Tag Archives: Anxiety

Every Day With OCD is April Fool’s Day

On April Fool’s Day, you will be pranked by only those who:

  1. catch you off guard
  2. sound convincing even if the prank is outlandish
  3. are privy to what riles you
Caught Off Guard

This morning I was barely awake and had no idea it was April Fool’s Day. I was caught by surprise when I was told “we need an exterminator. There were bugs coming out of the drain. It was so bad. We’re infested.” It was early in the morning and I fell for it and freaked out. 

Sounded Convincing

Yup, I believed it because we’ve had sugar ants crawling on the counter every morning. And even though it’s been getting better I fell for it. Bugs coming out of the drain? Sure. Why not. It happens. My family was hysterical about it so I thought, “It must be real.” I freaked out.

Privy to What Concerns You

My family knows I have a bug phobia so they know how to get my attention. If they had put poop or vomit in the middle of the living room I would have laughed. But bugs? Being free of infestation is precious and sacred to me, so my family knew exactly how to fool me. 

OCD is a prankster. Not just any prankster but a superior one. As an OCD therapist, I hear about OCD’s pranks day in and day out. 

Imagine for a moment all the pranks an OCD therapist hears about in one week: The next day other clients share a different set of OCD pranks: On another day of the week, the therapist hears about other OCD pranks: Still, in the same week more OCD hoaxes are shared by clients:

While these concerns represent what an OCD therapist is told in one week, there are even more ways OCD pranks people.

But honestly, while all the pranks sound different, at the end of the day, at the end of the week, they’re all the same. You can have five different flavors of ice cream, but they’re all made with the same basic ingredients. With eyes closed, you probably wouldn’t even be able to identify the flavor.

One obsession is no different than another. You’re feeding your OCD if you think otherwise. 

The details of the obsession complete a fantastic story. There is no better storyteller than OCD. The way to hijack your mind is not by facts. The way OCD captures your attention is by twisting the facts or telling outright lies.

How interested would you be if you were listening to a story over and over again about the number of times a car’s turning signal was used? “I went down route 9 and put my turning signal on. Then I drove for about 300 feet and put on my right turning signal. In about 300 feet I used my turning signal again.” Blah, blah, blah. You’d tune out in one minute if this factual story was told to you. 

However, you would maintain an interest in the story if it became more fantastical. Such as, “When I made a left turn, I realized my turning signal might not be working. Up ahead a truck seems to be blaring its horn at me. Something is clearly going to happen and it’s not going to be pretty.” Not one word of this story is factual and yet, you are captivated. You’ve been baited with lies.

OCD has a way of enticing you into paying attention. It avoids facts as much as possible. It prickles your nerve endings with lies, and like watching a horror film, you forget where you are and what is real. If OCD used facts to tell its stories, you’d be bored in no time and lose interest. So OCD knows it’s essential to make the story as real as possible.

OCD uses five essential elements to tell a tantalizing story:

Element One: Characters

OCD instills people in your story who are precious to you. According to OCD, you must protect these people. Sometimes OCD  claims you are a victim in the story and need protection. Other times you’re made out to be the villain. OCD pranks you into thinking you or others are at risk. OCD builds the story by creating villains and victims. Characters either seem vulnerable or possess supernatural powers. 

Element Two: Setting

Where is the “action” taking place? This is the place where the plot thickens. It could be in your home, at work, school or at the playground. It could be everywhere or it could be what takes place in your mind. Sometimes OCD contains the story to certain settings, but other times OCD is portable and goes wherever you go.

Element Three: The Plot

What is the plot? Where does the story begin? What is the trigger? Once triggered, what does OCD tell you happens next? And, how does this story end according to OCD? Will you be cast away, abandoned, imprisoned, annihilated, or left uncomfortable for the rest of your life? Or, is there no ending and that’s the problem. We don’t know how this story ends? Clarity cannot be found. Certainty isn’t obtainable?

Element Four: The Conflict

In any story, characters are either trying to solve the conflict or create a conflict. We usually witness conflict resolution at the end of a movie or a good book. When the movie ends without resolution we shake our heads in frustration.  We are socialized to believe every conflict can be resolved. Early in our childhood, we are taught conflict resolution by parents and educators. We’ve been trained to solve the conflict.

In OCD’s story, the conflict is the obsession. The resolution is the attempt to get resolution when there is none. 

Element Five: Resolution

The resolution solves the conflict. Every movie we watch or book we read resolution is expected. If there is no resolution we get frustrated. In OCD’s story, there is never a resolution but you’ve been tricked into thinking there is a way to get it.

By believing there is a resolution you are tricked into a life of compulsions or avoidance. In OCD’s stories, the resolution is nothing more than a hoax. Don’t fall for it. Your OCD story needs no resolution.

OCD is the greatest storyteller in the world. It uses five elements to create a realistic story that in reality is nothing more than a prank.

Every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day. How to cope?

  • Stop being surprised that OCD is going to try to prank you. Keep up your guard. Expect OCD to tell you stories. OCD never got the memo that April Fool’s Day occurs only on the first day of April. OCD is committed to prank you every day.
  • If you expect to be pranked you are less likely to be fooled.
  • Accept the fact that you have the greatest storyteller ever known to mankind, inside your brain. Its stories can bring highly intelligent people to their knees. It knows what is precious and sacred to you, and uses this information to captivate you and tug at your heartstrings.
  • OCD is masterful at using vulnerable characters, the perfect setting, a horrifying plot, and a neverending conflict to lead you to a life of compulsions.

OCD treatment

Don’t bother focusing on the OCD story. It’s a hoax. You know what isn’t a hoax? Your anxiety. That’s real. Besides treating every day like April Fool’s Day you also need to accept that you have anxiety. You just do. No story needed to explain it.

Commit to living your life with anxiety. Focus on your values. Live a priority-driven life. You can do anything with anxiety. You can do very little avoiding triggers or by engaging in compulsions.

I’m Falling in the big unknown

“I’m just trying to hold on. I’m falling in the dark below. I feel I’m falling in the big unknown.

I will rise. I will rise. I will rise again.”          

 ~Songwriters Ben Travers/ Helen Adu

I heard this song sung by Sade and immediately thought of OCD. I know it’s how it feels to have OCD. When you think you’ve figured out how to beat OCD, you find yourself falling back into the big unknown. It feels permanent. Every single time the threat feels like the real deal. But lo and behold, you rise again. Life feels like a Yo-Yo: downward—upward—downward—upward.

By changing just a few words of this lyric the remedy to living well with OCD is revealed:

“I’m just trying to let go. I’m jumping into the dark below. I feel I’m welcoming the big unknown.”

