Tag Archives: OCD strategies

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, being afraid and unable to move or fight probably kept you out of harm’s way once when you were a child. But, now you’re more experienced and it’s safe 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:

If You Don’t Celebrate Your Victories Over OCD: The Cold, Hard/Ugly Truth

I asked my client who recently attended a wedding,“Why was everyone celebrating? What’s the accomplishment?”

Two People Found Each Other

She paused for a long time. “Hmmm, I guess it’s a celebration of two people finding each other?” I asked, “And you celebrated that?” My client smiled and said, “I know what you’re doing.” She was on to me.

This client, once unable to take three steps without a lengthy ritual, danced the entire night at a wedding reception—completely ritual free! There’ve been so many victories over the last few months. And not once has she ever celebrated. Not one tiny little whoot whoot! 

I asked my client, “What? What do you think I’m doing?”

She said, “You’re wondering if I celebrated my own accomplishment. You’re wondering if I did a little happy dance for myself.”

I moved to the edge of my seat in anticipation, “Yes! Yes! I’m wondering if at any point you twirled around on that dance floor and shouted with glee, “I’m free! I’m free!” She replied, “Oh God no. I’m not ever going to do that!”

This woman is doing the hardest thing she’ll ever do in her life. She’s defying OCD. She’s been disobedient and doing the opposite of what OCD tells her to do for months now.

OCD says leave. She stays. OCD says don’t think about this. She thinks about it more. OCD warns, “Do this (ritual) or something bad is going to happen.” She says, “Nah, that’s ok. Whatever happens, happens.”

Time and time again, my client proves to be more powerful than OCD. Everyday she’s winning more and more battles! If OCD kicks it up a notch, she powers right through it. She says, “Oh yeah OCD??? Watch this OCD! You’re not the boss of me anymore!”

And yet she won’t celebrate. 😦

Reasons Why People With OCD Won’t Celebrate Their Victories 

No Plan or Intention
I forgot all about celebrating. I planned the exposure but didn’t think about what I could do to celebrate. It just slipped my mind.

The Hustle
Isn’t it about the climb more than the top of the mountain? No pain—No gain. If I’m not suffering something’s not right. I thought I was supposed to be suffering all the time?

It’s Too Soon
I’ll celebrate later. I’m not where I want to be. I haven’t done enough. I’ve got a long way to go before I should start celebrating.

Minimizing the Victory
There’s people with far worse problems than me. I’m so ashamed of being self-absorbed by my worries. There’s people starving in this world.

I Don’t Know How to Celebrate
I can’t think of anything to reward myself with. There isn’t anything I want or need. I don’t know how to acknowledge what I’ve done. I feel silly.

Why would I celebrate doing something that everybody else can easily do? I’m not going to celebrate over some piddly little thing I should have been able to do a long time ago.

Too Focused On What’s Wrong or Not Working
Sure I pulled that off. So what! What good did it do? Even though I did the exposure I’m still anxious and the thought is still there.

There’s No Point
Why should I celebrate? Sure, today was a victory but tomorrow that’s another story. Tomorrow everything could go back to the way OCD wants it. Who’s to say all my success today will be repeated tomorrow?

Don’t Want to Jinx It
160_F_53866595_awc4UOHXfDnVkShtYcVwUcGMbKnfXY3xI don’t want to let my guard down by celebrating. As soon as I acknowledge that I’m doing pretty good, OCD will throw a bomb at me. I don’t think it’s smart to say anything positive right now. I’ll jinx myself.

What’s Your Reason? Have I missed yours? When you are victorious over OCD, what keeps you from celebrating? Is it mentioned above or do you have one to add? Please let us know! You can add it anonymously in the comment section.

The cold, hard/ugly truth is that without acknowledging your victories it can take twice as long to be healthy and free!

If your child or best friend gave you any of the above reasons for not celebrating a victory would you say, “Yeah, you’re right. You can’t celebrate.”

Why Celebrate?
People with OCD often ask, “How can I stop all this chatter in my head?” “I’m feeling like this will never get better.” If you really want to influence your thoughts and feelings, then celebrate your victories!

Celebrate to generate motivation. Feel better. Release the happy juice: dopamine. Celebrating is the foundation to success!

