For World Mental Health Day 2020, I’m sharing my experience of living and coping with OCD during the pandemic. I’ll also be sharing advice and where you can get help if you are struggling. Last year I wrote a post about Living with OCD. It’s still one of my most viewed posts today. As 2020 has thrown a lot of obstacles our way I want to share an update.
I think that World Mental Health Day 2020 is one of the most important days in the calendar. This year has been so tough on everyone. The impact on mental health has been dramatic.
How the pandemic affects OCD symptoms
“Wash your hands”, “don’t go near people”, “avoid crowds”, “clean surfaces”. These are all things my OCD tells me, as someone that struggles with contamination fears. It can be absolutely terrifying when the advice for COVID19 relates directly to your intrusive thoughts.
The International OCD Foundation has a fantastic guideline for different types of OCD sufferers.
My lockdown and OCD experience
I talked about my personal experience with OCD in my living with OCD post. So I’ll only be talking about coping with OCD during the pandemic in this post.
I struggled so much with my thoughts spiraling out of control at the start of the outbreak. Hours, if not days, were wasted watching and reading the news. The panic was uncontrollable, and I was having multiple panic attacks a day.
Something that genuinely helped me at the start of lockdown was volunteering. I share everything about it here, in my Sewing for the NHS post. Feeling like I had something to contribute made me feel better, both mentally and emotionally. I also stopped with the news. There was nothing I could do about that. And the more I read, the more I panicked. My doctor advised me to set a strict time limit on the news. So I started only reading the BBC website at around the times that the number of new cases was announced. I made sure to be really strict with the minutes I was reading. Slowly, after a couple of weeks, I stopped checking the news every day.
Managing OCD during the pandemic
Here are the 10 things I’ve done and been advised on, which I hope will help you too. These are general tips and please do make them work for you.
1. Limit time watching and/or reading the news
It’s tempting to try and understand everything that’s going on. The need to keep up with the latest news. But this can be so harmful and time-consuming. Try to limit exposure to coronavirus related news. Give yourself either a set time or duration. At the start of lockdown, I was wasting days and days on the news and research. I limited myself after some advice from my Doctor. Now I’m able to cut down to around 1 hour a week. It has really helped me to control my anxiety and spiraling thoughts
2. Likewise with social media
It can be just as bad on social media. Not only that but the amount of fake and misinformed posts can make it unnecessarily stressful.
3. Try and develop an at-home routine
Wake up at a similar time every morning. Give yourself a daily routine that’s easy to follow. Set blocks of time for work, exercise, sleep, rest, etc. If it helps, set specific time blocks to read or watch the news. But make sure not to go outside of these blocks.
4. Stay connected
Make sure to communicate with friends, family, or community members. It’s important to make sure that even though we’re physically socially distanced, we are still connected.
5. Remove toxic people and contacts
I know this is easier said than done. But nevertheless, it’s so important. Negative comments from others can lead you into a downward spiral. Don’t feel bad for cutting ties, when people are making you feel bad and continuing to do so. When you give people 100% and they barely give you 10%, it’s time to let go.
6. Plan obligations
As the lockdown starts to ease, you might find yourself with obligations to go outside more. Try to plan ahead. Walkthrough the journey in your head. What will cause you stress? Is there any way to avoid it? Can you think of an alternative route? What items can you bring with you to relieve your anxiety?
7. Live within your country’s guidelines
Don’t take unnecessary risks. It can cause you extra anxiety if you know you might be doing something more risky. Or that you’re taking more risk than the average person. Try to live within the advice set by your government. Of course, you don’t have to do things just because they’re allowed. I for one haven’t been to a restaurant since March!
8. Practice self-care and be kind to yourself
Remember to take care of yourself first. I know that’s easy to say! But be kind. Having a rubbish day? Slow week? Unproductive month? These are crazy times. Try the best that you can day by day. Remember, be kind. If you’re struggling for a long time, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. I’ve got some links and contacts at the bottom of this post.
9. Distract yourself with a hobby or activity
Don’t underestimate the power of hobbies. At my most anxious, I couldn’t focus on anything. But then I started sewing. And hours and hours would go by where I could just concentrate on my activity. It can often be much easier to focus on hobby-type activities than working.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Here in the UK, I’ve heard the phrase “locked in not locked out” from the NHS. Remember that there are people still out there for you. In the section below, I’ve listed a few options where you can reach out.
Where you can find support for specific OCD and pandemic help
These links are for UK based foundations, however, they can be accessed from worldwide. To find more information near you, check the International OCD Foundation for region-specific help.
If you are in urgent need of care, please either call NHS 111 (in the UK) or the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK). If you are not in the UK, please call your regional emergency service. You’re not alone in this, and there is help out there for you. It will get better, I promise.
I hope by sharing my experience here, it encourages others to speak out or for conversations to start.
Please share this with anyone who may benefit from this post. If you know someone who is struggling with lockdown, reach out to them.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope that days like today serve to remind everyone to look after themselves and their mental health.
See you in the next one,
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