Living well with OCD means letting go and surrendering to not knowing. So rather than falling into the unknown, it’s better to jump right in. Any of these words will do: Leap, bound, hop, skip, jump, seize, grab on to…

Having a bug phobia, when I see a suitcase in the closet I immediately fear there are bugs in the suitcase from a recent trip. In the past, I would have thrown it into the garbage. But I’ve progressed and even though I’m anxious, and have thoughts of infestation, I grab the suitcase, embrace it, and say “come and get me. Whatever happens, happens.” I jump into the unknown.

A bee trap is successful because the bees fly into the plastic bottle for the honey, but then won’t fly back out because there is black tape wrapped around the outside of the bottle near the exit. Bees don’t like the dark. If only they’d agree to be uncomfortable and fly through the darkness they’d be free. But they won’t do it.

What do you wish you knew for sure? What is it that you’re trying to get to the bottom of? It’s at the center of your obsession. You won’t stop until you gain certainty. But certainty is unachievable. It’s like flying into a bee trap to find answers. You’ll do anything to get rid of the doubt. But now that you’ve been tricked and you’re in the trap how will you get out? You’re going to have to go into the big unknown. Will you do it? Or will you stay in the trap trying, and trying, and trying to answer the unanswerable?

The fact that you have OCD means there is going to be something you will never know for sure. You can gain clarity, but at some point, a question will surface that has the potential to pull you into the trap. 

How to Stay Out of the Trap?

I don’t know for sure. 

That statement might not be what you wanted to hear but it is the truth. There are many books about OCD and specialists who can tell you what to do to live well with OCD.

But all of those ideas can end up being a trap. 

When you apply a therapy principle and get relief, you’re going to expect that principle to save you every time. And when it doesn’t, it causes you to spin. You begin to compare and contrast, “What did I do then that I’m not doing now?” You analyze why the thoughts are back. You are utterly surprised the thought patterns are there. And suddenly you’re in the trap.

When you get a thought that disturbs you say, “good, there’s my thought. I want this.” Better yet, spend a lot of time trying to get disturbed on purpose. Create as much doubt as you can and tolerate it. Look for things, places, or people that trigger your thoughts and make you uncomfortable. 

Be willing to be uncomfortable and JUMP into the unknown! Jump! JUMP! JUMP!

But Ask Yourself This Question:

WHY ARE YOU JUMPING?

Why are you agreeing to jump into the unknown?

The reason you are jumping into the unknown cannot be, “So that I get relief.” This lacks commitment and your efforts will be half-hearted and superficial. The reason you are jumping must be, “because I’d rather live in doubt than try to figure stuff out.”

Do not try to control how you feel or think. You can’t heal what you won’t feel. Say, “I notice I’m feeling anxious. Good. I need the practice.” 

There are no guarantees that you’re doing the right thing by surrendering to the unknown. There is no such thing as knowing anything for certain. No decision guarantees a specific outcome. No action guarantees a particular result.

You have to be willing to find out what happens and deal with whatever happens. “I’d rather live with uncertainty than waste time trying to answer the unanswerable.”

Who do you want to be and how do you want to spend your time?

If you’re not answering this question when you wake up and throughout the day, you’re drifting aimlessly with no sense of purpose or self. You must commit to spending your time being the person you want to be, no matter what you are thinking or how you are feeling. Don’t drift. Jump. And don’t plug your nose when you do it!

A Special Gift For You

I use a lot of catch phrases with my clients so they can stay focused on the mission. If you would like access to some of these phrases, just click BELOW and you’ll be able to print out these free posters.

If you like these posters then you might also like my book, Gratitude, the Great OCD Sanitizer.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://blog.bossitback.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/inspirational-posters.pdf” title=”inspirational posters”]

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.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again

Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) Is Not Enough

Beat OCDI’m a big believer in ERP. But why stop there? Did you know you can beat OCD with your bones! I know, I know you keep hearing ERP is the way to go. Confronting fears changes lives. You even hear it from me. It’ll probably be on my tombstone. “The only way out is in.” But over the years I’ve learned there’s more to beating OCD than just confronting fears and resisting compulsions.

ERP is a slow method of facing fears by taking tiny little baby steps. It takes time to climb a hierarchy and become desensitized. It’s true ERP helps you build skills and gain confidence. But, unless you’re committed and determined it can take too long. Recovery can be spotty–two steps forward and five steps backward.

It’s not good enough to confront fears just so you can white-knuckle your way through life. It’s a complicated therapeutic process because in addition to confronting fears, you have to develop a very specific mindset–Mental Kung fu.

  • You have to embrace doubt and hunt down anxiety. “I want this anxiety and I want it to be intense.” That’s easier said than done, Tammy.
  • You have to see everything as a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Developing a growth mindset takes time and diligence but also a willingness to fail. That’s a tough pill to swallow, Tammy.

The effects of ERP and Mental Kung-Fu are not immediate. Many people get frustrated and quit. It’s hard to do this kind of therapy when the fear seems real and believable. It’s just easier to avoid and give in to compulsions.

Beat OCDIn the heat of the moment, it’s so hard to remember what to do. You know what the treatment principles are but when push comes to shove they don’t come to mind.

Are you feeling stuck? Do you keep forgetting to use your tools? Then you’re going to like this simple answer.

Your Bones Have the Answer

People who are anxious have tense muscles. They are constricted all of the time. If you can rely on your bones your muscles will relax. If your muscles relax then your frontal lobe goes back online. You gain clarity and insight to the point where your weird thoughts are just that…weird.

The Limbic System Needs to Be Offline

If your muscles are tight your limbic system is online. This is your default system. It’s the part of your brain that sounds alarms…especially false ones. It’s where you live day in and day out. You perceive danger when there is none.

Danger! Danger! Danger! That’s the message tight muscles give to your brain. This puts your limbic system in a frenzy. What kind of day does this give you? Fight, Flight or Freeze. You’re doing whatever you can to avoid pain and get certainty.

The Frontal Lobe Needs to Be Online

Your frontal lobe has to be functioning in order to beat OCD. Why? Because it’s the rational, logical part of your brain. If it’s functioning you will make good choices. You’ll choose to live your life and not feed OCD.

When your frontal lobe is offline your limbic system goes online. You’ll easily fall for OCD’s tricks. All the cool stuff you ever learned goes out the window. No frontal lobe…no choice. You will automatically feed OCD.

Your Bones Can Get Your Frontal Lobe Online

From now on put your trust in your bones. What bones? The video below offers a bit of humor but it’s also shared to remind you of all the bones you have in your body. Nevermind the joints. Look at the bones.

How To Beat OCD With Your Bones

You can beat OCD by being in a relaxed body. A relaxed body keeps your frontal lobe online. How do you get into a relaxed body? By letting your bones do all the work.

This is NOT relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy is something you set aside time to do. It’s guided imagery and tightening and releasing muscles. Relaxation therapy doesn’t teach you to self-regulate anxiety. 

