Stress Management Techniques for OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. Many stress management techniques can help reduce anxiety and thus reduce the suffering OCD causes. While medications and psychotherapy also play an important role in managing OCD, stress management techniques can help you get through particularly difficult situations and manage your daily ups and downs.

Basic Self-Care Skills

  • Eat well. Take the time to eat balanced, nutritious meals, and allow meal times to be as peaceful as possible. Good nutrition combats stress.
  • Sleep well. Turn off all devices 30 minutes before bed, and let your transition into sleep be separate from “screen time.” This is a perfect time to meditate or practice some restorative yoga poses.
  • Don’t self-medicate. If your current medications and coping skills really aren’t working, talk with your doctor. Don’t use alcohol or recreational drugs to alleviate your OCD symptoms. This becomes a vicious cycle in which you will quickly feel more anxious.
  • You don’t necessarily have to join a gym or do “workouts.” Consider adding exercise into your life by volunteering to walk dogs at the local shelter. Or join a hiking or bicycling club. Being outdoors has been shown to be beneficial to both physical and mental health!

Stress Management Techniques

  • Belly breathing. Great for immediate relief, belly breathing is easy and can be done anywhere — seated, standing or lying down. Place your hands on your belly and slowly inhale, allowing the lower belly to expand and “puff out” with your breath. Repeat until you feel less anxious.
  • Progressive relaxation. A tried-and-true method of stress reduction, this practice of tightening individual muscles and then releasing them is an excellent technique to try in a stressful situation, like waiting in a doctor’s office or preparing for a job interview.
  • Yoga, tai chi, or other mind-body practices, can help you stretch, tone and relax. If attending a class is difficult or stress-inducing, you can get excellent introductory books from a local library.
  • Take a bath! Some people find soaking in a tub incredibly relaxing and renewing.
  • Learn to meditate. You can find classes, online resources and books that can teach this simple practice.

Combining stress management techniques with solid self-care skills, taking your medications as prescribed, and working hard in your psychotherapy — this is the formula for living well with OCD.   Sources:

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