My 10 Personal Work Rules To Reduce Work Stress (Office Jobs)

My career before kids, I was a paper-pusher in office administration, usually working directly under the big boss.  I loved it, but every week was the same chaotic cycle.  Mondays, were dreadful.  Tuesday’s required more coffee.  Wednesday’s were bliss.  Thursday’s, ran on pixie dust and genie wishes.  And, Friday’s were absolutely carefree.  Even though that seems a little crazy, it was normal for the industry; however, I was able to handle massive amounts of work, ridiculous requests, hostile phone calls, and meet unreasonable deadlines on a daily basis without losing my mind.14460862-Doodle-style-inbox-image-with-a-huge-pile-of-documents-to-be-processed-indicating-business-work-or-s-Stock-Vector

Sure, time management and organization played a huge part in dealing with heavy work loads, but I believe personal work rules are important to maintaining good mental health.

Over the years, to cope with work stress, I created personal rules for myself at work.  It is okay to have personal work rules, so long as they do not get you fired.  Here are my 10 rules I followed to keep me stress free and sane at work:

#1. Don’t be afraid of getting fired!  It’s okay!  

Sometimes we get stressed out, because we fear we might get fired; especially, if we are struggling to push through so much overwhelming work.  Employer expectations can be intimidating; however, they often put out unrealistic expectations to purposely create fear to drive productivity.

A good employer knows that working too hard is bad for your health, both physically and mentally.   In many cases, employers don’t really pay attention to their strict productivity policies, unless someone is purposely falling behind in their work or disrupting the work environment.   If, in good faith you are doing your best to keep up on work flow, you are generally not at risk for the pink slip.  You might be bombarded with intimidating productivity memos,  but, if these memos are not directed at you personally, it generally isn’t something to worry about.

And if you are wondering; yes, I’ve been let go once.  The big boss called me into their office, told me that my position no longer exists, handed me a sturdy cardboard box (that was kind of them), told me to pack up my things and then, had my best friend / co-worker escort me to my car.  It was a nightmare, because I was young, in college, with no savings.  But, I survived unemployment; later realizing had I never been let go, I probably would have missed the opportunites that led me into a successful career in office management.  So, I have learned to never worry about being fired, because when one door slams shut on your face, another little door can open up with bigger opportunities.   It’s difficult, emotional, and also straining on the bank account when unemployed, but it’s not the end of the world.

#2. Never work on a Friday unless absolutely necessary. 

You will rarely, if ever, see me scrambling around to finish work on a Friday.  Whatever didn’t get finish during this week, automatically, gets moved to Monday to be next week’s problem.  Of course, there are some things that pop up on a Friday that need to be completed immediately before going home, but by moving unfinished business to next week, I can focus on those pesky unexpected Friday tasks that need to be done by the end of the day without feeling overwhelmed with endless work.

#3. Bend the rules, just a little and dress comfortably

I’ve always had a tendency of bending the rules; mostly in regards to dress code.  I am a semi-causal kind of gal!  I am not going to sit 8 hours in 5X5 cubicle wearing a 3 piece suit and heels, that is just ridiculous!  I will certainly come into the office wearing what is expected, but you bet there is going to be a comfy sweater, gloves, and a pair of comfortable sneakers or maybe slippers waiting for me at my desk.  Usually, throughout the day I slip into my uncomfortable heels to walk around the office, but then I slip back into my slippers when I am at my desk (nobody knows, if they do, they don’t care).

At one company, they compromised with sneakers around the office so long as I didn’t wear them to meet with clients or in front of the owner who was quite the fashionista!

Dressing comfortably, in my opinion, keeps me productive.  It’s really difficult to focus on work if your feet hurt from uncomfortable formal shoes or you are freezing, because they outlawed comfortable casual sweaters forcing you to bend your arms in a snug suit jacket.  Poor men, I don’t know how they can work wearing a tie strangled around their neck all day!

It is okay to bend rules, just be sure you bend the right rules at a reasonable angle so that you don’t cross boundaries that could result in serious disciplinary action; like walking in with pajama’s and rollers in your hair!  That might be bending the rules a little too far, unless its Pajama Day.

