Managing your stress levels and lifestyle can play an essential part in dealing with OCD but the difficult times that we are now living through have made it a lot harder. Restrictions on what we can do, news reports about COVID-19, and anxiety about our health and that of our loved ones have all taken a toll.
Stress and OCD
Stress is a common trigger for OCD symptoms. Many people find that their symptoms get worse or more difficult to manage when they are feeling worried or upset about something. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many difficult emotions that have persisted for a long time. Many of us have been feeling anxious, uncertain about the future, or stressed about changes to our finances or personal situations. For those of us who are affected by OCD, this stress can exacerbate our symptoms.
When you are stressed, you may find that your OCD symptoms occur more often or seem more intense. You might spend more time managing irrational fears, intrusive thoughts, or compulsive behaviours. You may also notice new thought patterns, anxieties or behaviours that you haven’t experienced before. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might notice symptoms that are linked to your experiences of lockdown or to the news coverage you have seen.
Stress doesn’t cause OCD, but for those of us who are affected by this condition, it can trigger or worsen symptoms. Reducing stress in our lives and finding ways of coping with it can play an important part in managing OCD. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has given us an additional source of anxiety, we can still use the same techniques to manage our stress levels and deal with OCD.
Tips for Managing Stress When You Have OCD
- A healthy lifestyle can have a big impact on your stress levels as well as your general physical and mental wellbeing. Make sure you are eating well, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. You should notice the impact on your mood and health, which should help with your OCD symptoms too.
- Remove sources of stress if you can. Although it isn’t always possible to eliminate the causes of stress it is important to be aware of what triggers your worries. You may be able to avoid or reduce some of these triggers, for example by asking for more support at work or around the home.
- Find healthy ways of managing your stress. We all feel upset or anxious sometimes so it is important to know how to relieve these feelings. Talking to a friend, practicing yoga or mindfulness, going for a walk, listening to music, or just taking some time for yourself could all help. It’s important to find something that works for you.
- Keep using your CBT techniques, medication or other OCD treatments to manage your condition and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or your symptoms get worse.
- Only rely on reputable sources of information on COVID-19 and limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading them. Talk to your doctor if you’re finding it overwhelming or having trouble coping.