No matter how tiny or small you think your victory is, CELEBRATE! Cultivate a positive mindset with a happy dance! This is scientifically proven so why not try it out!160_F_71169979_lUqsaleU33MIAROqijSVU9iIMj7VG6xr

When to Celebrate

  • OCD told you to leave and you stayed
  • OCD told you to stay and you left
  • OCD told you to stop think a thought less and you thought it more
  • OCD told you to sanitize and you got dirty
  • OCD told you to go back and check and you shrugged ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and kept going
  • OCD told you something bad could happen and you said, “Whatever happens, happens. I’ll deal with it if and when it happens.”
  • OCD questioned your morals or intentions and you said, “We’ll just never know. Oh well.”
  • OCD questioned your health and you said, “I don’t want to live in a small little bubble.”
  • OCD suggested other people are more adequate than you and you said, “I’d rather just go ahead and be inadequate than agonize over whether or not I’m adequate.”
  • OCD tells you to keep doing it (ritual) until you feel just right and you say, “I’d rather feel just wrong.”
  • OCD tells you that you’re going to end up all alone you say, “Then I can leave the dishes in the sink as long as I want!”

160_F_97775477_0t8rTFkU6nsuY7ZZ5NK7SaIvKlSmSHzIWhenever you do the opposite of what OCD tells you to do, it’s time to CELEBRATE!

How to Celebrate
Here’s the thing about celebrating. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate. What matters is that you consistently do something that tells your brain you are pleased or even happy about something you did. It doesn’t have to be a glamorous affair. But it can be! 😜

Let us know in the comment section how you like to celebrate!

Think of all the rituals and compulsions you’re willing to use to cultivate a mindset of fear and avoidance. You’ve been etching this groove in your brain long enough! It’s time to flip it and cultivate a positive mindset! Put some thought and muscle into celebrating!!!

And for those of you who don’t celebrate because you don’t feel like it—do it anyway. It can help. Check out this link: Go Here From the book, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

If you aren’t celebrating, you can’t blame it on OCD. You’re getting in your own way of freeing your mind. Freeing your life.

What are you going to celebrate today and how are you going to do it?


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How to Break Free From the OCD Chatter

OCD is quite a chatter box.  During the course of therapy a client will inevitably ask me, “When is this chatter going to stop?” Even 160_F_73837678_GpTq1pfrh5UXtP7jBB5lScBNsXTMPfjVthough the client is doing everything they need to be doing, OCD just won’t shut up! 

I reply with blazing hope. Be patient. You can bear all things during therapy with patience. When the going gets rough hang in there. Don’t quit! I’ve seen 100’s of clients get better, just when they thought they never would.

It’s as if there’s a switch in the brain and it suddenly gets flipped on. When this happens it’s visible on the clients face. After many weeks, sometimes months the client is transformed. And I say, “It’s nice to finally meet you.” And we laugh. It feels so good. 

But it wasn’t easy getting there. Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) is the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Believe me, pablo-118OCD will tell you not to do it! Every nerve ending in your body will tell you to stop.

Acceptance and Commitment(ACT) therapy is mental Kung Fu. Reverse psychology. Letting the thoughts be there and doing nothing to “fix” them. Agreeing with the thoughts and letting your core values drive your behavior no matter how you feel.

Practicing ERP and ACT is tedious work. There’s a lot of repetition. Things aren’t clear right away. It’s uninspiring at first. Once you disprove OCD it gets a little more inspiring and empowering. But in the beginning and middle it’s slow, tiresome and the symptoms are often unrelieved. 

Patience is the hero. It’s magical. It will protect you while you slowly plod forward. It’s the capacity to accept or tolerate suffering. It’s the ability to continue moving forward despite the lack of relief. 

I made a video for you (see below) and when I finished I had a craving for something sweet. I don’t eat much sugar so I found a bag of very old fortune cookies. I grabbed one and cracked it open to read the fortune. I couldn’t believe the message! Unbelievable!

I can't believe the timing of this message!
I can’t believe the timing of this message!

Check out this video I made for you!



Should I Say My Obsessions Out Loud?