#4. Game Plan Monday’s

The first thing I would do every Monday is make a weekly game plan (prioritize my work).  This involves some nifty time management and organizational skills; however,  by the time Thursday rolls around,  I am sitting with my feet kicked up on my desk, daydreaming about Pina Colada’s and warm toes in the sand, while the rest of the office is running around like chicken’s with their heads cut off.  My point is, following a good game plan for personal work flow, generally gives you free time to slow down, relax, and work at a pace that is stress-free and still productive.  Work smarter, not harder!

#5 Eat outside 

If I had it my way, I would work outside.  Just drag my desk into the court yard and enjoy a beautiful day.  Being stuck indoors everyday could bring on depression or, at the very least, an unproductive bad mood.  I made a rule for myself to eat lunch outside as often as possible, to get a little Vitamin D and fresh air.  I am not a smoker, but I will certainly pretend to be one, if it allows me to get outside for a minute.

#6  Always Keep Something In Your Inbox

I used to think having an empty inbox would grant me some extra downtime, but I learned the hard way, an empty inbox just makes you a prime target for more work, and usually tedious time-consuming work that nobody else wants to do in the department.  I was once assigned to an entire week of staple removal duty to help transition paper records to electronic records.  Sure, sounds like a vacation, until you get back to your desk and discover you are behind in last weeks work.  So, if you want to keep your work load lighter and flowing smoother to reduce stress, always keep something in your inbox!

#7 Smile, Smile, and Smile some more

Every workplace has one!  That annoying, make you sick to your stomach, overly positive, super optimistic, sparkly co-worker.  That is not me.

But, if there is one thing to learn from these sparkly work nymphs, is how powerful and magically transforming a smile can be against the stressful evils one may encounter in the workplace.

I used to work for a particular real estate industry (I shall not name, but pretty sure you can guess) that had to deal with upset, hostile, sometimes violent (I can remember a stapler flying across the lobby) type of people.  Personally, I do not do well with confrontation, especially, when I become distracted by the steam coming out of both ears of an upset client, like on those old Warner Brother cartoons.  Very stressful!  Like you might have a mental breakdown in the middle of the office floor, stressful!  And, I’ve seen it happen too! 

However, I learned that a smile is miraculously powerful in calming down upset, angry, and difficult people.  Face to face, a welcoming smile, calm voice, and a listening ear can diffuse almost any crazy.  It catches upset, angry, people off guard, because they generally pounce into the office screaming for attention, because they feel as if their voice is not being heard.  But, I learned if I approach them with a warm, gentle smile, they have no other choice but to start over in a semi-friendlier civil manner, because the issue they are angry about has nothing to do with me personally and they know it.  Of course, they are still angry, but they become much better to deal with, reducing everyone’s stress levels.

Even more impressive, is the power of a smile when talking on the phone to an angry person.  Smiling while talking on the phone keeps your tone warm, soft, and positive.  As long as you smile, remain calm, courteous, and are willing to listen, you can quickly defuse a hostile conversation to better resolve issues.

I made it a personal rule to smile, because it is good for everyone.  It reduces stress and has the potential to change a negative situation.  You don’t have to be a sparkly work nymph, but it doesn’t hurt to smile every so often.

#8 Offer to help another co-worker during your downtime

Sometimes work can be slow, forcing us to finish everything in our inbox and staring blankly at the clock until 5pm.  Although this may feel like a great break, I often become stressed over feeling guilty for not doing any work at all.  Employers don’t want to see their employees sitting around picking their noses.  To reduce this stress, it is best to offer help to others who may be backed up with their own work.  This way, you are busy working (being productive), you are helping a fellow co-worker (taking an initiative), you don’t get assigned work you don’t want (like staple removing) and furthermore, working on something that you are not responsible for is absolutely stress-free!

#9 Take frequent breaks 

To reduce stress at work, I take frequent breaks.  I don’t disappear from my desk every 15 minutes or for long periods of time.   I simply take a moment to close my eyes, breathe, and stretch my arms and legs at my desk.  I will take on any opportunity to walk around the office (maybe things need to go to the mailroom).  Take a soda, coffee, smoke break and go outside for some fresh air.  There are many opportunities throughout the day for mini-breaks and not all breaks require leaving one’s desk.

Unless you are a cyborg with the capability to work non-stop from 9-5, let your work go for a minute!  No job is worth breaking your back or getting sick over.  Your work will still be waiting for you when you come back.