This is NOT meditation. Meditation is something you set aside time to practice. It also requires frontal lobe functioning. Many people with OCD have a terrible time meditating. That’s because the limbic system is online which makes you too hypervigilant to meditate. 

Using your bones will automatically put you in a “relaxed body.” The effect is immediate. Using your bones is done in real time. It’s not something you stop to do or set aside time to practice. Using your bones is done “on the go.” You do it the same time you are conversing or performing activities of daily living. 

This isn’t relaxation therapy, mindfulness or meditation. It’s not any kind of therapy. Learning to rely on your bones is part of normal human development.

I think anxiety exists to help you self-regulate and choose a path that leads you to your higher self. But, seeing one’s anxiety as helpful is a hard sell. Release your muscles and rely on your bones. It can only help to add this to your toolbox.

“But, Tammy this is very unlike you to talk about relaxing. Whenever I tell you I’m anxious you always say, “Good. You need the practice. You’re always telling me to go find ways to be anxious.” True. But how many of you agree with me? How many of you want to practice being anxious and hunt down triggers?

I’m not opposed to anything if it sets you free and changes your life for the better! A person who knows everything learns nothing. I’m not going to stop learning how to beat OCD. I will spend my life offering you hope. Besides, using your bones isn’t about relaxing. It’s simply about letting your bones do all the work. 

skill for OCDLook, you either see anxiety as a perpetrator or a friend. If you see anxiety as a friend then you use KAPOW. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then I need to ask you something.

“How much longer do you want this perpetrator in your body?”

Have you had enough??? If you’ve suffered enough you’ll start using your bones. It’s simple. Every single time you use your bones the quality of your life improves. It’s impossible to experience stress when you use bones instead of muscles.

Every time you use your bones you’re restoring frontal lobe functioning. You immediately gain confidence and insight. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then why wouldn’t you use your bones to eject it from your body? You can’t possibly be suffering enough to NOT try this!

How to Beat OCD With Your Bones

All you have to do is set your intentions to rely on your bones, not your muscles. It’s simple but hard. It’s hard because over the years you’ve put all of your weight and all of your stress on your muscles. It’s time to interrupt your default system. Let’s give your bones the job of carrying the burden, not your muscles. 

How to Do It

Beat OCDTell yourself, “My muscles aren’t needed. My bones do the work.” Find your “sit” bones. Place your hands, palm up on your bottom and rock side to side until you find your sit bones. (Once you’ve found them you won’t need to keep touching them. You’ve created an anchor in your memory.)

Whether you are standing or sitting imagine that your “sit” bones are holding you up. If you’re standing your knees might get wobbly. It’s ok just adjust a little. If you’re sitting you might feel a bit floppy–like a wet noodle. It’s okay just adjust a little.

Do this in real time. While you are listening or talking to someone put all your weight on your sit bones. Whatever activity you’re engaged in trust your bones not your muscles to help you complete the task.

But, Tammy doesn’t this require frontal lobe functioning? How will I remember to do this if my frontal lobe is offline? This takes no more than 5 seconds each time you do it. There’s not a lot of thought put into using your bones. In fact, there’s just enough space between a trigger and your response to remembering to use your bones. This does not require deep thinking or full body attention. 

Trigger   <<Space>>  Response (no compulsion)

In the space shift your weight to your bones. Even if you forget after you’re triggered, you’ll probably notice how tight you feel. Do it then…shift responsibility to your bones.

It’s also possible to use your bones in the space before a trigger.

<<Space>>  Trigger  <<Space>>  Response (no compulsion)

But, Tammy if I use my bones before or after a trigger, which interrupts the anxiety, am I not neutralizing the anxiety which you always tell us not to do? If you’re not confronting your fears and not embracing anxiety AND still avoiding and using compulsions AND white-knuckling your way through it’s because YOU’RE MAKING YOUR MUSCLES DO ALL THE WORK.

Soldiers with PTSD tried Exposure Therapy with terrible effect. When they learned to trust their bones and release the muscles from such a heavy burden…they got better!

I’m not telling you to use your bones to neutralize anxiety. This is just normal human development. It’s what the rest of the population without an anxiety disorder does! You can be on the same playing field as everybody else!

I’m still telling you to confront your fears. I’m still telling you not to feel sorry for yourself because you have unwanted intrusive thoughts. I’m still telling you to not argue with OCD. I still don’t think OCD or anxiety is a perpetrator…But, I think you do.

Even if you use your bones you’ll still have weird thoughts. You can’t control what you think. You can’t control what triggers you. But, you can put your attention and energy where you do have control…You can shift your weight to your bones. This is something you control! Take control all day long!

  • It’s simple.
  • It takes no more than 5 seconds.
  • It’s done in real time, on the go.
  • Every time you do it your life improves. So do it all day!
  • The effect is immediate.

Dem bones, Dem bones…Are you going to use them and rise up?

Is it Okay to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

 

Resist compulsions
Oh! Shiny lights…

Is it okay to use distraction in order to resist a compulsion? If you don’t know the answer to this question, keep reading. If you think you know the answer to this question…keep reading. 

The argument for distracting is twofold. 

1.) First, distraction can be used to delay the compulsion. When the urge to perform a compulsion or mental act arises you shift your attention away.

If you delay the compulsion long enough, it’s believed that you might forget all about the urge to do the compulsion. But, if you give in and perform the compulsion, at least you put it off and found a way to do it by distracting.

2.) The second purpose for using distraction is to avoid anxiety.

The evaluation of anxiety, in this example, is that it’s crippling and therefore should be avoided. Stay busy and try not to have any downtime. If while trying to push through a fear you become overwhelmed and panicky, use a distraction to get relief.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

Authors of “Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts,” Martin Seif and Sally Winston state, “As with all anxiety disorders, avoidance of anxiety is both what maintains and strengthens it.” They advise therapists, “Overcoming the disorder means counterintuitively moving clients toward experiences that increase their distress.”

On the other hand, Fletcher Wortmann, an OCD-Thriver and author of Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  explains: “There is no shame in occasional escapism.”

Resist compulsions
Fight Flight Freeze

At this point, it’s important to note there is plenty of research that proves distraction lessens the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze) response probably more than any other form of emotional regulation.

That’s why many talk therapists encourage clients to distract from their anxiety by hyper-focusing on the minutia of the environment (using the five senses.) Another technique often taught is to hold an ice cube until the anxiety goes away.

However, OCD therapists don’t typically teach distraction because we’ve learned: “You don’t stop OCD by distracting.” Even today I found this on the International OCD Foundation website: “The most common false fear blockers are physical and mental compulsions, distraction, avoidance, and reassurance seeking.”

