“I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing but I’m getting worse.”
It’s pretty scary when you’re working so hard and getting no relief. It’s hard work to get better every day. There are lots of strategies to use but many of them get forgotten. Here is a list of the ones most often forgotten:
1.) The Goal is Not to Get Relief
Remember the goal is not to get relief. That is a byproduct of all your hard work, but don’t make it the main objective. Don’t use “relief” as a measurement of your success. This is mental Kung Fu. You can’t let your brain know what you really really want. Tell your brain you’re working hard for the practice not the outcome. Measure your success by the number of opportunities to practice and sharpen your skills. At the end of the day if you’re able to say you had a lot of opportunities to practice then say, “It was a good day. Hard, but good.”
2.) Don’t Plateau
Practice makes progress. You don’t have to be perfect at your practice. You just have to practice, practice, practice. And the practice needs to get progressively harder. Many people keep using the same old exposure because it helped once before.
Take gradual incremental steps towards practicing harder and newer challenges. Don’t plateau. Every day do 5 exposures. Don’t do the same exposures every day unless they’re challenging. When they’re no longer challenging, it’s time to climb the hierarchy.
Let’s say in the heat of the moment your anxiety wins and you give in to OCD. It’s not the end of the world! You didn’t lose the battle! You only lost an opportunity to practice. Quick! Find an opportunity to practice! Go back and “recontaminate the scene” to get the point back from OCD. Recreate the trigger or create a new one.
Here’s a classic example of what it means to “recontaminate:” If you gave in and washed your hands because you touched something suspicious, then go back and touch it again without washing. If that’s too hard, touch something less risky but still “unsafe.” Don’t sanitize, resist washing.
This method of “recontamination” can be done for any trigger. First, notice that OCD got the point. Then ask, “What can I do to get the next point?” If it was a scary thought that you just “fixed” conjure the scary thought back up and don’t do anything to “fix” it. If that’s too hard then look at your hierarchy and pick something, anything. Just get your power back!
4.) This Moment, Right Here, Right Now
Don’t worry about doing better all day long. That’s daunting! If you look too far ahead you’ll only get overwhelmed. It’s only about these 15 seconds, right here, right now. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Climb the mountain one step at a time. Don’t look at the top until you’re there.
5.) Seize the Moment
Everything comes to an end. Everything. So there is no better time than now. If you’re thinking about going out of your comfort zone, OCD will talk you out of it. Don’t overthink. There’s a reason Nike has made so much money from the tagline, “Just Do It.”
There are so many “firsts” that you’ll never have again. The first vacation. The first hike. The first day at work. The first speech. The first double date. Don’t let OCD rob you of your firsts. Say, “I’d rather take the risk than live like this.”
6.) What Are You Valuing?
Are you on automatic pilot or are you letting your values drive your behavior? Conduct an assessment and consider realigning your values.
Do you value adventure over security and cautiousness? If you pick adventure over security that’s going to feel uncomfortable because you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Valuing adventure sounds like this: “I will gladly tolerate the discomfort so that I can experience…(new opportunities.)”
Do you value family time over isolation and being trigger-free? What’s family time worth to you? Everything comes to an end. Everything. There’s no better time than now to be with family. Is it worth the fatigue and discomfort? If you isolate will you really end up any less fatigued? What does valuing family sound like to you? “I will gladly tolerate being afraid and the fatigue that comes with it so that I can experience…”
Do you value productivity over being safely idle? If you value productivity then you’re going to make mistakes. Do you value progress over perfection? What does it feel like to be robbed of life experience just to be safe? And even living ever so cautiously, do you ever really feel safe? What does valuing productivity sound like to you? “I will gladly accept the possibility of making mistakes so that I can experience…”
Do you value freedom over control? If you could be carefree and willing to make mistakes, how much bigger would your world get? If you make your world as small as possible do the worries actually go away? Does controlling everything actually make you anxiety-free? What does valuing freedom sound like to you? “I will gladly let go of trying to control ______________ so that I can experience…”
Do you value independence over dependence? Are you willing to make the wrong decision and accept the consequences? If you don’t make any decisions and rely on others to get you through the day, does that actually make you feel better? Don’t you still feel a sense of responsibility looming over you? Whether you are accepting responsibility or not won’t you still be anxious? What does valuing independence sound like to you? “I will gladly make my own decisions and face any consequence so that I can experience…”
This is day 25 of a 30 day challenge. What can you do to help you remember these often forgotten strategies? Which one(s) do you usually forget about? Do you have another strategy that helps, but you sometimes forget about?