Merry Christmas to you all. We hope that you had a restful day, but it is a good time to remember that this can be a difficult few days for people with OCD. I have blogged about this previously, but for those of you who are new to my blogs, newly aware of OCD, recently diagnosed or have taken a downturn, here are some points to remember:
- Even though there are many pressures to be festive, cheerful, amusing or entertaining, you can only do your best and that is good enough.
- Christmas is an ideal time to practice mindfulness and being present. Without the distractions of work, you will need to make an extra effort to be in the moment. Focus on the people around you, what they are saying and how they look, the smells, textures, sounds and sights that are unique to these few days.
- The sentiments, familial expectations, emotional movies/TV, chit chat and present-giving rituals can be emotive, but at least you know what they are likely to be and how they are likely to feel, thereby making it a little easier to observe and not participate in them. For those of you new to mindfulness practice, try to look at these experiences, rather than from within them.
- Practice some mindfulness visual exercises. Put your emotions, feelings and thoughts on an imaginary conveyor belt. Don’t be tempted to inspect, interact or analyse them. Leave them on the conveyor. So what if they come back, cycle around or move very slowly? The more you become involved with them, the longer they will stay.
- Outside the religious implications, Christmas has become something of a ‘manufactured’ event to produce certain behaviours, based mainly around commercial shopping and gifting. Relate this to your thoughts, feelings and emotions which are manufactured by OCD and have no meaning or power over you, other than that which you assign. Don’t assign give OCD that power!
- This is a time for movies. Try the movie mindfulness exercise as you sit there with family, friends or by yourself. OCD is very much like a film director, using themes, stories, music, sounds, effects, visuals to draw you towards thinking. Instead of allowing yourself to be immersed in the movie as usual, shorten your focus and keep your eyes actively observing the movie by noticing things like the sounds, visuals, storyline, colours and emotions/feelings triggered. Make notes, like a movie critic, if it helps. Don’t attempt this for the whole movie if you are a beginner, just try 10 minutes. Your goal is to change your relationship with the movie to help you to change your relationship with your thoughts, emotions and feelings as part of an overall mindfulness goal.
- Whatever you do this holiday, give yourself the gift of kindness and compassion. Stop trying to be seen as generous, amusing, successful, attractive, engaging, sociable or intelligent. Instead of the aspirational ideal you struggle to maintain, see yourself in a much kinder light. If you pitch your view of yourself somewhere between complicated, confused teenager on a steep learning curve who often makes mistakes and newly functioning young adult who is thrust out in the world with a relatively small set of coping skills, you might be in the right ballpark.
- If you can also imagine that the person above is your child and the unlimited, unconditional affection you would have for them, regardless of their shortcomings, then you would be closer to the relationship you should be having with yourself.
- If you are alone this Christmas, our thoughts are with you and it is OK to be alone. It says nothing about your worth or value as a human being. As above, take this time to be kind to yourself. Do those things that you value and observe any thoughts that undermine your self-worth.
- Finally, remember that where you are now is OK. Even if you don’t feel great, it is still OK. It is the fighting with not being OK that hurts. Accept where you are and that you are allowed to feel as you do, positive or negative. Breathe out and give up the struggle - OCD thrives on the struggle. You may need support and/or help in order to do this but it is the way forward.
Take care of yourselves going into 2018. That goes for carers too. Where would we be without you?