex to open the door but at least you’re no longer reinforcing the fear! 

What If You’re the One with OCD?

If you’re the one with OCD being accommodated, do yourself a favor! Get your life back by telling people who love you to stop enabling you! With calendar in hand, sit down with your enablers and say, “This is the day you’re going to stop this accommodation. I’ll need your encouragement but please stop feeding my OCD.”

Accommodating someone with OCD and offering plenty of reassurance is usually the mistake everybody makes in the beginning. If you conduct a cost/benefit analysis on accommodating you’ll discover the costs outweigh the benefits.

Hopefully, you’ll continue to get more informed about how enabling someone with OCD is actually…disabling. Just start with gradual changes and you’ll make good progress.

Bonus: If you want a Quick Guide for 6 kind and gentle ways to stop accommodating your child, Click HERE. It’s great for the fridge! Once you click, just check your email.

By the way, the Quick Guide? It’s good advice for adults with OCD too. ac41290798310afdf52eccaaf1ba73af

As always, your comments are welcome and really make my day. But, in addition to commenting, if you know someone who’s coping with OCD share this post with them!

Nobody’s healed until everybody’s healed!

What Happened at the OCD Conference

This year at the OCD Conference I spent all of my time at the Exhibition Hall. I was exhibiting, “ERP in a BOX“™ and as a result, hundreds of people told me about their challenges with OCD. I’ve never talked with so many people at once about ERP and it was energizing. 

People from all over the world stopped by and shared their stories. We had a lot of laughs with two women from Japan and had a thought-provoking conversation with a young man from Germany who is working hard for the USA on climate change.

I was especially concerned about a couple who stated there is no therapist in India to help them learn about Exposure and Response Prevention. I encouraged them to come back to the USA, rent an apartment and attend an intensive outpatient program like Rogers Behavioral Health.

I met a Mom and Dad who told me how their son had been hijacked by OCD. Thankfully, he broke free and their story brought me to tears. I told them I wanted to meet their son and they introduced me to him later on. His eyes were bright and he grinned from ear to ear. As soon as I laid eyes on him I said, “up top” and we shared a “high-five.” I know how hard he had to work to get free.

What Happened at the OCD Conference

I met two of the girls that were in the movie UNSTUCK. (Which, by the way, should have won an Oscar Award for Documentary Feature.) It was an incredibly moving experience to watch hundreds and hundreds of people thank these kids and their parents for raising awareness about OCD and ERP. 

A very energetic and brilliant doctor introduced herself to me. I wish she saw patients because she reminded me of an OCD whisperer!!!! Instead, she is devoting her time to very important research for the OCD Genetic Study @SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She’s hunting down the OCD gene.

One of the most unique exhibits was a nonprofit organization called pickingme.org. It wasn’t uncommon to see people at this table with stickers on their face and arms. (It’s better to pick at the stickers than the skin.)

Well-known for his treatment of skin picking, the famous Fred Penzel stopped by our exhibit and chatted with us for a while. He’s quite the history buff in addition to being a leading OCD specialist. The doctor who usually treats celebrities with addiction, Dr. Drew, was in the house as a keynote speaker. He only breezed through the Exhibit Hall so we didn’t get to chat.

I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter “A Penny For Your Intrusive Thoughts” and met one of the founders of this movement. It can be a triggering site for people with OCD. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Right??? It’s an opportunity to practice using #bossitback skills!

This is something I am asked about all the time: Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This is a noninvasive brain treatment and its FDA application for the treatment of OCD is pending. The doctor at this exhibit approached me inquiring about my availability to help with this research. Yeesh…I don’t know how but I’d certainly try to find the time. TMS and ERP combined to reduce the volume of white matter…KAPOW! 

Near our exhibit, an OCD Foundation affiliate out of Jacksonville Florida had a table displaying very cool FEARLESS swag from Natural Life. If you’re looking for gifts to give people with OCD this is a meaningful place to check out.

