I am a late night grocery shopper, because shopping at the grocery store during the day, by myself, is a nightmare with anxiety!
I am not the only one who experiences shopping anxiety; my husband won’t even get out of the car unless the entire family goes inside the store with him. If he does go into the store by himself, in which is rare, he comes out looking white as a ghost, hair frazzled on end, and heart pounding, as if he had to battle an army of orcs inside the grocery store just to get a gallon a milk. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even make it to the dairy section; as that would be like having to venture towards the back of the grocery store into Narnia. Instead, he comes back with an 8oz carton of milk from the check out line! You know, I am not judging, because it happens to us all!
Peak Time For Anxiety Is 5pm
My anxiety triggers OCD, thus why I absolutely hate shopping during the day. I can deal with a little anxiety, but once it triggers an OCD episode, I am done! I too, walk out of the grocery store white as a ghost, hair frazzled on end, and heart pounding, worried about the most irrational horrific things in the world about a gallon of milk. So, to save myself from emotional distress, I prefer to shop at night, where there is no crowd, the night stockers often sing and dance while the speakers play rock & roll, instead of the usually sappy music that is required to play during the day, and the check out clerks are much happier! It’s an entirely different atmosphere after the sun goes down.
Again, I can largely relate to my husband’s experience inside the grocery store. Although I enjoy shopping late at night, every so often I have to run to the store for one or two things before dinner time. Unfortunately, 5pm at the grocery store is always crazy! It is crowded with all sorts of different shoppers, from the old complaining about the cost of inflation to the young trying to buy alcohol. There are those holding up lines over expired coupons, writing checks, or just simply talking about their day to a clerk who doesn’t really care. The worst though, are the people who just got off work and are trying to rush through the grocery store like football line-backers. They are hungry, rude, and in a hurry! Personally, I don’t blame them, because they just want to get home like the rest of us.
Every so often, I treat myself to a mud mask (scares the monkey’s out of my kids). MUD MONSTER! Anyway, I enjoy it, also my skin comes out smooth, fresh, and less “old and tired” looking.
I’ve tried all different kinds of mud-masks and my two favorite are charcoal and dead-sea mineral mud masks. The charcoal masks are great for cleaning out pores and the dead-sea mineral masks are great for making skin feel soft, plus reduces dark circles and redness. So, I try to do a dead-sea mineral mask once a week (if I am lucky) and the weeks I look absolutely dreadful, I do a charcoal mask, since that’s more heavy duty than a dead-sea mineral mask. Although I am not really into the girly-girl things, I do enjoy mud-masks.
I went to the store recently and stocked up on mud masks, but I didn’t realize, I stocked up on the wrong kind of mud mask. I remember I bought them when I was making a milk run to the grocery store when the grocery store was super busy. I had anxiety. I remember two girls talking loudly about their business and it made me nervous, so I quickly grab the mud masks. I saw “dead-sea…” but I did not comprehend the rest of it, “dead-seaweed,” SEA-WEED! What! I bought a couple of mud-masks with seaweed instead of my usual dead-sea mineral mud masks.
Shopping Anxiety Is Not Always Bad
I am cool. I am hip. I can try smearing sea-weed all over my face, why not?
I tried it! Although the experience is not very pleasant as sea-weed certainly smells, it sure did make my skin look pretty! I am not opposed to doing it again, but probably not something I am willing to do all the time.
So, shopping with anxiety isn’t always terrible. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t try new things if I weren’t rushing through a grocery store with anxiety and picking up the wrong stuff every so often. Sure, sometimes I am forced to exchange items, like the time I needed butter and quickly picked up a block of cream-cheese instead. For the record, that was not entirely my fault, for that the grocery store had moved the butter section!
Making The Best Of Things
My point is, that anxiety is not always terrible. Sometimes good unexpected things can come out of it. If you go to the grocery store for lemons and come back with limes, I guess make limeade instead!
I started listening to a 7-day Stress Management series provided by the Calm App (iOS). The narrator said something quite enlightening; something along the lines that “us humans are not yet ready to take on the stresses of the 21st century.”
Stress is normal everyday life now; however, our Fight or Flight Response System is a little behind on the times. There is just too much going on for our Fight or Flight Response System to process, thus, our bodies are thrown into constant high alert making us feel stressed all the time. Practicing mindfulness and changing our thinking habits allow our Fight or Flight Response System more time to re-evaluate and accurately process the world around us to ensure our bodies appropriately respond to the right stressors.
Stressors are everywhere. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we rack out asleep in our beds at night. I don’t know about anyone else, but my alarm clock is my first everyday stressor. After avoiding the snooze button, my alarm clock turns into a thirty minute count-down where I am having to rush everyone to get ready for the day. Drag my husband out of bed and push him into the shower, so he can wake up enough to get his butt to work. Argue with a two year old about which cereal she wants but never eats. Coax my preschooler to join the rest of us as she whines about it being too cold to get out of bed, even though the house is comfortably warm. Lastly, after everyone is ready to go, with just a few minutes left on the clock, I have to get ready! Every morning is chaotic and I have the power to change it! Just by changing up my morning routine and focus on better time management, I can eliminate my everyday morning stressors.