Yet, studies show that focusing attention away from an unpleasant feeling/thought reduces the intensity of the suffering. Likewise, the innovative people at treatmyocd.com have created an app called nOCD, a free mobilized personal treatment app. One of its features is an “SOS” button to assist with distraction.

I downloaded the app and found it to be an excellent resource for people with OCD, especially for those self-directing their Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) therapy. It’s hard enough to try ERP with a therapist but think about the people who have no access to an OCD therapist.

However, I was concerned about the “SOS” button. Afterall, OCD therapists are discouraged from teaching distraction.  

Consider these possible disadvantages of intentional distraction: 
Resisting compulsions
Is it ok to use a distraction to resist a compulsion?
  • You’re only learning how to avoid or delay the anxiety. New pathways won’t be created. Confidence levels will decrease.
  • Eventually, you’ll find yourself face to face with whatever drove you to distraction in the first place.  At some point, you’ll run out of the ability to distract. What will you do when there’s no way to distract? You’re only good at what you practice.
  • Focusing away from the anxiety means less attention on the opportunity to grow and more attention on living just above the surface.
  • Distracting may slow down the healing process and for some people, they can’t afford to waste any more time. OCD has already taken too much.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

I emailed the people behind the app, who by the way have all personally lived with OCD and know exactly what it feels like to live with it each and every day. Their opinion matters a lot to me.

I want to support the app but I explained I was concerned about the “SOS” feature which is used for distraction. This was the response they gave for me to include in this blog post:

  • I understand your approach and agree that distraction isn’t the answer, but it obviously depends on the person.
  • The SOS feature has really helped people in times of intense suffering and continues to help people get through severe OCD episodes.
  • I really like what you said about teaching the brain that anxiety at all levels is not only tolerable but wanted. In my personal experiences, really encouraging the anxiety and wanting to feel the intense anxiety can actually make the episodes less intense.
  • The app saves/tracks data. Makes it so easy to share evidence-based info with your therapist or others who want to learn more.
  • It’s also important to highlight that each of our team members has personal experience with the current treatment system: it’s very difficult to find a qualified OCD specialist, it’s extremely expensive, insurance doesn’t usually help much for mental health issues, etc.

I think we’re all on the same page.

There are people who haven’t <<yet>> learned to just go ahead and experience the anxiety. Thankfully, nOCD can help people get through intense anxiety with it’s SOS feature. There’s nothing wrong with getting a reprieve from something you don’t know how to manage.

When you push the SOS button it asks if you’re struggling with an anxiety-producing thought or a strong urge to do a compulsion. The app helps you to face your fear or resist a compulsion. But, if the anxiety gets too overwhelming, hit the SOS button and the app will try to help distract you.

nOCD does far more than help with distraction by the way. The app not only teaches you how to use ERP but also takes you through each step. A video lesson is included and step-by-step guidance is given. nOCD collects and saves all your effort and provides a visual of your progress. This app is a great in-between session tool for people in therapy. For people who don’t have a therapist this app can take you through the same steps a therapist would. 

So…Is it OK to Use a Distraction to Resist a Compulsion? 

Resist compulsions
Every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day…Be ready!

Avoiding anxiety isn’t a drill that develops a skill. 

In order to beat OCD, you’ll need to develop the skill of allowing weird thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. You don’t beat OCD by distracting.

But, not all distraction is bad.

Life itself is a distraction. There are people to see, things to do and places to go. Living your life to the fullest may very well distract you from your thoughts and anxiety. Here’s a Mom who explains this concept very well: Proactive vs. Reactive Distractions

Unintended Distraction

I’ve created a Puzzle Book that is in Beta testing. I designed it to be a mild exposure exercise so that people with the doubting disease can confront their dislike for uncertainty. Some of the people testing it for me have already commented that time flies when they work on the puzzles.

Resist compulsions
Face it with a puzzle

The puzzlers expected an exposure exercise with a bit of anxiety. Although this puzzle book is by far the least anxiety-provoking of the 10, I didn’t anticipate it would be such a pleasant distraction!  

The point is there was no intention to be distracted. Sometimes an exposure exercise ends up being easier than thought. It makes it easier to go on to the next exposure. Always build momentum.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Deliberately hitting the “distraction” button when you feel overwhelmed needs to be seen as a stepping stone, not a crutch. If you intentionally distract to avoid and continue this strategy…well, read the disadvantages above again. 

If you hit the “distraction” button, learn from it. Maybe you tried something too hard. Find an exposure exercise that challenges you–but doesn’t cause panic.

Be self-reflective about your motive for distracting. If you choose to distract, be mindful of what you’re doing. 

If life distracts you…if there are moments you forget you even have OCD…that sounds wonderful to me.

Please feel free to add your thoughts about distraction in the comments. As always, I’ll keep your name anonymous.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

Are you addicted to compulsions?

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Forget Compulsions, Try This Instead!

Resisting compulsive behavior is one of the hardest parts of your recovery.

Finding the willpower to say, “No!” to OCD

Finding the willpower to resist compulsions requires energy you don’t think you have. But, it’s no mystery where that energy can be found. 

You’ll find the willpower to resist compulsions eagerly awaiting you in two places: Your mindset and your body.

What Kind of Mindset Do You Have 

Here are a few questions to test your mindset. Do you want to:

  • be all better or getting better?
  • stay in the comfort zone or be challenged?
  • succeed or grow?
  • be all-knowing or always learning?
  • avoid anxiety or seek it out?
  • have certainty or live with uncertainty?
Resisting compulsions
A love for learning is better than a fear of failing

Success Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the blue then you have a Success Mindset.

  • Your agenda or plan for daily life is fixed and rigid.
  • You care deeply about failure, inadequacies, and outcomes.
  • The capability of taking an action can’t occur until an emotion is felt first. (e.g. “I can’t do anything until I feel ready and right about it.”)
  • What people think of you matters very much.
  • You tend to be self-loathing and easily frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.
  • Everything is seen in all or nothing terms. 
  • The path you’re on always needs to be definite, clear and unmistakable.
  • Effortless is preferred over effortfulA student with school anxiety who makes it to school five out of five days is pleased with meeting the goal of attendance. (Focuses on outcome) Had she attended four out of five days she’d have felt like a failure because everything is either all or nothing. (Values perfection.) 

Finding the Willpower to Resist Compulsive Behavior

Growth Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the green then you have a growth mindset.

  • You’re curious and flexible about daily life.
  • If something doesn’t go as planned you easily adjust.
  • Your focus is on finding hard challenges and opportunities for personal development.
  • The process of getting from A to B is more important to you than the outcome.
  • Celebrating your victories is not something you do enough.
  • Practicing gratitude and counting your blessings is something you do often.
  • You prefer daily tasks and life experiences to be effortful–full of variety and challenges. A person who deletes 24,000 emails out of 26,000 (egads something I need to do!!!) focuses on the effort it took to sit there and do that! She doesn’t become discouraged that the inbox is still full.