#10 Change out of your work clothes before going home

I refuse to bring my work home with me and to be sure of it, I always kept a change of clothes at my desk.  Once the clock hit 4:55pm, I would be in the bathroom changing out of my work clothes into my normal comfortable casual clothes (t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops).  I also leave my name tag in my desk drawer or locker.  I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager working at my first job.

Going home in casual clothes reduces a lot of work stress for me.  It allows me to mentally leave work behind when I go home.  Also, walking out of the office wearing casual clothes gives me the feeling of freedom as I don’t have to go home right away to change out of my work clothes.  I can go anywhere!

Creating Personal Work Rules

In the beginning, I had no personal work rules.  I followed every workplace policy as strictly as they were written and found myself a miserable mess.  I eventually realized that workplace policies are just a set of flexible guidelines to ensure workplace order.  Policies dictating workflow are often written with the goal to increase productivity without taking in consideration of an employee’s mental health.  I respect company policies; however, my own health comes first, thus why I decided to create personal work rules for myself to protect my own mental health.

Do you have any personal work rules to help reduce work stress? 

 

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A Mother’s Mental Health

mother-and-child-photo-png-17I am retired.  Well, at least that is what my aunt calls moms, like me, who have transitioned from being a career working woman to a stay-at-home mom.  My aunt can be so cute sometimes; but I am obviously not financially retired nor do I want to be.  I actually miss working 9-5 as a paper-pusher.  I enjoy busy schedules, terrible bosses, gossiping lunch hours, and impossible deadlines.  In short, I like working for the “man,” because at the end of each day, I can walk away from it all without a care in the world left on my shoulders!

As a stay-at-home mom, that is an entirely different story!  At home, I am the “man,” my own frantic boss,  losing hair on a daily basis, working a 24-7 hour schedule, with no vacation time, putting out fires (not real ones) in every direction, constant rocket-science problem solving, budgeting, planning, delegating, and training.  I often imagine this is what it is like running your own business in real life, except with less hazardous waste materials (diapers and snot tissues) and time outs.

I LOVE being a mom and I am entirely grateful for the opportunity to stay home with my kids!  I wouldn’t trade this life for the world, but it sure is one hell of a job being a mom.  Whether I was working a 9-5 job or staying at home, the job responsibilities are still the same.  Being a mom, in general, is one tough job.  Like any job, it can wear you down and take a toll on your mental health.

A Much Needed Mommy Break

Last night, I had one of those moments where I needed a break from being a mom.  I just wanted a couple hours of “me-time.”  Well, a couple of hours of Will Smith time, watching a tv series he was hosting for National Geographic with NASA called, One Strange Rock.  Zoning into a movie or tv series is an effective way for me to relieve stress.  Distracting my busy mind with something, less worrisome.  Although, I am not sure how watching a series that talked about different ways our Sun can destroy our planet to be less worrisome, but apparently, it didn’t bothered me very much.  Probably, because I don’t have “Prepare for Earth’s Doom” listed as my top 3 things to worry about today.

A Tough Mommy Week 

Last week was a tough “Mommy week,” as our youngest was admitted into the hospital for a couple of days on oxygen therapy to assist in fighting off the common cold virus.  We came home this weekend, mentally exhausted with our bodies aching from having slept a couple days on uncomfortable fold-out chairs beside our toddler’s bed in the hospital.  We continued her breathing treatments every 4 hours at home and she is now back to her hyper, happy, normal self.  🙂   As for me, I am absolutely worn out, both physically and mentally!

Last week, I held myself together pretty well.  Mostly,  because it’s not our first rodeo with hospitals.  Our oldest, born a micro-preemie, spent the first 3 months of her life in the NICU, followed by 6 more months on oxygen at home, frequent visits to doctors and specialists, and a couple of years of 3 different types of therapy.  Today, she is a healthy, angry, extremely tiny, super sassy, smart-ass, fire-pistol of a pre-schooler who may one day take over the Universe!