The other day I was reading a Q & A Website where people with OCD post their questions. Here’s one that was very popular and had several hundred views:

160_F_63199233_ThCX9qqGz550zQt6Onbfq8uMAnkyQUEj“Hello I was wondering if it’s normal for someone with OCD to have to say some of their intrusive thoughts out loud for them to go away?”

In April I wrote a blog post every day and my favorite part was not writing the blog (although I enjoyed it very much). It was reading everybody’s comments and cultivating an ongoing discussion. Since I miss that part, for today I decided to post the above question and encourage ya’ll to comment and check back through the week to keep the discussion going. 

I’d like to do this every once in awhile so if you have a question you want me to ask in a future post tell me!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you! As always I’ll make sure your response is anonymous!

Hi! Last week I posted the above question. We had some great comments. Please be sure to read them! Today, I replied to each comment for this week’s post. I also included a “Reassurance Quiz” below:


Why You Should Stop Letting OCD Lie to You

160_F_22448988_AeAszQACa4W74iTlgpGB0SdgLVAAykJzI just can’t believe what a liar OCD is and how much it gets away with. Listen to these lies that OCD has people believing:

It’d be better to be sedated and drooling if it means stopping these horrible thoughts. 

Use this cancer-causing hand sanitizer excessively and get rid of all the good bacteria. At least you’ll feel clean and safe right now (for a few seconds.)

Starvation is better. Seriously. You might look sick and frail but at least people won’t be thinking you’re overweight.

Skip your five year old’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s so that you don’t get sick. When he gets home he can immediately take a shower and put his clothes in the trash. Then you can hug him and ask him about his party.

Stay at work 16 hours to triple check your work. You’ll miss your niece’s play if that’s what you have to do. You’ll have to go into the dark parking lot and hopefully not get mugged. But you can’t leave work until you’re 100% sure there’s no mistakes.

Do this over and over until it feels just right. Miss your son’s wedding if you have to. But, if you don’t do this until it feels just right, something bad will happen to him.

It’s better to fail every class. Don’t touch that backpack with books in it from that filthy school. It’d be better to fail than to get sick.

Even if you have to sell your house to pay for all the medically unnecessary emergency room visits it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take your chances of getting cancer from all the X-rays. It’s better to get some relief and be able to sleep tonight. Get another X-ray or you’ll be up all night worrying.

Jump down these stairs and skip nine steps. You could break a leg but it’s the only way to keep something bad from happening to your Mom.

Do you see what all of these stories have in common? They’re all lies, yes. OCD really knows how to pull the wool over eyes. But, there’s something worse about these lies. It’s the terrible risks being taken as a result of the lies. The reason you should stop letting OCD lie to you is that the lies are actually dangerous!

No matter what the obsession is—it all boils down to one thing. Risk. Whatever you’re afraid of is not nearly as risky as the path OCD wants you to take. It may feel less risky to be led by OCD but clearly by reading the above lies, it’s dangerous to follow OCD.

There are two paths. One is overgrown and hard to get through. 160_F_83290911_WoWhtSPYFpifOypCXA6fLq1Jry0yLcmi160_F_85759585_cjg5y6wODUTDtcQycIopZH7AH9ccFYohYou’ll need a machete and you’ll have to work hard. The other path is clear and well-traveled by you. It’s easier to be on the path you travel most often. But, the best path is not necessarily the one most traveled or the one that feels familiar. 

OCD has a crooked little finger enticing you to take the path that feels better. The relief is only temporary and meanwhile you’ve done something harmful to yourself or someone else. Sometimes you’ve just got to get mad at OCD and say enough of the lies. It’s time for truth. The truth is that OCD is always causing harm in some way.

If you have OCD you’re being lied to. Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes. Say, “I know you OCD. I see you. The risk I’m going to take is the same risk I see other people taking. I don’t need to take special precautions.”

Today I’m not picturing OCD (as I often do) as the two year old just asking a lot of nonsense questions. Today I’m taking punches at the liar.  

Jab, jab, RIGHT HOOK. Are you with me?

One Way Repetitive Behavior Actually Defies OCD

Early this week at 6:30am I noticed high school students were parking on my lawn. This has never happened before and I had no idea what was going on. I live in a quiet neighborhood where there is very little traffic. These students were about to turn my lawn into a parking lot. I spent the morning making students move their car. 