What is your first stressor of everyday?
Life is full of funky lemons and we can’t always control what funky lemons are given to us. We can try to make lemonade, but all we get is funky lemonade. Simply, we are often forced to cope with stressful situations that are out of our control.
Life is full of uncontrollable stressors, like traffic. Traffic becomes stressful when it causes us to be late for work or somewhere else that is really important. OR, like getting laid off; it’s just something that happens and even the best employees get laid off sometimes. Another uncontrollable stressor, is being a scheduled speaker with a nasty mustard stain on a favorite white blouse just before the start of a board meeting and no jacket to cover it up. Or life’s worst funky lemon, for me, is finding my textbook all chewed up just before an open-book exam! We encounter uncontrollable stressors everyday, but it’s how we respond to these stressors that make or break us.
Always try to make the best of every stressful situation! For instance, if you are stuck in traffic and running late for work, loosen your tie, roll down your window, turn up the radio and sing your heart out! Despite being chewed out by your boss for five minutes, your job is still gonna be there. Don’t let a little traffic ruin your entire day.
Overcoming the stress of getting laid off, is all about changing your attitude. Sure, money will be tight, but when a door closes another one opens. That sounds cheesy, a little cliche, but it’s so true!
That mustard stain…I say wear it proud! It may be embarrassing at first, but everyone will understand, because you are human! You can also get creative by covering it with a sticker, snag a scarf, or if possible, tuck it in. Often times, because offices are cold, someone with a sweater will likely allow you to borrow theirs while you speak to the board of directors.
And, for the chewed up text-book…well, good luck!
Small Breaks To Knock Out Big Stressors
Sometimes we can’t make the best of a stressful situation. There are some serious uncontrollable stressors out there that just cannot be resolved with a little creativity and a positive attitude. When forced to endure an uncontrollable stressful situation that cannot be resolved, we must find other ways to better cope with stress.
Really big uncontrollable stressors is a job for our Fight or Flight Response System. Although we cannot do anything physically productive to eliminate a big uncontrollable stressor in our life, we do have the ability to take small relaxing breaks to help our bodies cope with stress.
This includes practicing mindfulness and acceptance, meditating, reading, taking a walk, exercise, having a spa day, or distracting yourself with something fun while the body does its thing (you know releasing those feel-good chemicals to reduce stress). So, even if we cannot eliminate the stressor, we can help our bodies cope with the stress the stressor is causing us.
Breathe and Smile
Whatever type of stressors are in your life, always remember to stop, breathe, and smile.
Do you have any effective coping skills for major stressors in your life? Share with us, so we can try them too.
There were times when I was bombarded by dark heavy intrusive-thought clouds. I used to think that focusing on the intrusive thoughts themselves would make the intrusive thoughts go away. I always dwelled on one specific question: “Why am I thinking such horrific thoughts?!” Unfortunately, that question only opened a flood gate of other disturbing irrational thoughts that would only intensify my anxiety and emotions even more, ultimately resulting in hours or even days of extreme emotional suffering.
Turns out, I just wasn’t asking myself the “right” questions?
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts can be nuisance little buggers. They are unpleasant thoughts, mental images, or ideas that involuntarily pop up in the mind. Everyone experiences intrusive thoughts, it’s not just an OCD thing.
See, the brain is constantly scanning and processing information, thus why some junk information may end up in the processing line with thoughts that actually matter. For the most part, our brain does a pretty good job at pushing intrusive thoughts through without us taking notice. However, we tend to dwell on thoughts that are attached to emotions; so if an intrusive thought just so happens to pass through our mind at the right time, like during a period of anxiety, we might accidentally lock onto that intrusive thought by attaching an emotion to it.
Generally, intrusive thoughts don’t linger around for very long and cause little to no emotional distress, because the fight or flight response system quickly realizes these intrusive thoughts are harmless and doesn’t require an emotional response; thus, releasing the emotional attachment allowing the intrusive thought to drift away from the mind.
However, for me, my faulty fight or flight response system doesn’t exactly know what to do with an intrusive thought and keeps me emotionally attached to my intrusive thought until it can be processed appropriately. Almost like, when a customer service representative encounters a questionable problem, but has to wait until their manager comes back to lunch to resolve it. Yet, with OCD, instead of waiting for the manager of my faulty fight or flight response system, I get the moody on-call supervisor (my OCD) to try to handle it for me, in which, we all know just makes matters worse causing emotional distress. I wonder if I can sue my OCD for emotional distress?