One of my favorite moments was being able to hug people I’ve only known through Facebook or through this blog. (I’m so glad you came by to say hello!!!) And finally one of the highlights of the weekend was to see an OCD thriver break out with dance and song at karaoke! She was belting it out! Now that’s a healthy coping skill!

Each year I attend the conference it’s apparent that OCD awareness is reaching new and brighter heights. It was validating to hear so many people say that “ERP in a Box” is brilliant. But, it was invigorating to meet so many OCD thrivers because of ERP! You know what I say, “Nobody is healed until everybody is healed!” I’m not going to stop thinking of ways to beat OCD.

This and so much more happened at the OCD Conference! Save the date. The next one will be 7/19-21 in Austin Texas.

The Little Boy and His Crickets

Let’s talk about ERP.  The initials of ERP stand for Exposure & Response Prevention (preventing the response anxiety is telling you to take) or otherwise known as Exposure and Ritual Prevention.

ERP is the most highly recommended type of therapy used to treat OCD. It’s what’s called an evidenced-based intervention. Evidence from studies has proven ERP is very effective. Basically, you expose yourself to something that makes you uncomfortable and you do nothing to alleviate the discomfort.

160_F_100424984_bJ1ZAQ1ILMccEmbvbMXlDMoMlNI6fJe6First, you build a hierarchy of people, places, things or situations that trigger your anxiety or discomfort. You place them on the hierarchy (ladder) in terms of easiest to hardest to face. “If you were going to face this fear would this be easier to face than this?” Then you make a plan to gradually climb the hierarchy from easiest to hardest. You’ll know it’s time to move to another step when you’ve become bored or desensitized with the step you’re on.

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I once knew a boy who was afraid of crickets. He couldn’t go outside because he was terrified that a cricket would land on him and bite him. He designed a hierarchy of gradually exposing himself to being near crickets. It started with being in a room with crickets living in a secure container. He ran into the room counted to 10 and ran out of the room as fast as he could. Gradually he increased the amount of time to 2 minutes. Eventually, he was quite comfortable being in a room with crickets in a secure container. He could even hold the closed container in his lap. The next phase was to open the lid of the container, and through similar incremental steps, he worked his way up to place his hand in the container.

The response he had to prevent during these exercises was to not reassure himself that crickets were harmless or couldn’t get out of the container. He had to accept the possibility of escape and being bitten. He talked like this to prevent himself from neutralizing his anxiety. This is Response Prevention. He tolerated the discomfort and in fact, I encouraged him to say he wanted the anxiety. He said, “I hope I’m anxious. I don’t care anymore. I want to be able to go outside and play with my friends. So go ahead. Make me anxious.”

At the top of his hierarchy was a plan to go outside where there were crickets freely living in a garden. But before he did that, he said he would need to take his shirt off and allow crickets to climb all over his body. Yikes! First, he did this with his shirt on and then eventually he took his shirt off. Crickets were crawling and hopping all over him. He was pretty tense at first, but suddenly he started to giggle, “It tickles.”

Every now and then I think I hear one of his crickets chirping in my office. I’m reminded of his courage and determination. He makes me smile. I know the bravest people in the world.

Rock Out This Summer!

Do you bounce back-n-forth between feeling either wired or tired? Many people with OCD find it very difficult to have a “moderate” or “ordinary” energy level.  It’s quite unsettling because it seems like there is rarely a happy medium; energy is either blocked or excessive.  

When you’re feeling wired, you tend to burn off your excess energy with unfounded fears. You can literally feel your brain buzzing. If your energy is blocked you’re here, but not here. Some of you describe it as feeling empty, foggy or “out to lunch.”

Wired or tired; you’re ungrounded. It’s the perfect opportunity for OCD to chatter away because when you’re ungrounded, there’s an imbalance of power. OCD knows you’ve only got “one foot on the ground,” and that’s not a stable position.

When you’re ungrounded, you lose control of your focus and become hyper-fixated on nonessentials. OCD wreaks havoc on your sense of reality. You begin to imagine all kinds of things. Everything OCD says seems real. Which leads to compulsive behaviors and useless in-depth analysis.