Long row of cars parked on city centre road

I approached one student as he was exiting his BMW convertible. In a very matter-of-fact tone I said, “You can’t park here.” He continued to get his backpack out of the car seat. I repeated, “You can’t park here.” He demanded, “Says who?” I shrugged and said, “You need to move your car.” He slung his backpack over his shoulder and said, “What’s your problem? This street is on the list.” I thought, “What list? What’s he talking about?” I began to doubt myself. But, I calmly repeated, “You can’t park here.” He looked exasperated and glared at me. A few explicit words escaped his mouth. My affect remained flat or unfazed. “You need to move your car.” He threw his backpack in his car, flipped me the bird, and squealed away.

I called the high school and was told that students were no longer allowed to park on the street they’d been parking on all year. She said, “I knew it. I predicted they would go to your street. They’re cutting through people’s lawns to access the back of the school. These kids are bad news. They’ll trash your lawn. Call the police.” I asked about “The List.” She said there is no list. “You better call the police. These kids will make your life miserable.”

I called the police and an officer came to hear my complaint. He told me school was almost out for the year. “Be patient, it’ll only be for a couple more weeks.” He warned me, “They might get nasty. There could be vandalism.” I shrugged. “Vandalism could happen anytime. I’ve been through it before. It was unpleasant but I got through it.” I told him that if I let them park on the street the risk would be far worse than vandalism. “Clearly a fire engine would not be able to get through if these students park here.” He looked down the street and saw no car was impeding a fire engine’s passage. (I wanted to argue: That’s because I made them all move! But, I resisted getting into a back and forth exchange with him.) He said, “I don’t see an issue here.” I repeated, “I’m not going to let them park here. I value the safe passageway of a fire engine too much. I also value the solitude of my neighborhood.”

He glared at me. Once again I told the officer I had no intention of letting them park on the street today, tomorrow or next year. He tried to appease me, “Just allow this for two more weeks. We’ll have no-parking signs next year.” I repeated, “I’m not going to allow them to park here. I will tell them to move.” He looked exasperated, “You have no authority. One foot of your property belongs to the town. Technically they can have their wheels on one foot of your property.” I repeated, “I will not allow them to park on this street. I will be here every morning at 6:30am. I invite you to join me.”

I have all the names of the students and even the police officer. I’m going to post their names in this blog right now for all to see. Their names are…OCD.

OCD can act like a know-it-all and zap you of all your power. Like the student who challenged, “Says who?”

It can make you think you’re in the wrong or that you don’t know enough to make a good decision. OCD lies all the time! Like the student who said there was a LIST I didn’t know about. 

OCD can be intimidating and forceful. Like the student and the officer that glared at me.

Before you know it, you’re second guessing yourself. OCD can convince you, “Just this one time. Just do this compulsion for now. You won’t always have to do this. But to be safe, do it for now.” Like the officer who threatened there could be vandalism if I didn’t do as he said.

OCD can talk you into ignoring your values or convince you to take a bigger risk just to avoid a minimal risk. Like the officer who tried to get me to believe vandalism would be worse than a house burning down.

My strategy is the same strategy to use with OCD:

1. I mostly repeated myself over and over. No matter what I was asked or told, I sounded like a broken record. In essence it was as if I was saying, “It’s not up for discussion. This is what I’m doing no matter what you say. End of discussion.”

2. I shrugged a lot. Even though I was nervous and angry, I kept a matter-of-fact tone of voice. I offered no explanations.

3. The only time I did anything other than repeat myself was when I told the officer I would not compromise my values and if the going got rough as he warned, it’d be unpleasant but I’d handle it.

4. I invited the officer to come along as I faced each morning. Instead of always being surprised by OCD, invite it to show up.

Use this same strategy with OCD. There is no better way to respond to OCD.

As I promised, every day of this week I’ve been in my front yard from 6:30am-8:00am. Students drove down my street, slowed as if ready to park, and saw me. I acknowledged them with a nod and they quietly moved on. The police showed up a couple of times but had no interaction with me other than to ask if I saw which way a car went. Actually today not one student even drove down my street.