None Shall Pass, The Never Ending Thought Loop
Imagine you are stuck running in a loop and there is a toll booth. If you ask the right questions at the toll booth, you are free to leave the loop. If you ask the wrong questions, you continue running in an endless loop, dwelling more and more on your intrusive thoughts. Also, think of the loop as a dirt-road track, because the more you go round and round in your loop, the deeper the track gets from continuous tread from your shoes. Overcoming intrusive thoughts is a bit like that…at least for me it is.
I learned that the more I dwell on trying to analyze my intrusive thoughts, the more my anxiety and emotions intensify, leading to self-doubt. Once self-doubt kicks in, that is it! My OCD bully has nailed me in the gonads and I am just left to wait it out until my OCD episode ends on it’s own. This is because self-doubt is much more difficult to overcome than the emotions attached to intrusive thoughts. Self-doubt makes the intrusive thoughts personal and without cognitive practice, self-doubt is emotionally painful.
When intrusive thoughts become stuck, you just can’t not think about them….
Asking Different Questions
It’s all about changing tactics. If you do the same thing over and over again to try to solve a problem, you always get the same results. Usually, if you change your point of view, you discover a new way to tackle your problem to gain different results. So, if dwelling on the same questions is making anxiety worse, why not try asking different questions? Here are some examples:
Instead of asking yourself, “Why am I thinking about these horrific thoughts?”
Ask yourself, “Why do these horrific thoughts bother me so much?”
Instead of asking yourself, “Where did these horrific thoughts come from?”
Ask yourself, “Am I anxious about anything that could have triggered these thoughts?”
Instead of asking yourself, “Why can’t I just let go of these thoughts?”
Ask yourself, “Are these thoughts really worth my time and energy to think about?”
Instead of asking yourself, “Who am I?”
Ask yourself, “Who am I not?” Remember, intrusive thoughts do not define you.
Finally, ask yourself, “What emotions am I attaching to these thoughts?”
And then, begin defusing those emotions.
Try to think outside the box! Ask questions that are constructive and positive to help lead you away from intrusive thoughts. And, always remember to take a deep breath!
It’s Not Always Easy
There is always more than one way to release yourself from your anchored thoughts, you just need to find which way works for you. The OCD bully brain wants to take advantage of intrusive thoughts to make you feel like a bad person. Don’t let it! You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you can for sure control how you respond to your thoughts.
Dark heavy intrusive thought clouds can be overwhelming, but clearer skies are on their way. Like all massive storms, intrusive thought storms seem to last forever. They can be scary, especially, when the storm intensifies with emotion causing more anxiety.
Whenever a storm threatens a perfectly good day, one can either seek shelter and wait it out in comfort or learn to dance happily in the rain.
It is completely up to you, how you choose to respond to your intrusive thoughts! ❤
Because OCD is an anxiety disorder, I thought stress would play a much bigger role in my OCD. Interestingly though, stress does not affect my OCD brain at all. I respond to stress much differently than I do to anxiety. For me, anxiety affects my mental state (causing OCD episodes) whereas stress affects my physical body (causing tummy aches). It’s strange, I know; especially, when anxiety and stress are pretty similar in nature.
My Unpleasant Vertigo Experience
The other day, I had a terrifying experience with vertigo due to stress. I had difficulty detecting my surroundings. The room was not just spinning in one direction, but in all directions like a free-falling space capsule plumenting towards an alien surface through uneven gravity. Lying down was even worse, as it felt like I was on a tiny gondola in the middle of an ocean during a turbulent thunderstorm storm. I also couldn’t detect the edge of my bed, thus making it dangerous to go to sleep without surrounding myself with a bunch of pillows to ensure I didn’t end up on the floor during the night. The reason our bodies don’t fall off the bed while sleeping, is because our vestibular senses are aware of the ground at all times. When our vestibular senses go out of whack, like due to vertigo, the body has difficulty detecting where the ground is and BAM!, you end up face to face with the floor! Also, while I was going through this, not a single OCD thought stirred; I am guessing my OCD brain was too busy trying to fix it’s internal compass. My husband and I are convinced it was stress-related. It was a crazy, absolutely no fun, experience that I hope I never have to experience again!
Stress vs. Anxiety
Although stress and anxiety seem to cause the same symptoms, there is a difference between them, for that they differ in “origin.” Anxiety is generally caused by unplesant internal thoughts and ideas, whereas stress is generally caused by unpleasant external situations. Furthermore, anxiety can lead to stress and stress can lead to anxiety.
When I think of the word stress, I think of physics, where a physical force is placed upon an object causing the object to bend or lean; with too much stress, the object is likely to break, fall over, or collapse. I believe the same for mental stress. External situations such as being in a financial rut, overwhelmed with a heavy workload, or being late due to heavy traffic; can create a mental force that has the potential to cause stress on the body. When we internalize these external situations with “stinking thinking,” that is when stress turns into anxiety (worry). Then, vice versa, whereas chronic anxiety due to “stinking thinking” has the potential to cause stress, physical effects on the body. In short, stress and anxiety can intermingle with one another causing havoc on the mind, body, and soul.
