Living with OCD can be incredibly challenging. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many OCD sufferers are struggling more than ever before. Daily routines have been broken, millions of people are working from home, and mask-wearing has become the new normal. Not to mention, fears around germs and contamination are on everyone’s mind.
It’s been almost one year since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world. Although we’re inching closer to a vaccine and the possibility of relaxed social guidelines, we still have a long way to go. Whether you suffer from OCD or not, we all need to stay focused and stay committed to protecting ourselves and those around us from this virus.
As we approach the end of the year, another major hurdle is upon us—the holiday season. Christmas is just a few weeks away and this year’s celebrations are going to look much different than they normally do. If you struggle with OCD, having anxiety about Christmas in the COVID-19 era is understandable. However, there are ways that you can manage your OCD symptoms and make this Christmas a safe and fun experience.
Living with OCD During the Holiday Season
This year, we’re all learning how to navigate the holidays during a global pandemic. Unfortunately, there’s no roadmap or guidebook that can make it any easier. Everyone is feeling stressed this year, but for people who have OCD, their worries could become more serious fears that keep them from spending time with loved ones.
As we approach the holidays, most people are at least somewhat nervous about traveling, visiting family, attending religious services, and having family-style meals. Those fears are easily calmed by taking certain precautions, like keeping celebrations small, always wearing a mask, and being diligent about handwashing.
But for someone with OCD, those fears can trigger serious anxieties. For instance, people who are obsessed with cleanliness might refuse to get on a plane or train for fear of contracting the virus. Others might be convinced that their family members have COVID-19 and could pass it to them. These beliefs can be debilitating, even during a time that is supposed to be about togetherness.
Five Ways to Cope with OCD Symptoms This Christmas
The truth is, we’re all dealing with the unknown this holiday season. Everyone wants Christmas to be as normal as possible, but we can’t deny the fact that things are different. For someone who suffers from OCD, there are ways to have an enjoyable holiday season during COVID-19. Here are some tips to use as we head into the holidays:
1. Practice grounding techniques
It’s easy to get caught up in the “what-ifs” around the holidays during the pandemic. Maybe you’re worried about getting on a plane or spending time in the close quarters of a relative’s home. Try to let go of those worries and focus on grounding techniques, like breathwork, meditation, or mantras. Grounding allows you to stay in the present moment and helps you get out of your head. When you feel like your OCD symptoms are creeping up, come back to your grounding practices. You can use these techniques anywhere and anytime you need to refocus.
2. Plan ahead strategically
People who struggle with OCD tend to be avid planners. Having a plan makes you feel like you can control the situation. But instead of planning obsessively, try to plan strategically. For example, make a plan for what you’ll do if you arrive at a relative’s home and feel unsafe. Keep the plan loose enough that you have multiple options. Instead of saying that you’ll leave right away, consider other approaches, like asking the host to move the party outside or going for a walk around the block to see the neighborhood Christmas lights.
3. Set boundaries
Setting personal boundaries is important in any situation, but it’s especially beneficial during the pandemic. If you want to visit your friends and family this year, talk about ways to make the situation as safe as possible. If you want everyone to get tested before you agree to come, make that suggestion. Ask the host to keep the gathering small, so you’re not encountering too many people. Work together to make your holiday gathering as safe and enjoyable as possible so everyone who attends feels comfortable.
4. Prioritize alone time
During the holidays, it can be difficult to find alone time, especially if you’re visiting people you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. But for people with OCD, having alone time is essential. It allows you to recharge and unwind. Spending time with friends and family should be fun, but it can also be mentally and emotionally draining. If you’re starting to feel anxious or your OCD symptoms are becoming difficult to manage, find someplace to practice your grounding techniques and get some fresh air.
5. Consider TMS treatment
Certain therapies have been proven to help reduce OCD symptoms, even in people whose OCD hasn’t responded well to conventional therapies. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is an alternative therapy that uses electromagnetic waves to change the flow of information between neurotransmitters and neural pathways in the brain. With consistent treatment, TMS can alleviate obsessions, compulsions, and anxiety. It’s an FDA-approved therapy and there’s no downtime after a treatment session. Consider starting TMS treatment before the holidays to start taking control of your symptoms so you can have a more relaxing holiday season.
If you or someone you know is suffering from OCD, consider TMS therapy at Pulse. TMS has been shown to improve OCD symptoms in people who have not had success with medication alone. TMS is typically used to supplement a more comprehensive treatment program of talk therapy, medication, and self-care.
Contact our team at (310) 878-4346 to learn more about TMS therapy at Pulse.