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How to Cope With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Man cutting grass measured with ruler.

You’re one foot out of your home, and you’re already wondering  if you’ve unplugged your iron or turned off the oven. We’ve all had those kinds of thoughts sometimes, and it is considered entirely normal. But for people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these thoughts can not only be persistent, but constant  Affecting not only their lives but the lives people around them.

OCD Treatment | How to Stop the Thoughts

OCD symptoms include obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that can become so consuming that they interfere with your daily life. According to, OCD is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do things repetitively (i.e. compulsions).

OCD affects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children in the United States. People who are coping with OCD usually notice these thoughts and sensations and realize they are irrational but still, resisting the repetitive behavior is difficult. Medical care professionals recommend therapy, but there are also multiple ways to combat those feelings of uneasiness and compulsive behaviors. Here are some of the things you can try to calm your OCD.

  1. Journal
  2. Refocus
  3. Manage Your Stress
  4. Grey Is Okay
  5. You Don’t Need To Be Perfect
  6. Reward Yourself When You Succeed
  7. Practice Mindfulness

1. Journal

If you have ever seen someone keep a daily food journal or have had one of your own, this process will be an easy one for you. Keeping an OCD journal will help you get to know your obsessive-compulsive disorder better. First, write down every situation that triggers you. Then, write down the thoughts that appear when you find yourself in a situation that triggers your OCD. Finally, write down what you tried, and what succeeded in easing your OCD. It’s important to write down everything possible. With this in mind, try to carry your journal everywhere you go.

Man with obsessive-compulsive disorder journaling to cope with it.
Write Down The Thoughts That Appear When You Find Yourself In A Situation That Triggers Your OCD (Image Source: Shutterstock)

2. Refocus

Refocus your attention, both physically and mentally, when you feel the obsessions and compulsions coming on. There are several ways to do this, many you may even find fun! Remember, every person is different, if one strategy isn’t as effective as you would like, try something else. The more you practice the more you will find a refocusing strategy that works best for you.

Young fitness woman doing jumping jacks or star jump exercise at home.
If You Feel A Compulsion Creeping In, Do A Couple Of Jumping Jacks Or Get Up And Walk Around For A Little Bit (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Some with obsessive-compulsive disorder find physical refocusing techniques very effective. If you feel a compulsion creeping in,  do a couple of jumping jacks or get up and walk around for a little bit. If you are able to take that walk outside, that’s even better. The mental health benefits of nature are immense. 

Try to redirect your thoughts by  humming or singing a song you love, trying to remember words of a song may help distract from your compulsion. Fidget spinners can also be a fun (and silent) way of refocusing. There are many kinds of pocket-sized fidget spinners and gadgets, try experimenting with several kinds to find the one that works best for you. 

For another effective way to mentally refocus is trying to see and listen to everything around you. Literally, tell yourself every detail of what you and hear, after that, focus on what you smell and feel. This is also an effective strategy to ease anxiety and panic attacks. 

Some other clever ideas include trying to name every color you can think of or spelling your name backwards. You can even try using your non-dominant hand to write your name on a piece of paper.

3. Manage Your Stress

No one is at ease when they’re stressed out, and living with obsessive-compulsive disorder is inherently stressful. But stress can aggravate OCD symptoms even more. Make sure you have set aside at least 30 minutes in your day to just recalibrate and distress. That might be different for everyone, but make sure you’re doing what feels good for you — whether that is a quick walk, a few pages of the book you’re currently reading, or a coffee with yourself. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are also very effective ways of preventing and managing inevitable stress. Check out these 5 easy stress reducers that you can do at work or home.

Woman yoga on the beach vintage color.
Yoga, Mindfulness, And Meditation Are Also Very Effective Ways Of Preventing And Managing Inevitable Stress (Image Source: Shutterstock)

4. Grey Is Okay

Life is not all black or white, and it doesn’t need to be. Sometimes you need to find comfort in the middle and teach your mind to be OK with it. Getting accustomed to finding the best middle solution gets you one step closer to letting go and managing your OCD. Every time a situation that triggers you comes along, remind yourself that it is OK to feel uncomfortable for a while. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always a good idea. It’s where the magic happens. Trust the process.

Woman looking at the camera smiling with her fingers in okay gesture.
Every Time A Situation That Triggers You Comes Along, Remind Yourself That It Is OK To Feel Uncomfortable For A While (Image Source: Shutterstock)

5. You Don’t Need To Be Perfect

When it comes to coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, getting into that messy action and letting go of perfectionism can be hard but necessary. When it comes to perfectionism, there are two types of it—healthy and unhealthy. Having good organizational skills and high standards for yourself as well as for others is a good thing. But having high expectations of others, paralyzing anxiety about doing something correctly, or not letting go of past mistakes, can be very discouraging and highly interfere with your quality of life. Check out this article on focusing on progress not perfection for some helpful ideas.

A person's hand arranging office supplies on the table.
Having Good Organizational Skills And High Standards For Yourself As Well As For Others Is A Good Thing (Image Source: Shutterstock)

6. Reward Yourself When You Succeed

Celebrations are very important, no matter how small. While you’re combating OCD, make sure you take time to celebrate small wins, small progress, and small things. Determine the rewards before you achieve any progress so that the prize is always more gratifying than the temptation. You’ll feel motivated if you have a goal you’re striving for. Remember, it does not have to be super expensive or a big reward. Rewards can be as simple as ordering a pizza, taking a long bath with a book, or going out for a coffee. But, don’t be afraid to reward big successes with big rewards!

Woman reading book while relaxing in bath tub with flower petals.
You’ll Feel Motivated If You Have A Goal You’re Striving For (Image Source: Shutterstock)

7. Practice Mindfulness

You probably know what mindfulness is, and if you’re already practicing it, you know how good it can make you feel. Mindfulness is a practice of focusing on present moments and accepting them without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you are becoming self-aware and accept yourself just the way you are. It is a very helpful practice for people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Woman sitting on beach sand and relaxing at sunset time.
Meditation And Benefits Of Yoga Are Huge And Remember That Anxiety Is Like The Ocean (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Mindfulness is a way of accepting your intrusive thought and letting them exist in your mind without giving them any significance. You are experiencing it, but you are not judging it, trying to change it or make it go away. You just let it exist and let it pass instead of trying to think whether it should be there in the first place.

While there are many helpful techniques to practice mindfulness, you’ll start small and gradually increase whatever feels right if you’re a beginner. Try incorporating exercise into your daily routine and pair it with mindful eating. Nutrition and mental health are deeply connected. Sleep is vital, so make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. Go to bed early and get up earlier. Determine who are the toxic people in your life and stay away from them. Meditation and benefits of yoga are huge and remember that anxiety is like the ocean. It’s not always going to be smooth sailing, and the waves will come crashing in. Whatever the case is, remember to keep your head above the water—it will pass.