Okay, I am not at all satisfied with that explanation; so I would love to hear your thoughts regarding the differences between stress and anxiety?
Acceptance Is Important In Coping With Stress
Despite having an anxiety disorder, I tend to cope with stress a lot better than I do anxiety. Throw me into a bull-pen with a dozen angry bulls and I am as cool as a cucumber, using rational thinking to defuse a stressful situation. However, I will be completely honest, I absolutely struggle to cope with stress caused by situations I have no control over; especially, situations that I cannot resolved right then and there. Although I can make the best of a stressful situation, I often fail to accept that I am “stuck” in a stressful situation where there is nothing that “I” can personally do about it, not now nor perhaps even later. Sometimes there are stressful situations that just can’t be resolved and it’s something I must let go or just ride it out til the end (off into the sunset I suppose).
There are lots of things I can do to reduce stress, but in the end, I think the most efficient tool in my stress-management tool box is the art of acceptance. “Woosah!” (Bad Boys II movie reference)
Guided Meditation To Defuse Stress
I am feeling much better today, all because of THE HONEST GUYS! The Honest Guys is a Youtube channel that provides meditation and relaxation videos. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their guided meditations! The CALM app I have is good, but these guys are even better and is a must share! I feel grounded again! I am smiling again! I am energetic again! I am no longer stressed out! Thank you Honest Guys!
No affiliated links here, I promise!
Above is the video I’ve been playing to help myself get to sleep at night. Lately for me, stress has been interrupting my sleep schedule and I find it very difficult to overcome stress when I’m tired and not thinking straight. I also think stress and fatigue contributed to my little episode of vertigo.
Of course, meditations videos don’t work for everyone. I totally suck at medtiation and I don’t like dry guided meditations without sounds of things I am suppose to imagine. However, these videos include visual images with sounds that relate to the visual images to improve the guided meditation experience.
Anyway, whether you are looking for new meditation videos or need to try something new to help relax, I totally recommend THE HONEST GUYS Youtube channel.
How do you cope with stress? Leave a comment below, I look forward to hearing from you!
I am totally excited to receive a nomination; however, to be a bit honest, I had no idea what the Sunshine Blogger Award was all about until I did a little research (stuff I do best). It turns out, it’s pretty cool and sounds like a lot of fun:
The Sunshine Blogger award is given by bloggers to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.
The rules are:
Thank blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
11 Questions From Julie Krupp-Enhanced Perspective
1. What is the best present you ever received?
The best present I ever received was my first Nikon DSLR camera. It was the best present ever, because it motivated me to pursue my love for landscape photography.
2. What are three small sources of joy for you?
Three small sources of joy for me is watching B-rated monster movies, eating a Peppermint Pattie, and getting lost in the world of genealogy.
3. Where is the last place you traveled and why?
I recently traveled halfway across the state to have my teeth cleaned. My parents live nearly 4 hours away and they insisted that I see their dentist, because they say their dentist is “awesome.” Well, turns out, their dentist is awesome.
4. Where is your dream vacation?
My dream vacation is in Alaska. I know, it’s not very warm nor is it very exotic- totally not flip-flop friendly. I used to dream of vacationing in the Bahamas, but I really want to see the glaciers in Alaska, before they supposedly melt.
5. What did you want to be when you were little?
When I was little-little, I wanted to be a “singing doctor.” I am not sure about the specifics though… like, did I want to be a doctor who sings to patients or a professional singer who had a degree in medicine? I really don’t know.
6. When did you feel that what you said or what you did really resonated with your soul?
In the beginning of my mental health journey with OCD, I came up with a personal mantra to encourage me to keep moving forward. It was something like, “Every journey starts with gravel under our feet, but eventually, we will have sand between our toes.” It reminded me that some journeys can be tough, but they get easier towards the end.
7. What are you afraid of or what fear have you overcome?
Having Pure “O” OCD, I have overcome many irrational fears. However, I am honestly afraid of the unknown. Like, I am not brave enough to put my hand through a dark hole in the wall just because Indiana Jones tells me there is a lever inside. Nope, he would just have to wait until I get a stick first!
8. What is one of your favorite books?
“The Odyssey,” by Ancient Greek poet Homer. It’s like one of the worlds oldest adventure story!
9. What is your favorite type of cuisine?
Italian. I cannot get enough pasta, garlic, and bread.
10. What is one of your favorite songs?
“Boom Boom Pow,” by Black Eyes Peas. Whenever I hear this song, I just can’t help but move to the beat. It gives me happy feet!
11. What is one of your favorite movies?
Surprisingly, one of my favorite movies is Kung Fu Panda. I know I am an adult, but who doesn’t like a good Jack Black movie!
I nominate the following…
Okay, I don’t have exactly 11 nominees, but these are great reads. I enjoy following them. Each one of them has a spark of positivity and creativity. This list of bloggers often brighten my day, as it is a mix of everything I enjoy from creative photography and art to positive mental health and psychology.