However, when you’re grounded your energy feels balanced, and you think logically and look upon each day with clarity.

grounding activity

How can you get grounded?

Many people exercise to release excess energy. Exercising provides a grounding effect, especially if you exercise outdoors.

However, exercising isn’t an option for everyone due to physical limitations, time constraints or it’s just not enjoyable.

How can you get grounded if exercise isn’t an option?

The disconnection from the earth is an often overlooked contribution to the imbalance of power—too much anxiety or too much depression.

Connecting the Body to the Earth

Many of you know I highly recommend hugging trees or laying down on the grass or digging into a garden to get grounded. Think of it this way: Direct contact with anything from the ground provides you with “electrical” nutrition. You can find plenty of research about this in the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever. Numerous studies are showing that grounding can reduce inflammation, which has been tied to symptoms of OCD.

So…this leads me to rock out this summer!

My latest fascination with grounding techniques involves rocks! Can you believe it! Even rocks provide electrical nutrition!

Rock Out This Summer With These Activities!

Collecting Stones

Even hunting for rocks is nutritional! You will feel balanced and grounded simply looking for rocks–much like walking on the beach looking for shells. Read what one person wrote about his love for rocks:

They are pure magic!

I love when you pick up a boring grey stone and then it sparkles in the sunlight. I love the amazing patterns. I love the geometry of crystals.

I love that crystals can make a radio work. I love that rocks and stones are millions of years old in a world of 2-minute attention spans. I love all the colors.

I love that a stone will look different when it gets wet. I have even been known to lick a stone to see that, but I prefer dribbling some water from my H2O bottle on it.

I love that the Ancient Greeks were able to carve stone and make it look like sheer fabric.

I love the feel of a smooth river stone in your hand.

I love that they hold clues to other worlds. Images of dinosaurs and coral, plants and insects made millions of years before the invention of cameras and Flickr. And I love that some of them have traveled all the way from Mars and beyond, despite the fact that they can’t move on their own.

I love that some can be melted to make glass and that some can, counter-intuitively, float.

I love skipping stones on glass-like water.

I love that people build houses from them that last thousands of years.

I love that I can cross a creek without getting my feet wet by stepping from rock to rock and finding the “best” way across.

I love that I can turn a rock over with my kids and discover a bunch of hidden animals. Salamanders, millipedes, worms, beetles, ants.

I love that all children love to collect pretty rocks and line them up on the porch railing.

I’m pretty sure this person doesn’t have contamination fears! Might as well do an exposure exercise while you’re grounding!

Stone Stacking

I came upon a Rock Cairn one day in my travels, and it piqued my curiosity. I Googled rock stacking and soon discovered it’s used for directional purposes AND a brilliant grounding activity.  

Initially, you might lack confidence. “I don’t think I can find a way to make them balance.” Build it anyway. It’s very rare that people feel confident about trying something new. Confidence is something that is developed AFTER trying something new.

This picture of a rock cairn was sent to me by a client who was on a hike. The top stone is a “beak” or a “duckie” and it’s pointing the direction of the path.grounding activity

Stone Painting

I first became fascinated when I learned of a Facebook Group called Grand Rapid Rocks. They paint stones and then leave them in public places for people to find. What a great idea! It’s a beautiful way to practice random acts of kindness. And, it’s also a fantastic grounding technique.

I’m not crafty at all but, I decided to try painting a stone. I found lots of ideas on Pinterest and selected a bee as my first attempt. (I saved the pin if you want to see the directions.) 

Considering my bug phobia, I thought painting an insect was a kooky choice. I was ill-equipped with only one too-large paintbrush. So at first, I was self-critical of my crooked lines but then I reminded myself it doesn’t matter! Who cares!

Then I let my inner child out and had some fun. 

focus activity

I hope you ROCK OUT this summer!

Connect with the earth and get nourished!

The more grounded you are the more power you have to beat OCD.

p.s. If you have children, rock painting is an excellent grounding activity for the whole family.  Just google Stone Activities for the Backyard.

Free Your Mind. Free Your Life. Defying OCD