However, this hospital adventure was with our youngest who has never had any medical problems until now.  Fortunately, our experiences with our oldest allowed us to recognize a breathing problem before it became a medical emergency.  But none of that means it wasn’t emotional, stressful, or worrisome.  Having Asthma myself, I know exactly what it feels like working extra hard to breathe; I can feel it in my own muscles as I watched our toddler wheeze and pull in hard from her chest, ribs, and back.  It brought me to tears, because there was nothing I could do to make it stop and the ER, I had brought her to, hit her with all they got with their respiratory arsenal.  Although she wasn’t showing signs of distress, she continued to work too hard to breathe.  Muscles do eventually fatique out putting her at risk of collasping her lungs, so we were transferred to the hospital for breathing assistance while she overcame the worst of her cold.  In the end, they concluded she may have asthma which complicated her cold.  With that, I quickly put the blame on myself, for genetically giving her asthma.

My Personal Space Bubble Has Been Invaded 

Last night, even though our toddler is feeling much better, I had a lot on my mind.  All the emotions I kept back last week finally hit me.  In addition, to whatever else was on my list of things to worry about.  I could handle a little over-thinking, but the straw that broke the camels back (or camels mental capacity) last night, was when I was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic in my own personal space bubble.  My personal space bubble hasn’t been kid free in over two weeks.  I love my kids very much, but they have this constant need to always be touching me, hanging on me, sitting on me, or getting right up in my face even if there is a perfectly good other parent (father) sitting across the room.  I usually don’t mind the affection, but sometimes, it can become a little overwhelming, especially, when you just want to use the bathroom alone without supervision.  My kids seem to be glued to me, especially, our youngest, who seems to be super-glued to me with Gorilla glue.  I can’t pry her off.  She is like a little monkey that just won’t let go!  You can’t even put things between us; not a chair, a stuff animal, or a pillow.  I tried to pry her off with a ruler last night, but the gap between us is too tight!

I obviously wasn’t going to get the mental break that I wanted; a dark, quiet room, with just me and Will Smith talking about the end of life on our planet.

A Mother’s Mental Health Can Be Resilient

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that a mother’s mental health can be resilient.  I can juggle a lot of mental crap, before my brain finally gives in and says, “Dude, go lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes to recharge!”   Sometimes I need more than 5 minutes; on my most overwhelming days, I could settle with just a couple of hours of alone time.  But, it has to be uninterrupted alone time without having to worry about my kids.  So, I get my best mental rest when they are asleep or at grandma’s house; both, in which seem very rare.  I rarely get uninterrupted mental breaks, which tells me just how dang resilient my brain must be, especially, when you feel like you are about to fall apart and your toddler thinks blowing bubbles with her nose is super hilarious!  I would think at that point, my eye would start to twitch or something, but it doesn’t, I just smile, hug my little monkey, and appreciate this time together.  Perhaps, enjoying all these small moments together is what keeps me from having a mommy mental break down.  🙂 ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It has been years since I thought about my OCD brain (6 years to be fact).  Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder once tortured me every day, several times a day, ruining my relationships, social life, daily living, and ultimately, my happiness.  Today, I realized, that I didn’t cure my OCD, but instead, I cured the suffering my OCD was causing me.  I will always have an OCD brain, but it no longer controls me or my happiness.  In fact, I have learned to embrace some of my OCD tendencies, the good ones, to better live a happier, healthier, life.  The point is, I am in control of my OCD brain.

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“Pure “O” OCD is, honestly, a mental torture of obsessive intrusive thoughts, running through the mind on repeat, like a broken record.  It is often triggered by anxiety and causes extreme distress (at least for me it did).  Rarely, does it involve compulsive behaviors (like washing hands, counting, or straightening things).  It is claimed to be a “less severe” form of OCD, but personally, I would have given anything to have had compulsive behaviors, for that it is the compulsive behaviors that satisfy the obsessive thoughts, ending the suffering.  This alternate thought processing illness was ruining my life. Previous Blog: My Fascination With The Brain: Pure “O” OCD

Where to Begin…

The road to my so-called recovery from Pure “O” OCD is a complicated one and like I said, I didn’t cure my OCD, I pretty much simply “accepted” it.  In my case, acceptance is not a word that means defeat.  Oh no, I pretty much knocked my bullying OCD’s butt straight of it’s high pedestal.  But I am not going to lie, it was not easy and it took a great amount of work, dedication, effort, and some monumental amount of mental strength to confront and overcome my OCD habits.