This Memorial Day weekend, I took my girls to Sea World…all by myself. You would think my OCD brain would have been on fire with anxiety. Surprisingly, I was okay. It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be; plus, I wasn’t the only brave (insane) parent who decided to bring their kids to a crowded amusement park all by themselves. Sure, I was a bit anxious (who wouldn’t be), but having fun and making memories with my kids was way more important than getting stuck on a worrying-spree. I tell ya, my OCD brain didn’t know how to handle that, and thus, I got the weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER, about whale poo!
Allowing OCD Thoughts & Feelings To Just Flow
I rarely “suffer” from OCD anymore. I have OCD, so what I mean is that the intrusive thoughts and feelings from my OCD rarely ever cause me emotional “distress” anymore.
For me, my OCD is just there. OCD is just something my brain does and I have accepted the fact that there is nothing I can do about the wiring of my OCD brain; however, I do have full-control on how I respond to my OCD.
Being able to recognize when my brain is “OCD-ing,” gives me better control over how I respond to OCD and thus, reduces the emotional distress caused by my OCD. With lots (LOTS) of cognitive practice, I have learned how to let my OCD thoughts go, laugh at them even, and do my very best to move on with my life. Of course, there are some OCD thoughts and feelings that are more difficult to let go than others, but in the back of my mind, I understand all my OCD episodes are triggered by real sources of anxiety, in which my OCD brain misinterprets, and holds on to by strong emotions. In this particular case, I recognize the real source of my anxiety to be my kids. I was anxious about the crowds and worried about how my kids were going to do at the park. Understanding the real source of anxiety also gives me control over my OCD.
Allowing OCD thoughts and feelings to just flow, is an interesting experience. It is almost like watching a suspenseful action-adventure movie, where you are on the edge of your seat, with your heart-pumping with adrenaline, excited for the next scene, but you have no worries at all, because that is totally not you in the movie being chased by bad guys or something (simply not your problem-kind of feeling). When I am aware of an OCD episode, my OCD thoughts and feelings kind of just play in the background. It’s really quite an interesting experience.
A Biologist’s Busted Dream
I love the ocean! In high-school, I studied Marine Biology and I was set on becoming a Marine biologist; sadly, there just isn’t much marine life in a hot, dusty, and dry desert. I did have the opportunity to learn to scuba-dive in a swimming pool, but I never finished my certification due to having Asthma. My marine biology dream bubble was kind of busted by my physician who is a retired Navy physician. He kindly explained to me that divers with Asthma are at high risk of collapsing their lungs due to the high pressures underwater. Unfortunately, asthmatics often suffer from the “Bends” aka “decompression sickness,” more often than non-asthmatics. So, the closest I am going to get to deep-sea marine life is in an Aquarium.
Please Don’t Blackfish Me
How dare I bring my kids to Sea World, haven’t I ever seen Blackfish?
Yes, I have! “Blackfish” is a very heart-breaking, eye-opening, documentary about the Sea World Amusement Parks and their alleged mistreatment of their Killer Whales (Orcas). And, yes, I am very angry at Sea World!
Honestly, I find it extremely inhumane to keep not only one, but several massively large marine creatures in a large swimming pool. It is especially wrong, considering that each Sea-World park has a man-made lake for their water-skiing / boat shows that is 1000 times bigger than their Orca habitats. Seriously, I would expect the Orca and dolphin habitats to be as big or even bigger as their man-made lake. Basically, I just think captive Orca and dolphins deserve acreage in their tanks not square-feet.
So, why take my kids to Sea World? Well, for the experience and to also learn about ocean conservation. Sea World, I must give them that, has a decent ocean conservation program. Although they teach the public about how to protect marine life in the wild, their undesirable captivity program (animals in the park) kind of makes me want to protect marine life even more in the wild; especially, if it could result in keeping animals in the wild instead of having to end up in captivity for rehabilitation or even for entertainment purposes. Just a thought.
To be honest, I had no intention on dragging my kids to any Sea World shows. When I was a kid, the trainers swam with the Orcas, in which was super fun to watch; however, due to tragic incidents where Orcas have attacked and drown trainers, trainers no longer swim with the Orca (highly understandably). Unfortunately, the Orcas rarely do anything during the shows anymore. Spoiler Alert: The entire show is sitting in front of a large tank listening to trainers recite Orca facts. The Orca jump out of the water maybe once or twice during the entire show and at the end, they splash the audience.
OCD-ing About Whale Poo
My oldest was intent on seeing a whale, so, of course, I was going to make sure she saw a whale (mommy reflex). BTW, Orcas are not technically whales, so I should have taken her to see the Beluga Whale instead, but that is a debate for when she is much older. I have learned to never argue with a preschooler!
