Do you have OCD? Well, I have the obsessive part but not the compulsive. I don’t have chronic compulsive behaviors, but I do have obsessive thoughts that I can’t get out of my head! Like a bad song. I also have psychosomatic symptoms, so when I have an idea in my head, it almost always makes me sick.
Recently, I caught myself before I was about to go into the “obsessive” trap. I ate something, and I thought it would make me sick. Almost instantly after I thought it, my stomach began to turn. I was going to be sick. But I recognized the thought, realized that I wouldn’t get sick that quickly (especially conveniently after the thought just entered my head!), and then told myself I was fine. The more I thought, “I’m fine,” instead of, “I’m going to be sick,” the less sick I felt over time.
It was literally all in my head.
When a thought enters my head, it won’t leave. But, now that I’m older, I have learned how to drown out the thoughts. It’s called distraction.
Here are some practical ways to distract yourself, so that you don’t have to keep hearing the noise of regret, doubt, shame, or simply that nagging voice telling you what you need to do:
- Music: I’ll typically listen to something that will calm me down, so that my body will naturally relax. Worship music is my go-to, as a lot of worship songs talk about the healing power of God, or about whatever I need from God in that moment. Focusing on God’s presence instead of the false pretense that something bad will happen shows me the truth, that my anxiety is a lie and that God’s will is for me to have peace. The same is true for you.
- Prayer: While listening to music is a defensive way to distract yourself from obsessive thoughts (it’s like a shield), prayer and reading the Bible are both offensive. Think of prayer as a sword. You are declaring the promises of God out loud to yourself and your fear. You are speaking to the anxiety and telling it to leave. You are actively speaking against what your heart might be feeling or your mind might be thinking. You are speaking to a real person, who cares for you, listens to you, and helps you in your time of need.
- Reading the Bible out loud: Like prayer, the Bible is a sword we can use to pierce the anxiety and the obsessive thoughts. Open up to the Psalms or one of the Epistles (in the New Testament) and read about God’s love for you. Reading it out loud uses more senses (hearing, seeing, and feeling) than it does if we simply read it in our heads. It also proves to be more of a distraction from the obsessive thoughts, as you’re focusing outside of your head rather than within.
- Games: Sometimes, a good old-fashioned game on my phone helps me relax. When I’m anxious or have thoughts I can’t control, I’ll play a game of solitaire and take deep breaths. If I’m extra anxious, I may play a couple of games, but usually by the first game I’ve calmed myself enough to move on.
- Journaling: This is one of my favorite ways to distract myself. It helps me process my thoughts (instead of ignoring them) and it gives me a reference for when I’m dealing with the same issue in the future. I love looking back on journals I’ve written 10 years ago and gaining insight from my teenage years.
These things help me drown out the noise in my head. What about you?