A student with school anxiety who makes it to school each day of the week is pleased with how incredibly hard she worked to get there each day. (Focuses on effort) Had she attended four out of five days she would be proud of her effort and look forward to working harder next week. A setback is a setup for a breakthrough. (Values experience.)

It’s harder to find the willpower to resist compulsive behavior if you have a success mindset.

Here’s how to get out of the success (or fixed) mindset and shift into a growth mindset:

  1. Focus on your incredibly hard work and effort. Remember, “If you had fun you won?” That’s an example of focusing on effort, not outcome.  To use a growth mindset to resist compulsions here’s another cheer: “If you had anxiety and abstained you won.” (i.e., abstained from compulsive behavior.)
  2. Drills develop skills.  Appreciate the value of experiencing anxiety. It gives you an opportunity to practice your skills. You get good at what you practice. If you’re avoiding anxiety, you won’t get good at experiencing it. Hunt down anxiety. Go find it and experience it.
  3. Be curious about your anxiety. “Hmmm, it’s so fascinating how my body can put butterflies in my stomach. I wonder how my body does that.” Focus on the experience of anxiety, not the story about why the butterflies are there. How not why.
  4. Ask, “what does anxiety make possible?” One young man told me that his anxiety makes him a better football player. “How’s that?” I asked. He explained, “I’ve got some big guys I have to block. They’re a lot bigger than me. My anxiety gives me the energy to do it.”
  5. Do your values need a realignment? What is it that you value? A sense of security or experiencing something new? What do you care deeply about? Being with loved ones or avoiding anxiety? Values drive behavior. Make sure your priorities represent your values.
  6. Don’t get caught up in OCD’s story about something bad happening. To focus on the story is nothing but a trick! This is about your anxiety. Stay focused on the true issue. You don’t need compulsions. You need experience.

Resisting Compulsive Behavior and Mental Acts

The Physicality of Anxiety

You can use your body to resist compulsions.

Super Pose
You aren’t the boss of me!

Stand up like a superhero. Look OCD in the eyes with your hands on your hips. Chin up. Shoulders back. 

Don’t contain all the energy from anxiety inside one area of the body. If you clutch your chest, cover your head with your hands or make fists where can the anxiety go? 

Experience the Anxiety

Notice where you experience anxiety and stay with the sensation. Don’t go into the sensation. Notice it like a bystander. Think of it like a neighbor who is visiting. “Oh, passing through again?”

Oh no…did you just ask, “But, what if I don’t want the neighbor to visit?” This question reflects your mindset. It’s not a growth mindset. You’re not valuing learning and developing. You need the “neighbor” to visit so that you can gain experience. Keep working on your mindset until you can welcome the “neighbor.”

Stay with the experience of anxiety and away from the story about something bad happening.

The Physicality of Anxiety: Discover where the sensation of anxiety is located in your body. 
  • Ask your body, “What part of you wants my attention right now?
  • Say hello to the bodily sensation of anxiety. “Ah ha, there you are.”
  • Where in your body do you feel the anxiety? Perhaps it’s unclear. Maybe it’s puzzling, numb or fuzzy. Stay focused on finding the sensation. Keep hunting down the anxiety in your body. 
  • Your OCD story is irrelevant. We’re not doing exposure exercises right now. This exercise is not about your story. It’s about anxiety. 

    Resist Compulsive Behavior by Finding the Anxiety In Your Body

  • Describe the sensation of anxiety in great detail as if trying to get someone else to understand what it feels like.
  • Just notice it. “I feel it here.” Describe it in great detail. Are any of these descriptive words a good fit: 

-Is there any tightness or pressure? Where do you feel it?

-Does your skin have any pain, tingling, prickling, twitching, itching? Where on your body is this occurring? 

-What is the temperature of the sensation?

-Is there any motion and if so what is the speed at which it is traveling? 

-Can you taste or smell anything?

-Does this sensation have any particular size, shape, weight, texture, or color? 

-Can you hear any sounds in your ears like buzzing or ringing? 

  • Once you’ve described the sensation, get curious about how your body creates these sensations. Don’t ask why. Ask how. Curiosity is the opposite of anxiety. 
  • When your mind tries to wander to an OCD story, keep bringing your focus back to the physicality of your anxiety. Focus. Notice. Focus. Notice. Experience it fully by describing it and getting fascinated.
Let this sink in: Just because you’re anxious when you resist a compulsion doesn’t mean something is wrong.

Experiencing anxiety is (unfortunately) not what you’ll usually be told to do. But truly, the only way out is in. You can’t master anxiety by avoiding it! 

Resist Compulsions
Get into position!
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsive Behavior:

You can’t be limp when it’s time to resist a compulsion. Rise up like you mean it! Be firm. Stay with the anxiety not the story. Experience the physicality of anxiety.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

“If resisting compulsions is the right thing to do then why does it feel so horrible to resist them?”

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s More to Being Compulsion-Free Than Just Stopping

How to stop excessive hand washing.
I’ll be done soon…

Have you ever been in the middle of a compulsion and someone said: “Just knock it off!” And you replied, “If it was that easy don’t you think I would just stop?” The best advice on how to resist compulsions doesn’t include to, “just knock it off.”

Very, very few people with OCD can go cold turkey and “just knock it off.” So many times people have said to me, “I’m just going to stop all of it. Right now. No more compulsions.” They mean it with all their heart. And then they walk to their car performing compulsions.

Going Cold Turkey Has Little to Do With Staying Compulsion-Free

If you want to know what it feels like to just knock it off and go cold turkey, it’s like dumping all kinds of poison in a sess pool and sitting in it. Taking your hands and putting the slop all over your face and body. Breathing it in and doing nothing to save yourself.

If you sat there long enough, believe it or not, you’d become desensitized. But, just like any kind of sobriety, the urge will return. You’ll still want to perform a compulsion. 