When we arrived in the Orca stadium, my youngest dragged us all the way to the bottom (Splash Zone) to watch the Orca circle the tank. They circled around the tank like sharks. Although sad, they were still magnificent creatures to look at. Anyway, as one swam by us, it pooped. It was super gross!
We watched the entire show and at the end, we got splashed by 3 large Orca’s! OMG, it was a lot of water! A lot of cold, super salty, and in the back of my mind, poopie water! My OCD brain was totally focused on the whale we saw poop in the water before the show. That was just one Orca…there were 3 Orca’s in that tank! That means, there were 3 large pooping Orca’s in that tank, splashing their toilet water all over us!
Before I saw the Orca poop in the water, my brain was content with the ignorant idea that Orca just don’t poop where they swim. It’s just something I never really thought about before. It didn’t ruin my day or anything, but the thought did linger in the back of my mind all the way home.
I thought about our drenched clothes, covered in Orca toilet water, have now contaminated the car seats. Then, when we got home, we all went to bed without showers, because it was late and we were all exhausted! I had a lingering thought that now our beds were contaminated with whale poo too!
I did have the compulsive need to wash everything as soon as possible, but, I didn’t, I was too tired to worry about whale poo. We had to just live with it and surprisingly to my OCD brain, we survived without having to scrub everything clean. Although we all took showers the next day, the clothes are still in the dirty laundry waiting for their turn to get washed. The car seats need to be washed too, but not because I fear they are contaminated with whale poo, but mostly because they smell extremely salty. 3.5% salinity, to be exact. Wow, I actually remember something from high-school. 🙂
So, that was my weirdest, most ridiculous, silliest OCD episode EVER! If anything, it has taught me to think twice before sitting in the Splash Zone ever again. 🙂
Do you have any weird OCD stories, please feel free to share with us!
I used to think mindful walking meant “watching” your step. Like, the delicate art of dodging sneaky fixed-light poles, jumping over Grand Canyon size pot holes, avoiding embarrassing trips over large cracks in the sidewalk, and trying not to invade personal space bubbles of others walking around you, including getting tangled up with animal friends on long leashes. Makes sense, right? Walking in general, kind of requires some level of mindfulness. How much more mindful should we be?
Well…walking mindfully, is so much more than just watching your step and being aware of your surroundings (calm down secret Ninja). Mindful walking is enjoying your surroundings, feeling the moment, and engaging in all your senses. Although it sounds complicated, like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, I assure you, it’s actually very easy.
Walking Like A Zombie
We don’t have to actively think about moving our feet to walk, (left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot), we kind of just do it automatically. Sometimes to the point, we can end up at the refrigerator without even realizing it, browsing mindlessly into an open refrigerator not even sure if we have a hungry tummy. Our feet take us on all sorts of trips, but rarely do we remember any part of the trip. Seriously, walking in the parking lot from your car to the grocery store; do you ever remember specifics to your surroundings?
When our bodies are in this normal automatic (zombie) mode, our Fight or Flight Response System is directing our senses, not us, mostly because we are too busy thinking about other things. I know while I am walking to the grocery store from my car, the only thing on my mind is a shopping list. This is why we rarely remember any specifics from point A to point B, such as how many people were in the parking lot, particular smells, the color of parked cars, a penny on the ground, or any trees or flowers in the parking lot; well, unless you parked next to a tree, then of course, you have to remember that tree.
My point is, we do see all of these things, but we rarely pay attention to any of it, unless it sparks an interest, like a unique rainbow colored car with unicorn horns or things that pose a danger to us, like a vehicle backing out of a parking space in front of us or the smell of gasoline. We are semi-aware of our surroundings; but our Fight or Flight Response System is doing majority of the work when we don’t walk mindfully, because its mission is to keep us safe while our mind focuses on other things (like a shopping list).
Mindful Walking 101
The next time you go for a walk, even a short trip to the refrigerator, try to practice mindful walking.
To start, you have to get your feet moving in a desired direction, then once you are on your way, bring full-attention to your body then extend your senses outward to the world. Taking in each moment of every step as you walk from point A to point B. Bringing your full attention to one simple task, such as walking, is extremely calming and sometimes enlightening.
Focusing On The Breath
On longer walks, like a good exercise around the block, always start with your breath. Focus on your breath by paying close attention to its sound; notice your chest moving in and out as your breathe. Can you feel your muscles working? Once you get a good, calm, breathing rhythm, move your attention to your feet.
Feet to Head Mental Scan
As you walk, you want to take notice to how your feet feel against the ground. Are you a light stepper or a heavy stepper? Are you walking fast or slow? Try to notice the heel -toe movement in walking. Can you feel any muscles working?
After your feet, pay full-attention to each body area, working your way up to your head. Move upward from your feet to your thighs, then to your hips (do they sway side to side as you walk, mine do). Then focus on your back, how is your posture as you walk? Wiggle your arms and fingers, focus on the sensations there. Finally, move up to your head where you will begin to extend your senses outward.
