As my previous blog explained, we all get intrusive thoughts from time to time but usually we are able to quickly distract ourselves and move on. However if the thoughts become more than fleeting, if they become powerful and at times, ever present, we call them obsessive. Obsessive thoughts can interfere greatly with our emotional wellbeing.
The good news is that we do not have to suffer long term from the bullying nature of the thoughts – it may take time and effort, but there are several tried and tested and effective ways to overcome them.
The 5 Step Approach
- First of all, be aware that you are experiencing the thoughts
- Label these thoughts as “intrusive obsessive thoughts.” Just thoughts. Just cells firing in your brain. And you can safely ignore them.
- Accept and allow the thoughts into your mind. Do not try to push them away which is our natural inclination – this will only give them more power.
- Pause for a few moments and take some slow deep breaths to calm your whole body down. (We tend to live our lives in our heads and forget we have a physical body too – when the intrusive thoughts are in your mind, tune into your body – it is very likely that your body is holding a lot of tension – the neck, shoulders and gut are areas we particularly hold tension. Focussing on those areas and NOT on your thoughts, gently trying to release the tension by moving or stretching can really help.)
- Simply continue whatever you were doing prior to the intrusive thought.
Repeat the above steps as necessary – bearing in mind that you may have to do this many many times a day, at least at first. Don’t lose heart – if you can keep applying the technique for just a few weeks, there is an excellent chance that you will begin to see a decrease in the number and intensity of your intrusive thoughts.
Try Not To:
- Engage the thoughts in any way.
- Push the thoughts out of your mind.
- Try to figure out what your thoughts “mean.”
- Convince yourself that you would never do what the thoughts are saying.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, accepting intrusive thoughts rather than trying to block them or push them away is the key to dealing with them. They no longer mean anything to you when you acknowledge them. Don’t try to figure out what it all means or use tactics to avoid causing harm to others. This causes your mind to pay extra attention to the intrusive thoughts, which is the last thing you want. How to get rid of intrusive thoughts is to see them come through you and move on.
Work on your overall stress levels
The more stressed we are generally, the more the intrusive or obsessive thoughts will be able to get a hold – so in addition to the above strategy, it’s also very important to find ways of dealing with the stress in your life. These recent blogs will give you some useful tips.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!