Finally, I want to say that when facing hardship ask “What does this make possible?” What did this parking fiasco make possible for me? At first I considered charging students $35 a day to park on my lawn. LOL! I could’ve made at least $280 a day! But, what it truly made possible is that I got a lot of yard work done! 

OCD loves to get you to rewind and replay. It can trick you into analyzing something for hours. When resisting a compulsion or repetitive mental act tell OCD “NO. End of discussion.”

Have you told OCD it’s not up for discussion? Do you sound like a broken record?

Defy OCD: Never Forget How Again

After you’ve been tricked by OCD have you ever said, “I forgot to use my tools. I forgot I even had tools!” Well, never forget again! Here’s an amazing “To DO List” to help you remember what to do! 

Diverse Hands Holding the Words To Do List

Be Super Better Every Day
When you wake up in the morning, do you have a plan? Make sure you set a daily goal to DEFY OCD. Everyday is April Fool’s Day with OCD. You must be prepared for the tricks! You can’t afford to drift. As soon as your feet hit the floor know what you’ll do today to defy OCD. 

Don’t Have to Feel Determined to Be Determined
It’s hard work to get better every day. How will you muster all your effort? Put one foot in front of the other whether you want to or not. Get mad at OCD if you have to. Enough is enough!!! Be strong, motivated and optimistic even when facing obstacles. Stick to the plan no matter what! The quality of your life is only as good as your stick-to-it-ive-ness.

 Keep Score
How are you doing with Exposures? Are you resisting compulsions? Keep track of your progress. Are you building momentum and taking on harder challenges each day? Who’s getting the most points: You or OCD? Tally up the score at the end of the day. You don’t have to win every battle but you do have to win the day.

Positivity & Gratitude
Are you doing a good job of managing your emotions from negative to positive? In the face of adversity, ask “What does this make possible?” This means focusing on blessings and appreciating others. Gratitude is the great sanitizer!

Fuel and Fitness
Are you making your brain a lean mean fighting machine through exercise, rest and healthy eating? Are you pushing yourself but making sure you properly recharge? Sleeping too much is too much recovery. Always seek a balance between chaos and rigidity when it comes to eating, sleeping and exercising.

Focus is a Choice
What are you paying attention to? Are you laser focused on what you’re fighting for or what you’re afraid of? Are you exercising your focus muscles with meditation or mindfulness exercises? Have you tried juggling, playing an instrument or coloring?

Are you driven by your values?
What are you fighting for? How do you remind yourself of why you’re working so hard to defy OCD. Have you made a collage or written a script that reflects your hopes and dreams? Are you going to let OCD rob you of “first times?” What’s more important—family or OCD? What is it that you value and let those values drive your behavior.

Do you accept the anxiety and agree the goal is to tolerate anxiety not get rid of it? When you’re triggered and getting anxious do you say, “Good. There’s my anxiety. I want this so I can practice tolerating it.” -OR- When you get triggered do you start analyzing the content until you’re blue in the face? Let go or be dragged.

Put OCD in the Corner!
Don’t have a back-n-forth conversation with OCD. Don’t answer one more question. As soon as you ask “WHY” or “WHAT” STOP!!! You’re about to go down the rabbit hole. “What if…” “What does this thought mean?” “What if I’m a bad person?” “Why does this feel like…” IT’S OCD! Don’t converse with it! The first question you answer will lead to months of never-ending questions. You’ll get stuck in the hamster wheel. Say, “It’s not up for discussion!” “End of discussion OCD!” “You’re in the corner. I see you but I’m not discussing this with you!”

Here and Now
There are three doors: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Which door does your thought belong behind? Rewinding and replaying memories belong in yesterday’s door. Whatever happened has already happened. There’s nothing to do about it today. If it’s a worry about what could happen, it hasn’t happened yet so it goes behind tomorrow’s door. When tomorrow comes, ask again what door does that worry go behind. The only thought that needs your attention is a thought that requires action in the next 30-60 minutes. Action meaning tasks to be completed. Tasks that are constructive and healthy.

Stop Wishing and Cancel the Pity Party
“It’s not fair. Why me?” “Nobody understands.” “I’m different.” “I wish I didn’t have OCD.” “I just wish I could be normal—like everybody else.” The more you wish the more you suffer.