There’s more to being compulsion-free than just stopping.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Put an end to your compulsions by applying these seven principles:

  1. It’s “whatever” therapy! Talk to your OCD in a nonargumentative manner. “Yup, maybe that will happen. Time will tell.”  Don’t reassure OCD. Instead, shrug and say “This could be unpleasant. I’ll just have to find out.” It’s all about the “whatever.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  If you can trick your brain into thinking you’re smiling with a pen sideways in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking “whatever” with a shrug!
  2. Build a hierarchy. Resist the easiest compulsion first and keep resisting until it no longer bothers you to resist. Then, like climbing a ladder, resist the next hardest compulsion and the next hardest and so forth.
  3. Set your intentions to provoke OCD. Confront a trigger you’ve been avoiding. While confronting the trigger refuse to do a compulsion. Talk to OCD as described in #1. Once this trigger no longer bothers you, move onto the next more difficult trigger. 
    Apply These Principles to End Compulsions
  4. Easiest first, then hard. If you give in and perform a compulsion, go back and confront the same trigger again and again until there is no compulsive behavior. If you’re stuck, maybe there’s an easier trigger that you skipped or need to go back to.
  5. Don’t stop ’til you reach the top. Build momentum. Keep moving up the ladder of challenges. When it gets easier, ask yourself, “How can I make this harder?” Remember, climb the ladder while always refusing to do a compulsion. 
  6. Shift into challenge mode. Wishing you did not have OCD or have certain thoughts is of no use to you. Wishing causes more suffering. It’s important to see your anxiety and thoughts as a challenge–an opportunity to practice your skills. This is no time to play the role of a victim. You don’t have to like anxiety but you do have to want it.
  7. Accept responsibility. If you give into a compulsive behavior, admit what you are doing. No excuses. Own it. Name it. Keep away from the “story” of why your OCD tells you to do the compulsion. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now. I know this will make OCD stronger. I’m avoiding discomfort and that’s the only reason why I’m choosing to do this compulsion.” Get this message to your brain every single time you do a compulsion!
Resist compulsions
Creating new pathways takes time

Applying these principles will keep you compulsion-free. It’s a slow and difficult place to start, but once you pick up some momentum it gets easier and therefore, goes faster. Rather than shocking your brain, you are rewiring it. This takes time!

It takes time because you are training your brain how to experience anxiety.

I don’t tell my clients to “knock it off!”  And, I hope those who love someone with OCD don’t say it either! There’s more to beating OCD than just “knocking it off.”

Resist Compulsions by Making Little Changes Over Time

People with OCD benefit from the very effective systematic method of resisting compulsions. Set reachable goals and make little changes over a period of time. With each success, you will grow more confident and more tolerant of anxiety.

It may take time and patience, (click for video) but it’s how you win the battle. At the suggestion of resisting compulsions, do you take a big gulp and say, “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.” My response to more anxiety? “Great! You need the practice!”

It’s time to learn how to experience anxiety without a compulsion.

You can get started today! The first step, of course, is to identify each compulsion. You’ve got to know what you’re resisting, in order to resist!

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

For a long-term effect, commit to a systematic plan to stop compulsions. Include all of the above seven principles in your plan. Going cold turkey has little to do with staying compulsion-free. 

Check back for the next post which will explain the difference between an observable compulsion and a mental compulsion. It’s important to know the difference because mental compulsions can be very sneaky!

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

The next several posts on resisting compulsions will include:

  • What Is a Compulsion?
  • The True Purpose of a Compulsion
  • If a Compulsion Makes Me Feel Better, Why Would I Stop?
  • I Already Tried Resisting and It Didn’t Help
  • Can You Promise If I Resist It Will Help?
  • I’ve Got Way Too Much Anxiety to Resist Compulsions
  • It’s Too Risky to Stop My Compulsions, Someone Else Could Be Hurt
  • Is it Okay If I Use Distraction to Resist Compulsions?
  • Resisting Compulsions Just Doesn’t Feel Right
  • My Compulsions Are Out of Habit Not Fear
  • If I Stop One Compulsion Another One Will Just Pop Up
  • How Do I Find the Strength and Willpower to Resist Compulsions When I Don’t Have the Energy?
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Does Your Mind Feel Like Space Junk? What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Has OCD Made You Forget Who You Are?The thing about OCD is that it comes and goes. It rolls in from the sea and eventually goes back out. When the storm arrives though, it’s brutal. You forget who you are. And it feels permanent.

It’s such a desperate feeling and can easily make you forget about everything else that matters. You become disconnected from the core of who you are. Your sense of self is ruptured. The only thing you feel attached to is your worst fear.

In an OCD storm, you can’t stop thinking about something very troubling. The thought can’t be controlled, and yet, with all your might you try with compulsions or by avoiding. This only turns the storm into several hurricanes.

You lose sight of the “big picture.” You’ve lost your compass and can’t see your way out. There’s more to this storm than what meets the eye. But the eye of the storm has swallowed you up.

Without the “big picture” view, you forget that it gets better. Your mind can’t seem to hold on to anything other than fear. Everything else in your mind is space junk. It feels like you’ve regressed to the mind of a child.

Your inner voice becomes catastrophic and self-critical. You know the compulsions are useless, but you can’t seem to resist. You know that avoiding isn’t going to change anything, but you do it anyway.

You’re so frustrated with yourself. The choices you keep making over and over don’t reflect your wisdom and life experience. It feels like your brain’s been hijacked by a younger version of you.

You hold your head in your hand…exhausted. Overwhelmed. And you whisper, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

You feel disconnected. Hyper-alert. Terrified. Ready to run. Ready to freeze. Angry with no will to fight. Hopeless. Helpless. Shameful. Compulsive.

You Can find Yourself By Letting Go of Old Ways of Coping

All of these feelings and behaviors helped you survive something in the past. We must honor the fact that they served you well once upon a time. A time when you were younger and less experienced.

For example, when you were a child being afraid and freezing-up probably kept someone you know or even someone on TV out of harm’s way. This might not even be a memory you can recall. But, now you’re more experienced and know to assert yourself and take action.

Maybe you experienced a traumatic event in your younger years and felt guilty about it. It was a useful feeling then because it kept you out of a deep depression. But, now you’re older and wiser and guilt is no longer age-appropriate. But, because you used it so much when you were younger, you’re still using it now.

We honor these feelings that helped your younger self-survive difficult times. But they’re holding you back now. These emotions aren’t congruent with who you are today. You’re an adult with life experience. Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Everything you face opens up a possibility for you to find your higher self.

You Can Find Yourself By Letting the Older Part of You Take Charge

Since then you’ve grown older and wiser. You’ve gained a lot of life experience. It’s no longer age-appropriate to handle anxiety the way you did as a child. In your heart of hearts, you know this and that’s why you don’t feel like yourself.

Can you bring the older, wiser part of you forward to deal with the anxiety and weird thoughts?

We can’t let a child drive the boat through this storm. There’s an older, more experienced version of you who knows a lot more about riding the waves and maneuvering all the twists and turns. Let’s get the right “wo/man” behind the wheel. After all, which part of you is better equipped for the job?

Can you bring that older part of you forward–that part that has dealt with real-life problems before? You know, the part of you that holds it together while everyone else is drowning. (I know you have a memory like this because people with OCD actually handle real-life problems better than most people. It’s the problems of the imagination that are utterly challenging.)