Using Senses To Discover A New World
When you engage in all your senses while walking, the world around you becomes more vivid, clearer, and sometimes even more beautiful. That is because you begin to notice things you never noticed before.
Try to bring your full attention to each of your senses.
What do you smell? Is it good or bad? Does it spark any memories?
What do you see? Look for flowers and trees. Pay attention to building architecture. Notice textures and colors.
What do you hear? Birds chirping? Dogs barking? Kids screaming? Construction? How does it make you feel?
Focus on taste. Morning coffee? Toothpaste? Unique unpleasant after-taste? Is it slightly raining? No shame in taking a taste of rain like a kid, enjoy it!
Focus on touch. Touch everything, but be mindful of boundaries. Touch flowers, dirt, the bricks of a house. What does it feel like? Take your shoes off while walking along a beach (avoid rocks).
The point is to activate all your senses while still being mindful of your surroundings to remain safe from danger. You can enjoy your walk so much more, by taking in every moment of your journey. This is truly the art of being mindful.
Gratitude Is The Result Of Being Mindful
Focusing on your breath and doing a toe to head body scan brings your body to a state of relaxation. However, engaging all your senses can bring a sense of gratitude. As you focus on your senses, you begin to appreciate all the new discoveries. Gratitude often leads to happiness and happiness is always a good thing. 🙂
The OCD brain loves to devour self-confidence; so much so, that it can leave one drooling with self-doubt.
In my opinion, I believe self-doubt to be the ultimate objective of an Obsessive-Compulsive bully brain. Self-doubt can cloud judgement, distort reality, and make us feel weak, insecure, and sometimes questioning our sanity. The OCD bully brain feels pretty good about kicking our self-esteem in the gonads, leaving us to feel like, well, totally not in control and less like our wonderful selves. Once you begin to doubt yourself, game over, the OCD bully brain has won!
Cannot Beat OCD With Crutches
Unfortuantely, you cannot defeat an OCD bully brain with crutches. You might be able to wave them around like a dork, swinging at your OCD like crazy, but eventually, you’ll lose your balance and fall hard on your butt. Crutches are not good at fighting back against OCD.
An OCD crutch is something we can lean on to help us bounce back quickly from a bad OCD thought, feeling, and/or compulsive behavior.
It can be a person who can reassure us verbally that all is okay in the world, instead of working through our OCD episodes ourselves, convincing ourselves all is okay in the world.
It can be a dash-camera used to rewind and check back on an anxious drive, instead of compulsively wasting time and gas to drive back to redo the drive over again.
It can be checking a security camera to make sure the stove is in fact turned off, instead of having the compulsive need to drive all the way back home to check the stove.
It can be wearing gloves 24-7 to ease the mind from having to worry about germs.
It could also be using medication that was meant to be short-term while learning how to cope with OCD, yet it eventually became a long-term solution instead, because it was easier.
OCD crutches are things that typically accommodate our OCD needs, making it easier and faster to move on with life without having to really work through our OCD problems. They come in all different varieties, it just largely depends on how you use them and for how long.
Although OCD crutches help us better cope with our OCD, they are not very effective against overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD. OCD crutches, by themselves, just makes us feel a little less “OCD.”
Having an OCD crutch isn’t terrible though. In fact, it is a step forward towards overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD. They are great to use as a short-term solution, easing your mind long enough to develop and practice a better, more effective, long-term game plan in conquering OCD; such as allowing yourself to focus on practicing CBT techniques, anxiety and stress management, recognizing and understanding OCD triggers, and working on a bit of mindfulness- all things required to overcome emotional suffering of OCD.
Taking A Leap Of Faith Away From OCD
To truly free yourself from the emotional suffering caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you must first drop the crutches and take a leap of faith into uncertainty.
Think of the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, where Indiana Jones ends up at the temple of the “The Treasury” in Petra, Jordan, seeking out the Holy Grail.
Remember the scene where Indiana Jones must take a leap of faith across a bottomless pit to save his father. (Clip of this scene is below) He really has to just dive right in and take a step into thin air (uncertainty), in which to his surprise, after minor heart failure over the fear of the unknown, realizes there is in fact a solid “invisible” bridge across the bottomless pit.
This entire scene, from the moment of extreme uncertainty to the heavy sigh of relief, is exactly what it is like dropping the OCD crutches and overcoming the emotional suffering caused by the OCD bully brain. In fact, Harrison Ford expresses the exact emotions (just look at his facial expressions), that I feel when I finally muster up enough confidence to take a leap of faith to overcome self-doubt from my OCD. I am the Indiana Jones of my own OCD!
Stopping Compulsive Behavior
It’s an odd sensation; resisting a compulsive behavior.
At first, when the mind is overwhelmed with emotions and OCD thoughts, it is difficult to even imagine resisting against the OCD bully brain and so, it is just easier to give in, following through with the compulsive behaviors.