The therapist who diagnosed me told me that my OCD will “NEVER” go away, yet it could be “manageable.”  When I asked what “manageable” meant; I was told it just means “fewer episodes.”  I didn’t want fewer episodes, I wanted NO episodes!  My episodes at the time would last from hours to days causing much emotional distress.  I couldn’t accept the thought of being OCD FOREVER!  Fortunately, at the time, I was a Biology major with tons of research resources at my finger tips!  So, of course, I immersed myself into a lot of books in search of some solutions…

Forget the Overall Wiring, Lets Tackle Those Frayed Wires Instead

In the beginning, all I could do was wish for my OCD brain to stop.  Deep scary depression set in and I felt as if my world was crumbling into insanity.  But, I woke up one day with a new attitude and a mantra of, “Na, Na, Na, Na, I can’t hear you!” to my OCD brain.  Unfortunately, that alone wasn’t very effective.

From there, I began my research guided by my therapist.  Turns out a therapist can only provide you tools for success and emotional support during your own mental health journey.  They cannot provide answers, solutions, or cures, just a list of books.  Kind of reminds me of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings Trilogy; I mean come on, he totally could have just flown Frodo to Mount Doom making it a short quick journey.  Anyways, I guess you can think of my OCD as the “one” ring and it is my own journey and destiny to carry it to Mordor to destroy it…Yes, I am a nerd.

Of course, like all epic journeys, there were set backs as my entire journey consisted nothing more than trial and error.  Everyone experiences OCD differently, thus not everything I read or was advised to me effectively worked for me.  So, then I realized I had to pick apart all the so-called effective techniques and tailor it to my own specific quirky OCD brain.  What I discovered was that some of the techniques that worked just a little bit, had the potential of working better in combination with other techniques.

Furthermore, I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere focusing on the OCD brain itself (mix-match wiring).  Interesting fact though: OCD is due to faulty wiring in the body’s Fight or Flight Response System; a crazy fascinating function that I would love to talk about, but I will refrain from being a total science nerd right now.  The important thing is that I found it much more effective to focus primarily on my OCD episodes (frayed wiring) instead of the overall wiring of my OCD brain, by asking myself the following questions:

  • What triggers them?
  • How do I often respond to them?
  • How can I respond differently?
  • Why is this causing me so much stress and anxiety?

It became clear to me, that all my OCD episodes had something in common; they all caused me extreme “suffering” that largely impacted my overall happiness and personally, nobody messes with my happy.  Strangely, I decided to look into a little Buddhist philosophy to learn more about this thing referred to as “suffering.”  To be honest, I didn’t convert to Buddhism nor have I successfully achieved Nirvana; however, I was certainly enlightened.

In short, “I don’t care how silly, ridiculous, or unorthodox a method may be; if it works, it works!

15 Effective Tools (Methods) Used To Defeat OCD  

Everyone’s journey is different; however, the tools are pretty much the same for everyone; you just have to learn which ones to use and how to effectively use them.  There is no point in dwelling on the story about my own journey.  Spoil alert: It was long, emotional, and had many Mt. Everest sized mountains to climb.  But, what I can offer, is more information about the tools I found most helpful and effective against my OCD brain.

#1 The strong desire and will to change…

Change, in general, is tough.  Changing physical habits are tougher.  But, changing thinking habits is almost damn near impossible.  The heart may be foolish, but I tell ya, the mind is as stubborn as a mule.  Yet, when you become committed to making a change, the obstacles standing in your way become much more easier to overcome.  Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen over night nor was Rome built in a day (an expression I didn’t quite understand until my journey with OCD).

Basically, “If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it.

#2 A new positive attitude

You must remain positive.  That is a pretty tough request to fill when your mind is bombarded with unpleasant negative intrusive thoughts; but a single positive thought can have enough potential to get a little motivated momentum going to help you out of your OCD funk.  A positive attitude is also important to drive your desire to change your thinking habits and kick OCD in the butt.

#3 A sense of humor

My OCD brain thinks it’s funny, at least, that is what I had to tell myself.  Instead of telling my brain,“Na, Na, Na, Na, I can’t hear you!”, I would often tell my OCD brain, “Okay, I am listening…What ridiculous thoughts do you have for me today,” and then simply laugh it off.   I eventually learned I couldn’t read too much into my OCD, otherwise, my OCD would get the best of me and ruin my entire day.