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

Remember a time or situation when you were in charge, taking care of business like a pro. What did that feel like? What are the positive thoughts that go with that part of you? What does that feel like in your body? How are you standing? Where are your arms? Is your head up during these times you are most proud? 

How can this part of you take the wheel away from the child? What would you say to the child? “I know that you’re afraid, but you can’t drive this boat. You’re still in diapers and have no life skills.”

How would you set limits? “I know you want what you want when you want it, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Get out of the driver’s seat.”

What happens to the child when you take the wheel? Naturally, the child stays on the boat. No part of you can be disowned or thrown overboard. Remember, this is a child who doesn’t even know how to doggie paddle yet.

Kindly, but firmly take the child under your wing. “I know how to move us forward. Sit back there. Watch and learn. And if you get too noisy, I’m going to tickle you until you pee in your diaper.” No, wait. That’s firm, but not very kind. 😉

How about, “I know you’re afraid so you’ll probably get noisy. I’ll hear you, but I can’t reassure you. I’ll be busy. I know you’ll get upset that I won’t let you steer the boat. You’ve had your way for awhile so I completely understand that you won’t like this and will probably have a temper tantrum.”

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.
  • Look at your hands. In one of your hands is the terrified, inexperienced child. Imagine how this child feels. Small, terrified, vulnerable, lost. In your other hand is your older, wiser stronger self. Feel how much bigger and stronger this hand is? Bring the older wiser hand over the younger hand. Hold that child. Let the child feel surrounded by your strength and wisdom. Tell the child you’ve got this. “I’ve got this. I’m driving now.”
  • Name all the other parts to you besides OCD. Using props (such as ducks), put these parts in the order you want them to be. Who’s in charge most of the time to least of the time? Here in this picture, we see there is a loving part taking the lead. Then we see a wise part and an all-around good guy, who likes to help others, sharing the leadership role. Not far behind is a curious part who likes to learn and grow. In the back is OCD. Lots of people would keep OCD away from the rest of the Team. But, he’s too young to be on his own. That’ll only scare him more if you try to get rid of him. The Team keeps him close by and kindly but firmly says, “I know you’re afraid, but, I’ve got this.”

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

The “big picture” older version of you says life is bigger than this storm. Big picture thinking allows you to be hazy and uncertain around the edges. It’s a growth mindset. “I’m willing to find out what this storm makes possible for me.”

Whatever is causing the storm, whatever the storm is about–doesn’t matter. If you were truly at sea and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a storm, would you be trying to figure out what it means? What caused it? Why it’s happening? Did you do something wrong? Did you overlook something?

No! You’d be focused on doing your best to weather the storm–how to withstand it. You’d be focused on outlasting the storm. And, the child would not be allowed to steer the boat. Do you want a scared child steering in a storm or an experienced, wise “sailor” who has ridden huge waves before?

An OCD storm comes down to one thing: The storm will be an experience you can draw from in the future.

No matter how bad it feels, an OCD storm comes down to one thing. It’s about the opportunity and challenge of weathering the anxiety and resisting the young child’s urge to avoid or do a compulsion.

An OCD storm is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t look or feel like a gift but give permission to learn from the storm and you’ll soon discover something amazing about yourself.  The next storm will be easier because you’ve gained experience from the last one.

If you liked this post, you might also like a cheat sheet for quick reference. It’s only one page–quick read! Click on the image below to get your printable cheat sheet:

Are You Brewing Anxiety in Your Kitchen?

“The most important decisions that determine the brain’s health happen in the kitchen, not at the pharmacy.”

~ David Perlmutter, Author of Grain Brain

Last night I made a healthy soup for dinner. It was made of avocado, swiss chard, spinach, kale, cilantro, sweet potato and onions with vegetable broth. It was very tasty and when I make it again, I’ll probably add white organic beans. 

I was so sleepy after I ate it that I went to bed early. Very unlike me! I didn’t even make it through the weekly Voice results! I thought I was just tired from Tai Chi.

Today, I read the recipe (I don’t usually read recipes–I just throw stuff together) and discovered the soup is intended to be a sleep aid! It’s very high in chlorophyll. The recipe actually says this: “The fat in the soup aids the absorption of the minerals from the greens and aids in sleep.”

Wow! Good thing I didn’t eat that at lunch!!! If any of you have trouble falling asleep, or need to calm your nervous system, email me (tammy@bossitback.com) and I’ll send you the recipe. It seemed very soothing, but who knows, maybe it was a combination of factors.

While I was waiting for new brakes (ugh) to be put on my car today, I thought about the soup’s effect on me, and found the above quote by Dr. Perlmutter. 

I always ask my clients if they eat a lot of carbs and 7 out of 10 people confess, “I crave carbs and sugar and eat a lot of both.” Yup! Jackpot!

Sugar Doesn’t Make You Healthy

It’s no coincidence my clients have a lot of anxiety. These foods are addicting and hype up the nervous system. They cause inflammation, overstimulate neurons in the brain and destabilize blood sugar, all of which creates mood changes.

One key to managing anxiety is to eat foods that provide grounding energy and relax the nervous system. What does it mean to feel grounded? Have you hugged a tree lately? Isn’t it amazing!!! Certain foods can help you feel that way too!

No matter how healthy you eat, you’ll still be anxious. But, why not give yourself a fighting chance? Why eat something that increases the anxiety? Well, if you need to learn to accept anxiety, then let me tell you, eat a lot of carbs and sugar and practice gladly accepting how you feel. Eating carbs and sugar certainly create a great exposure exercise.

But, if you want to put your mental health first and make your two brains the best lean, mean, fighting machines they can be, then put these brain healthy ingredients into your diet! (Two brains? Yes! Don’t forget about your stomach! More on that later…)

Brain Health from the Kitchen

Matcha Green Tea is really great for focus because it’s high in theanine, which produces alpha brain waves and also offsets the caffeine in the tea. Focus is important because you’ve got to be able to focus on your values. Otherwise OCD will take you on a purpose-less driven life.

B vitamins are important for the production of serotonin. Get tested to see what your levels are and be sure to read this article about what to do.

Coconut water is an excellent source of B Vitamins. Mackerel too, but certain kinds must be avoided due to the high levels of mercury. Red meat is a good source of B12 as well as eggs, milk and cheese. But, many people don’t eat meat and dairy is known to cause inflammation. 

You might have to acquire a taste for this but Miso provides healthy bacteria which boosts GABA, a much needed neurotransmitter that especially hangs out in the gut. Besides the first paragraph of this article, which claims unwanted intrusive thoughts can be ended by GABA, (not true!) this is a post that explains GABA

 

The Guts of Anxiety

The gut has its own independent nervous system and it’s obvious that the gut plays a critical role in anxiety and other mood states. After all, 95% of of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the 2nd brain–the gut!