Interestingly, through trial and error, we find things (OCD crutches) that allow us to sort of “compromise” with the OCD bully brain, by giving in to compulsive behavior or making ridiculous accommodations to avoid compulsive behavior, as best as we can, to better ease our experience with OCD. However, OCD still wins. The only way to successfully overcome the emotional suffering caused by OCD is by not giving in to OCD; however, I will be honest, the mere thought of taking back control can be really scary.
For me, resisting compulsive behavior is like fighting back against an invisible force field. BUT, like in every sci-fi movie, there is always a giant red shut-off button every villain doesn’t want you to find, but also seems to be in a dumb place for the hero to find anyway.
Yeah, the OCD bully brain is manipulative, not smart, just like a sci-fi movie villain. 🙂 It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do!
TAKING BACK CONTROL: Give it a Try
It never hurts to try to overcome our OCD. Below is how I take back control from my OCD brain.
I let OCD triggers happen. Avoiding them is often futile.
It is important that I recognize the moment I start to have an OCD episode. It’s much easier to work through an episode when I understand my brain is just being, well, OCD.
I then allow the OCD thoughts and feelings to linger like a stinky breeze on trash day.
I learned to never dwell on “why” these thoughts have come to mind. I am going to think about all the “why” questions anyway, but I know I must not start a debate with the OCD bully brain, because the OCD bully brain LOVES to debate with the logical brain. I cannot let this happen, because the OCD bully brain often wins by using ruthless manipulative tactics to create self-doubt.
I hold my confidence. I know I am smarter than my OCD bully brain.
I always take in a deep breath (or two or three); however many deep breathes it takes to keep me calm and bring myself closer to clarity. I am not looking to reach clarity, just enough clarity to keep my understanding that this is just my brain being OCD.
Then, the heavy need to perform a compulsive behavior comes… At this point, it is important to remember that I cannot control my thoughts or feelings, but I CAN control my physical actions. I can control how I chose to respond to my OCD bully brain.
As the thoughts swirl and the emotions build, pushing me to perform a compulsive behavior….I slam down on that imaginary red shut-off button instead! I take a leap of faith by confidently telling myself:
“This is ridiculous!Nothing will change if I waste time and energy by performing a compulsive behavior. I have good faith in myself that all is well. Everything was fine before this OCD thought came along and everything will be fine long after this thought leaves. I am in control.”
AND I REFUSE TO GIVE IN! Instead of performing a compulsive behavior, I look for a distraction to flush that lingering stench of a bad thought out of my brain!
Then, at the end, I wait until the bad OCD thought(s) are gone and my emotions have subsided before picking at my brain cells about “why” I had an OCD episode. I reflect on how I felt when I refused to perform a compulsive behavior. I also take note on how long I had to work through my OCD episode. Did I learn anything? How can I do better next time?
Everyone’s OCD is different, so what works for me, may not work for everyone else. But, it never hurts to try something new. In the beginning, refusing to perform a compulsive behavior was difficult, but with practice, it got a lot easier. Trial and Error is a huge part of overcoming the OCD bully brain.
Distractions Are Good For The Brain
I use to think distracting my OCD bully brain was just another OCD crutch, but it’s not. Distracting the brain is a healthy way to push lingering thoughts away. Our brains (so-called normal brains too) do it all the time.
It’s part of normal brain function. Our brains are constantly collecting input and we only take notice when something of interest sparks our brain and causes us to focus and think more deeply about it. If the thought doesn’t have a deep emotional attachment to it, we can easily let the thought go. However, when our OCD brains our anxious, our “Fight or Flight” Response System goes a bit haywire (frayed wiring I’ve talked about before) and our OCD bully brain tends to be extremely sensitive to thoughts and latches on emotionally, especially, to intrusive bad thoughts creating an OCD episode.
The Dash-Cam Is Back, But It’s Not For OCD
In the beginning, before I started to find ways to overcome my OCD, I used a dash-cam to record all my drives. I often wasted time and gas to drive all the way back to work or school, just to make sure I didn’t cause any accidents. The dash-cam, saved me time and gas, but it was still an OCD crutch. I relied on it for reassurance when self-doubt from my OCD consumed me.
It’s been 6+ years since I last used a dash-cam in my car. As of two months ago, the dash-cam is back in my life, but this time, it is not for my OCD. I bought a new dash-cam for my husband to use during his long trips to the big city. I was hesitant at first to buy a dash-cam, for that I was afraid I would become dependent on a dash-cam again for my OCD.
I have not used the dash-cam for my OCD, yet. In fact, the dash-cam has been sitting on my desk since last week. I’ve been driving without having the need to have it in the car. I don’t want it in the car! To be honest, I want to conquer my OCD all by myself and thus far, I’ve been doing pretty good at overcoming my driving anxiety. It just takes confidence and practice. 🙂
Take Away From This Post
In case there was too much blah-blah-blah talk, I just want to say, no matter what point you are at on your OCD journey….