The deep thought of “what does this all mean” should be left to the experts and if the experts aren’t concerned about it, then why should I be?

#4 OCD Brain as a separate Entity

The best thing I ever did, was take the advice of my therapist and think of my OCD brain as a separate entity.  Whenever I would start an OCD episode, I would recognize it and tell myself, “Oh, its just my quirky OCD brain.”  At first, I felt silly, but after awhile, it became very effective.  By thinking of my OCD brain as a separate entity, I was able to separate the “real” me from my OCD brain; in which made me feel so much better.  It also allowed me to better sort out my emotions and pay more attention to my OCD episodes to better recognize my triggers and irrational thoughts.

#5 Stop Responding To The OCD Bully

OCD is a bully.  A big fat nasty bully!  Seriously, if you think about it, it bully’s you with intrusive unwanted thoughts making you feel like a bad person and you are not a bad person.  If it makes you feel any better, OCD experts say, the more good you are as a person the worse the OCD.  So, technically, if your OCD is causing you super extreme suffering, you’re likely to be a really good person who couldn’t even imagine harming a fly!

Learning how to effectively deal with bully’s, in general, gave me a better understanding on how to better respond to my OCD.  I learned to accept whatever my OCD threw at me and I refused to respond, usually by distracting my brain with something else.  Kind of like how you get a toddler to stop a huge temper-tantrum!  The very few compulsive behaviors I had, I would just refuse to do them.  Honestly, it was the most difficult agonizing thing I have ever had to do, but after awhile, it got easier.

#6 Journaling OCD Episodes

Whenever I would have a bad OCD episode that I couldn’t shake, I would journal it.  I would write down my entire experience and all my irrational thoughts and feelings.  Then I would re-read it aloud over and over again.  The more I read it, the more ridiculous it sound and the better I felt.  This was very effective with OCD episodes dealing with extreme doubt and irrational “What if” scenarios.  It was also a great way to recognize common triggers and come up with better ways to respond to those triggers.

#7 Don’t ignore all triggers

The reason it is important to recognize triggers, is not to avoid them, but to accept them and learn to better respond to them.  If I were to avoid every little trigger, I would be a very boring person who wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the things I love to do.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are some triggers I still ignore like the plague such as violent dramatic tv shows and the local news.

#8 Making Accommodations

There is nothing wrong with making a few life-style changes.  The very last thing you want to do is to give into your OCD and you certainly do not want to avoid triggers, however, you can certainly trick your OCD brain by making a few accommodations to possible triggers.  You aren’t entirely avoiding triggers, but more or less, making better accommodations so that these triggers have a less OCD effect.

For example, cleaning supplies in the house triggers major OCD episodes for me.  For years, I refused to buy any cleaning supplies, because of my OCD.  Totally ICKY, right!  Anyways, I eventually realized that I could “trick” my OCD brain by using natural environmentally safe cleaning products instead of those harsh bleach chemicals.  Turns out, scientifically, too much cleaning is bad for your health anyways; that is how we’ve created super bugs (bacterial resistance); also, there are good bacterial bugs out there that you don’t want to destroy.  Anyways, I guess by providing my OCD brain with a little scientific evidence that my OCD brain cannot twist around on me is my way of tricking the brain.  I am still having to face my OCD fears (triggers) with cleaning chemicals, but I don’t have to use harsh harmful chemicals (in which is better for me and better for the environment).  Also, more importantly, having choices means I am in control, not my OCD brain.

A conquering OCD moment:  

I keep all the cleaning supplies out of the house by storing them in the garage, because chemicals inside the house make me nervous and often trigger OCD episodes.  However, over time, I have become comfortable with keeping some cleaning products inside the house; but put up in places I know the kids cannot get them.

I’ve also started to use bleach products again.  My husband’s toilet would make any OCD brain back down from an OCD episode.  It’s as if my OCD brain looked at my husband’s toilet and quickly agreed to a compromise with bleach products; telling me, “Dude, okay, you win, I’ll even let you use radioactive chemicals on that toilet!”  Yeah, my OCD brain is a coward and wants nothing to do with cleaning my husband’s toilet.  The fact that I can now comfortably use cleaning chemicals without any OCD episodes and actually keep some in the house is a HUGE step in overcoming my OCD.

