Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder well-known for its cycles of intrusive thoughts and ritualistic behaviors. Left untreated, OCD can impact your quality of life and make it hard to function at work or school.
The good news is that OCD responds well to treatment, which often includes medication and therapy.
At Allied Psychiatry & Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, Dr. Hadi Estakhri also prioritizes lifestyle modifications that support your mental wellness. Here are five coping strategies for OCD you can try at home.
1. Practice good sleep hygiene
Sleep and anxiety disorders have a complicated relationship. Anxious thoughts can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, and the chronic lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, but practicing good sleep hygiene can help you sleep better at night.
Good sleep hygiene practices include:
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Setting your thermostat at 65 degrees Fahrenheit
- Sleeping in a dark room
- Avoiding blue screens (TVs, tablets, etc.) for 1-2 hours before bed
- Choosing amber screens or night mode if you use an e-reader before bed
- Taking a warm bath before bed
Spending time outside can also help you sleep better at night because it can help regulate your circadian rhythm.
2. Stay active
Research indicates that cortisol 一 known as the stress hormone 一 is higher in those with OCD. Exercise can be a great way to lower stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Regular aerobic exercise also stimulates endorphins and boosts your mood. In other words, exercise can help your mind relax.
As a bonus, exercise also helps you sleep better at night (as long as you don’t exercise right before bedtime!).
Need some ideas to get started? Running, walking around the block, biking, hiking, and dancing are all great forms of exercise. If you’re at home or don’t have access to a gym nearby, you can find plenty of equipment-free workout videos online for free.
3. Focus on good nutrition
Food fuels your body, and that includes your brain! While eating certain foods won’t eliminate anxious thoughts, there are plenty of foods that do support brain health. For instance, researchers found that people who ate more omega-3 fatty acids experienced reduced anxious feelings.
You can find omega-3 fatty acids in supplements, avocados, walnuts, chia seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring. Other good-for-your-brain foods include vitamin D-fortified food, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks, fermented foods, turmeric, chamomile, and dark chocolate.
Avoid energy drinks or highly caffeinated beverages, as they can exacerbate anxious feelings.
4. Keep an OCD journal
Keeping an OCD journal can help you track your triggers and reactions. For instance, you can log the situation you were in, the compulsion you experienced, and what you did about it.
You can also try logging how you feel when you refocus your attention after experiencing a trigger. Refocusing activities can include jumping jacks, playing with a fidget toy, petting your dog, or singing a song.
The notes you take in your journal could provide useful information during your therapy sessions.
5. Set aside time for hobbies
Spending time enjoying relaxing hobbies can have a profound effect on your mental wellness. Certain hobbies, such as drawing, knitting, crocheting, and yoga, are especially relaxing. Knitting, for instance, can promote feelings of calm, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mental wellness.
Get help for your OCD
One of the best things you can do to manage OCD at home is to continue to take your medication as directed and employ the strategies you learn in therapy.
According to the International OCD Foundation, about 70% of people diagnosed with OCD benefit from medication and/or therapy. However, medications must be taken regularly for them to work. If you start to feel better, resist the temptation to stop taking your medication. Never stop your medication or alter your dosage unless directed to do so.
If you have questions about your medication, don’t hesitate to let us know. There are many types of medications used to treat OCD, so if one isn’t working for you, we can find another that will.
Whether you’re just now seeing the first signs of OCD or you’re experiencing a relapse, Dr. Estakhri is here to help you manage your symptoms. From thorough assessments to medication management to guidance with lifestyle modifications, Dr. E creates customized treatment plans to improve your quality of life.
To learn more about OCD treatments and lifestyle modifications to help you cope with OCD, book an appointment today by calling our office at 949-945-0927 or using our online scheduler.