So taking probiotics and eating fermented foods (healthy bacteria) is a must for brain health promotion! One of my favorites is Kimchi and of course adding Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar to your water.

Having OCD is exhausting. You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taxing to work so hard and you burn through your fuel before day’s end. So replenishing is critical and this can be done with food and exercise. For ideas about this go back to my blog, HERE.

Want to Make Your Kitchen Brain Healthy?

Get the Brain Warrior’s Way by Dr. Amen

I’ve only touched the surface about promoting brain health in the kitchen. I encourage you to do your own research and share anything you find helpful in the comments. And as always, look at benefits and side effects.

Basically eat foods that are grounding and stay away from foods that are stimulating. (Sugar and spice aren’t grounding!)

I had hoped to finish this post last night but I had more of that soup for dinner and once again I fell asleep early. So I don’t think it was Tai Chi. Definitely the soup. I don’t think I’m going to make that again! I ain’t got no time for sleep!!!

How to Control Anxiety: Should You?

The harder I tried to stop thinking about it…………..the faster I thought about it.

Don’t think about the pink elephant.

The harder I tried not to feel it….the stronger I felt it.

Don’t feel the couch on your back.

If you’ve been properly treated for OCD then you know the answer will never be to stop. You can’t stop thoughts. You can’t stop anxiety. And you shouldn’t try! What then should you be doing? 

Want the thoughts. Want the anxiety. The only way out is in, not out.

If someone is telling you to just “knock it off” send them this blog. If you’re telling yourself to knock if off…keep reading!

Let’s assume your OCD is a little you. A three or four year-old version of you. If this is true, and I think it is…telling such a young worrying child to “KNOCK it OFF” is not really teaching any kind of life lesson. 

A young boy is about to take the stage for the first time in his life and sing with the chorus. His brain is asking, “What’s wrong? How come my legs feel funny?” The brain MUST search for and provide an explanation. “Why are my legs wobbly???” The brain must explain. It’s human nature. If there’s an explanation there’s got to be a solution.

Searching for an explanation can occur below the threshold of consciousness. You don’t even know you’re doing it. The attempt to explain physiological sensations can be too subtle for the conscious mind.

Only one or two seconds have passed. Ah-Ha!!! The brain has found a reason for the wobbly legs!!!! “Mommy, what if I fall in front of everyone? I feel like I’m going to fall!”

What do you think most Mommies say? I hope you take the poll before reading any further! We’ll have lots of fun if you do!

 

The problem isn’t the wobbly legs. Agreed? The wobbly legs are a symptom of the problem. If we only talk about the wobbly legs, then we address the symptom but not the cause.

“You’re not going to fall. Your legs are very strong.” In this response the focus is on the legs. But, what’s causing the wobbly legs?  

“Here, drink some water and think about the pizza we’re eating after this.” The focus is on trying to stop worrying about the wobbly legs. Distract. Reassure. “You’ll be just fine.” Don’t think about the pink elephant. Don’t feel the couch against your back.

“The chances of you falling are very low. It’s possible but not probable. So far no one else on that stage has fallen. So you’re not likely to fall either. And I bet they’ve got wobbly legs too.”

Again, the focus is on the wobbly legs not being likely to cause a fall. Why won’t this work? Because that little brain of his quickly calculated that he could be the one and only kid that falls.


In this precious moment, this boy has an opportunity to learn a life lesson. This is the kind of lesson that will carry him through many rough times in his life.

The answer to his question, “Mommy, what if I fall” has the power to rewrite the script playing in his mind.

The way you answer your question also has the power to rewrite your inner thinking patterns. Even though your thought patterns are automatic due to practice and repetition you can retrain your brain.

Let’s talk about the little boy’s wobbly legs for a minute. We all agree that the problem isn’t his wobbly legs. Right? It’s his anxiety.

Anxiety is felt physically. In nerve endings. In muscles-tense or weak. Aches. Pains. Twitches. In breath-fast or slow. In the skin-clammy or itchy. The racing heart. Upset stomach. Tremors. Saliva.

There’s nerve endings everywhere so anxiety can be felt anywhere! 

The brain doesn’t like unexplained things. It will notice the physical sensation, create a story to explain the physical sensation, and it will build control mechanisms into the story.

When the brain explains the physical sensation, it won’t automatically consider that it’s just ANXIETY!!! And it certainly won’t conclude that the anxiety is okay. (That part has to be learned.)

Instead the brain will focus on finding a way to stop the discomfort. It will focus on the story, not the anxiety.

How can it be stopped. Hmmmmm, lets think of a story that has control mechanisms. How might this look for the little boy afraid to take the stage?

“If I skip three times and jump up once, I won’t fall.” Does that sound like OCD? The focus is on controlling the situation. The brain created a story that explains the physical sensation and now he has something he can do about it.

He probably won’t fall. So what will the brain conclude? “You didn’t fall because of that skip and jump thing you did. Good job buddy! See! Anytime your legs are wobbly, skip and jump and you won’t fall.” Liar, liar pants on fire!!!

The compulsion has been reinforced in the inner thinking-below the threshold of consciousness. And now the subconscious will run the show. This will easily grow into a habit and soon he won’t even remember why he does what he does.

This little boy has anxiety. Your OCD is young, like him. A three or four year-old part of your mind. It’s only a part of your mind. There are so many other beautiful parts to your mind. But, this part has the potential to run the entire show.

What is the life lesson this little boy has an opportunity to learn? What will make his brain a lean, mean fighting machine? Choose as many answers as you think will be most helpful:

 

The actionable steps for YOU to take are:

  1. Stay focused on the anxiety-not the story that is trying to control the anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t need to be fixed. Notice it, name it and move on. Steer away from the story and go towards the anxiety.
  2. Want the anxiety. Want the thoughts generating the anxiety. “Good, there you are. I need the practice.”
  3. Seek the anxiety. “Let’s see if I can make myself anxious right now and learn to experience it as something making me stronger.”

The anxiety comes from a very young part of you that truly doesn’t know very much about life at all. But, you have all these other beautiful parts of your brain that are very rationale and fun-loving.

Let those parts talk to the little you, who really shouldn’t be leading the way.  

I’ll lead the way now.

“I know you’re afraid and uncomfortable, but I know how to move forward. You can trust me.”

One other actionable step you can take:

To work on rewriting your inner thinking patterns, let’s rewire the messages that are exposed to the mind, but are too subtle for the conscious mind to know about.

Using post-it notes or reminders on your phone, or messages that flash on your computer while you work, write messages like these:

  • I can meet any challenge even though I’m anxious.
  • I’m ready for anything because I don’t mind anxiety.
  • I go after what I want in life even though I’m anxious.
  • Everyday my confidence grows stronger because I’m okay being anxious.

You don’t even have to read them. They’ll be picked up by your subconscious mind.