#9 Give Your Brain a Break 

I distract my OCD brain with some of my favorite hobbies and activities.  The most effective distraction is zoning into a good movie, book, or game.  I will not lie; Angry Birds (game app) is like a mental reset button for my brain!  Sometimes we just have to step back from reality for awhile to allow our brain to rest, recharge, and reset (I guess it is like grounding yourself).

#10 Acceptance

Acceptance doesn’t always mean defeat.  I learned to accept that my brain is wired differently and does quirky things.  Accepting OCD, allows me to focus more on how to better respond to my OCD brain.  Before acceptance, I was angry that my brain turned all OCD on me and was causing me so much emotional suffering and pain.  That anger made it very difficult for me to begin to understand how the OCD brain works and how I could live life with it.  What is it that they say? “If you can’t beat them, join them!

#11 CBT Techniques, Mindfulness, and Stress Management 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques are a combination of mindfulness and acceptance, but specifically for changing thinking habits, such as overcoming black and white thinking, catastrophic thinking, and other emotions and thoughts.

Since OCD is often caused by anxiety, stress management skills are essential to keeping OCD triggers at bay and preventing OCD episodes from occurring in the first place.  It isn’t 100% effective in preventing all OCD episodes, for that some OCD triggers can be stubborn and unpredictable; but stress management can certainly lessen the effects of OCD episodes.  Basically, instead of your OCD making you feel like a terrible person, you come out of your OCD episode feeling more like a normal person who just had a crappy experience, thinking to yourself, “Well, that sucked.”

#12 Having Faith 

A big part of overcoming OCD, is taking a huge leap of faith, not so much as a religious faith, although that doesn’t hurt either, but more specifically, holding a strong belief that “all is going to be okay regardless of the feared outcome.”  This especially, helps with overcoming “what if” scenarios and compulsion behaviors, like, the thought of wondering if you left the stove on, even though you hadn’t use the stove all day.  You just have to learn to trust in faith that all will be okay when you go home later and that you don’t need to drive all the way back home right now to check on the stove.  I use to wear a bracelet with the word, “Faith” on it to remind me to trust myself and not my OCD doubts.

#13 Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It (Emotional Support)

In my opinion, emotional support is extremely important in overcoming mental health challenges.  Some Pure “O” OCD episodes may be embarrassing to share with others, as those without OCD may think of our thoughts as ridiculous, silly, and irrational.  Believe me, I’ve lost lots of friends over my OCD, because they thought of me as a “whackadoodle.”  Totally their loss though, because I am pretty awesome despite my OCD brain.

Although therapists, in my opinion, are useless when it comes to providing valuable answers, they do provide great emotional support.  They listen, understand, and rarely judge.  However, personally, I prefer “free” emotional support.  In that case, it is best to find a person (friend or family member) who is willing to learn and better understand your Pure “O” OCD.  When you are experiencing an episode, you can lean on this person for emotional support; someone you can talk to without feeling judged and who can offer reassurance that all is well in the world of chaos.  Be careful though, because constant verbal reassurance from other people can create a “crutch” that doesn’t really help you overcome OCD in the long run.   Been there, and totally done that.

#14 Do Not Let OCD Define You! 

OCD wants you to believe you are someone you are not.  It wants to control your emotions and plant seeds of doubt to make you feel like a bad person.  It wants you to shout to the world, “I AM OCD!”  It wants you to feel defeated and broken.

OCD does not define me anymore.  You will never hear me say, “I am OCD.”  Instead, I often explain, if need to, that I am an awesome person who just so happens to have an OCD quirky brain.

I wasn’t always this confident, in fact, in the beginning of my mental health journey with Pure “O” OCD, I had low self-esteem, no opinionated voice, and toxic people were consistently telling me “who” I was as a person.  In the beginning, I didn’t know who I truly was as an individual, forcing me to venture off onto a side path of self-discovery.  I had to learn that I am not what other people say nor am I my OCD brain.  I am my own individual, independent, unique person with flaws, quirks, and talents.  I refuse to let anyone or anything else define me.

#15 Breathe and Smile

Lastly, breathe…then smile.  Even in the midst of chaos, always smile.  🙂