Stay connected
The smaller your world becomes the bigger OCD gets. Don’t isolate. Don’t call in sick. Don’t cancel plans with friends. Keep on keeping on. Create plenty of space between you and OCD. Alone in your home is very close quarters for you and OCD. Take OCD out into the world with you—invite it to join you! But, be in the world.

Don’t give up your power ever again. Use this “To DO List” on a daily basis to be proactive and stay one step ahead of OCD.  It truly is possible to outwit, outsmart and outplay OCD. Stay alert and use this “To DO List!”

How to Stop Drifting and Start Defying OCD

160_F_104942289_OG15RaCiY8rHeyNh8qFqcIh99VDa1cMFWithout a plan to defy OCD you’re operating on automatic pilot. Which means you’re not paying attention to what you really want in life and going for it. You might be getting through the day—but barely.

If you have unwanted intrusive thoughts and you’re on automatic pilot, then you’re spending a lot of time in your head trying to analyze whether or not you’re a good person or bad person. You’re seeking reassurance asking people over and over, “Is this really OCD?” You’re spending a lot of time doing “magical” compulsions. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you’re so hyper-vigilant, looking for signs of danger.

If you’re on automatic pilot and have contamination fears, then your day centers around avoiding people, objects, surfaces. Almost every move you make requires a scan of the environment. You’re seeking a lot of reassurance, “is this safe?” or getting people to touch things for you. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you’re having to be so hyper-vigilant.

If you’re on automatic pilot and have “just right” OCD then you’re spending a lot of time thinking and doing repeated compulsions until you feel just right. Your life is driven by feelings not values. You’re constantly trying to fix a bad feeling. People around you are affected because all activity must stop until you feel just right. Living your life with joy and purpose is difficult because you can’t do much of anything until you feel right.

If you have no plan to defy OCD you’re drifting. And if you’re drifting you’re going nowhere fast. It’s a life of desperation filled with guilt and avoidance. OCD is in charge and it’s running you ragged. Without a plan all your hopes and dream pass you by.

You can beat and defy OCD if you take yourself off automatic pilot. Make a plan. Stick to the plan no matter what. If you stick to the plan you’ll have a life of joy and purpose.

During the month of April I’ve posted on my blog every day about the sort of plan you need to defy OCD. The plan consists of four proven components that spell out the word DEFY:

Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP)
Fitness: Mental & Physical
Yielding with a shrug

While it was sometimes challenging to find the time to do it, I’ve enjoyed writing about all of these components for the last 30 days. Thank you to all of you who have posted comments. Those were my favorite part of this challenge!

If you haven’t had the time to read them, please do because all of them will be removed from “Blog it Back” by May 4th.

Perfection: One of OCD’s Most Favorite Traps

160_F_68429999_0pBv8U33AMDkI3T3R3eeCzz8ChuE2XOsWhen I was a kid my brothers and I played in the woods all the time. We fished near the railroad tracks and loved waiting for the trains to pass. For hours we’d pick berries and look for salamanders. We built forts out of sticks and stones. One time we challenged each other to see who could build the highest wall with bricks from the remains of an old house. I used only perfect bricks. All of them were intact and of the same size. They all laid on top of each other just right. My brothers used bricks that were jagged and broken and they were all different sizes. Not only did they build one wall, they built four walls. I only had enough bricks to build one wall, which wasn’t nearly as high as the four walls my brothers built.

Not only did my brothers win the contest, they also had a lot more fun. I was tied up in finding perfect bricks and there weren’t many of them around. It was frustrating and time-consuming. Had I just shrugged and used bricks of any size, shape or condition I would have had an entirely different experience. I watched my brothers laughing and making progress. I was grumpy and getting nowhere fast.

OCD is very fond of perfection. It’s one of its most favorite traps. OCD can get you to spend hours doing a compulsion or mental act until it feels “just right” or in other words, perfect. I know people who work 17 hour days because they’re trying to do everything perfectly and make no mistakes. On the flip side, if you don’t have the time to get it right or perfect, OCD convinces you to avoid or procrastinate. For example people with lengthy bathing rituals will skip bathing if they don’t have time to shower to perfection.

