How to Manage OCD While Your World Shrinks Because of the Coronavirus
Schools and colleges are closed. Businesses are having employees work from home. Sports and entertainment activities are canceled. People are isolated at home or worse quarantined to a room.
For people with OCD, you’re probably handling the anxiety better than most people. After all, you’ve trained for catastrophic events most of your life. And if your anxiety has increased, you know all you can do is follow the CDC guidelines like everyone else and say, “Whatever happens I’ll deal with it. This isn’t my first rodeo.”
You also know you have to have something better to do than worry and perform compulsions.
Even if you are managing your anxiety there is still the problem of isolation.
Not by choice but your world is temporarily changing and shrinking. We all know the smaller your world the more agitated OCD becomes. If you don’t have something better to do rituals and mental compulsions can increase. Harassing or awful thoughts can seem more intense, frequent and real.
So what will you do? You have a choice. Listen up! Right now you have a choice. You can make it easy for OCD to hijack your brain or be assertive and come up with a plan to take care of your mental health while your world shrinks.
Stuck in your home you are at risk for leaning into mental and physical stagnation. Without a normal routine of getting out of bed and following a regular daily schedule, OCD can become obnoxiously loud. To confront OCD you need “happy juices.”
Being quarantined or isolated can prevent your body from manufacturing happy chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These happy chemicals help maintain:
- Muscle function
- Attentional focus
- Healthy nutritional habits
- Arousal and alertness
- Sleep-wake cycle
- Pain control
- Positive emotions
- Stress reduction
You can’t maintain the above when you’re bored and inactive. It’s crucial to get out of bed and follow a schedule but you also need stimulation. Take steps to protect your mental health while coping with a widespread virus that is restricting your movements and activities.
Here are over 20 ways to fire up your neurons and keep your brain a lean mean fighting machine:
- It’s about keeping physical distance while maintaining social closeness. Think of ways to be close and yet keep your distance from people. How about twenty cars driving by someone’s house to sing happy birthday. Or, check out this beautiful way people are connecting with one another by hunting for rainbows. Click HERE.
- Instead of saying, “you can get through this” or “I can get through this” say, MWE can get through this.” Me + We…if we work together it will be our finest moment.
- Get fresh air. Open windows. Step outside. Take a walk if you’re up for it.
- Hug a tree—you need the oxytocin from touch.
- Listen to loving-kindness meditations. Jack Kornfield is one of the best: https://jackkornfield.com/loving-kindness-meditation/
- Diffusing essential oils may increase oxytocin levels. I prefer Puriclean by Young Living because it is an Animal Scents product—which when diluted is safe for most pets.
- Undertake a challenge that requires planning and designing. The satisfaction of completing a house or other projects will be rewarding.
- Solve puzzles: Sudoku, Words with Friends, Crosswords, Jigsaw—an excellent dopamine producer.
- Listen to podcasts. To find podcasts related to your specific interests download the app: “Player FM—Podcast App” and choose your favorite categories.
- Pump up the music and dance!!! I highly recommend adding Dive in the Pool by Barry Harris to your playlist! Make playlists for other people. Check out D-Nice on Instagram for Virtual Dance Parties.
- When you’re finished dancing go soak in a hot tub—warm temperatures produce oxytocin!
- Make small gifts for people. Here are some ideas: Paint rocks, whip up some specialty butter, make stuff with popsicle sticks, knit/crochet dishcloths. Giving gifts will increase happy chemicals in your brain!
- Boost your brainpower by memorizing: Flags for each country, the periodic table, the roulette wheel, all 206 bones of the body, words of kindness in other languages, or practice drawing a map of the U.S. by memory.
- Practice saying the alphabet backward.
- How about making materials for exposure exercises? (e.,g.,Trigger word coasters, T-Shirts with triggering images.)
- Stay in touch with people through video chats: Watch a movie together while on Zoom or Facetime.
- Have competitions with friends/family on Zoom: Cook-offs, Knot-tying or quickest to fold sheets.
- Practice magic tricks, drumming with your hands.
- Research sports you’ve never observed or played. For example, do you know what a Snooker table is or how Pickleball got its name?
- Do your brain a huge favor and juggle.
- Get curious and learn new stuff! Do you know the history of fingernails? Solve the over vs. under debate about toilet paper.
- Give an author a hug and improve her 😉 rankings by writing a review of a book you purchased on Amazon.
- Learn yoga poses but if you want yoga to be fun, try laughter yoga.
- Have you always wanted to learn tai chi? Dr. Lam has an excellent self-directed program.
In the comment section feel free to add what you’re doing to stay mentally and physically active during the coronavirus.