This is where knowing how to yield comes in handy. Yielding means to never argue against OCD’s threats. Don’t ever try to prove it wrong. Arguing with OCD is like gasoline to the fire. When OCD starts talking perfection it’s important to yield to imperfection. This is what yielding sounds like:

OCD: Don’t stop until you get it right.
YOU: Nah, that’s okay. I’m going to just wrong it today.
OCD: Something bad will happen if you don’t get it right.
YOU: Yeah, that’s possible. I agree with you. I’ll take my chances.
OCD: If you don’t do this until it feels just right you’re going to not be able to concentrate the rest of the day. You’re going to go nuts until you scratch the “itch.”
YOU: Yeah, this urge is going to be driving me nuts all day. Oh well. It’s going to be a tough day. That’s for sure.
OCD: Things are really going to go bad. I strongly suggest you get this right. Do it now and get it over with.
YOU: I totally agree with you. Something bad might happen. I’m willing to take the risk.

It’s scary to surrender and admit defeat. But the byproduct is 160_F_85369006_nVqc9ff9NOJWrlFxvSkyKvM6mIZDg5LJmuch more productivity and freedom. Had I used all the imperfect bricks I might have had a fighting chance to win, but more importantly I would have had a blast.

This is day 29 of a 30 day challenge. Here is the challenge: Recognize when OCD is trying to trap you into feeling “just right.” Practice shrugging. Admit defeat. And get on with the day. Accept it may be hard. You can handle hard. Being bossed around by OCD isn’t any easier.

Defying OCD: What It Takes Isn’t What You Think

If you really want to defy OCD, and need to do it because it’s interfering with your life, and you have the skills to do it—is that enough? Will you be able to defy OCD if you’ve got all three working in harmony? No! It’s not enough.


My sister who’s in her 50’s entered an Ironman last summer at Lake Placid. On this enormous day she had a stomach bug and blisters on her feet. An runner’s worst fears. Being a spectator at the Ironman is very stressful. You see people quit throughout the day because of blisters or cramping. As a spectator, hours pass between checkpoints so you have no idea how your loved one is doing. There’s an app that tells us when a mile marker has been crossed. But that doesn’t tell us much. Only that she’s behind. We were worried most of the 16 hours. My sister swam, bicycled and ran for a total of 16 hours that day. At different check points we cheered her on. Early in the day she looked like she wasn’t going to make it. Later in the day she didn’t even notice us at the check points. She was in some kind of trance, repeating the word “BELIEVE” over and over. With just minutes to spare, around 11:45pm she crossed the finish line. 

It only took a couple of days to get the Ironman tattoo
It only took a couple of days to get the Ironman tattoo

I asked her how she worked 16 straight hours like that with a stomach bug and blisters. She told me that she yielded and shrugged a lot. “This having to stop at the Porta Potty all the timeis not fun. It’s destroying my time. <shrug> So what, nobody said this would be fun.” “I’m so tired. <shrug> Well, who isn’t?” “I’ve got blisters on my feet. <shrug> So what’s new?” She wasn’t thinking like a victim, feeling like a victim or acting like a victim. She shrugged at every possible obstacle.

Here’s why I know determination is a mindset. I asked her if she felt determined to finish no matter what. She replied, “No I didn’t feel determined but I was determined.” You don’t have to feel determined to be determined. I told her I noticed she kept repeating the word, “believe” and asked her what she meant by it. She said, “I don’t know I just kept saying it. I was having a hard time believing I was going to finish. I just kept repeating it to stay focused.”

My sister wanted to complete this Ironman badly, she needed the success because she didn’t want to train for another, and she had the skill to do it since she trained for over one year. Her body was a lean mean fighting machine. But, focused attention and determination is what made my sister an Ironman. All the training certainly helped and the desire and need helped to motivate. But, what got her to cross the finish line was shrugging at anything that tried to steal her attention away from being determined.

This is day 28 of a 30 day challenge. Now that you’ve looked at your wants, needs and skills do you think it’s enough? Is it all you need to defy OCD? Can you accept the challenge to work on focusing your attention on defying OCD. Staying so focused that nothing distracts you from being determined? Let us know what you decide!