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Updated: Aug 3, 2020

While the world is facing a pandemic that has society collectively consumed with fear, those with mental illness are fighting some of their toughest battles yet. OCD, also known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is “characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviors. OCD often centers on themes such as a fear of germs or the need to arrange objects in a specific manner. Symptoms usually begin gradually and vary throughout life.” Click for a short video on what OCD is and some of the misconceptions behind it.

While OCD often falls subject to several myths and generalizations, those diagnosed often do struggle with fear related to germs, sickness, and unexpected death on a daily basis. Facing an international crisis surrounding those inherent issues can make this an extremely difficult time for those with OCD and other forms of mental illness- amplifying symptoms and making anxiety levels higher than usual.

During a time like this it is essential for all of us to prioritize our mental health, and to encourage the self help strategies of those around us. If you or a loved one struggles with OCD, check out some strategies to combat symptoms below:

  • When you wake up in the morning, find a quiet place to meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes. Congratulate yourself for getting up and taking on another day, and thank the earth for giving you yet another morning. Practice inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. While doing so remind yourself that there are things you must accept you cannot change. Work through a list of your fears, and with each exhale imagine yourself blowing these worries into the wind, and letting the universe take control. Click for a great 5 minute meditation.

  • Allow 15 minutes of exercise into your every day routine. Working out in the morning is proven to ease symptoms for the remainder of the day due to endorphin release. Aerobic exercise such as running, dancing, hiking, skiing, and kickboxing are scientifically proven to help combat symptoms of OCD. That being said, do whatever exercise works best for you, and do now allow the pressure of working out to distract from its purpose to release endorphins. Allow yourself to take breaks, and follow your own schedule.

  • While you go throughout your day, be mindful not to judge yourself for your instinctive OCD behaviors. Fending off these compulsive thoughts and habits is an ongoing battle and not something we can simply turn off. Instead of getting frustrated with your intrusive thoughts and compulsions, remind yourself “I am not my OCD,” “this is my OCD speaking,” “my OCD does not control reality.”

  • Although you can resist performing a compulsion, you cannot refuse to think an obsessive thought. When you have a disturbing or compulsive thought, try utilizing coping tools that will halt your thoughts in their track, and re-direct them. One of the best strategies to re-directing compulsive thoughts is using inanimate objects with no sentimental value as a focal point. Try picking up an inanimate object such as a chilled water bottle. Out loud or in your head, walk through its characteristics. How does it feel? How does it smell? Can you squeeze it? Break it? For example, “the cap has smooth ridges,” “there are cool water droplets moistening the label.” By walking ourselves through the sensory attributes of this object, we can re-center ourselves and transfer our focus onto something harmless, distracting from out intrusive thoughts.

  • While there are psychiatric medications available to help cope with the symptoms of OCD, Herbal remedies are made available as alternatives as well. Click to see what herbal remedies work best and why.

How can you support a loved one with OCD ? Be careful not to make insensitive comments about their thoughts or behaviors. Do not make comments like “you’re being crazy,” “it’s not that big of a deal, you’re just super OCD.” Additionally, if you do NOT have OCD make sure that you don’t make comments such as “oh sorry I am just super OCD,” while organizing your room or being extra sanitary. It is okay for certain habits to be important to you, and even necessary for your mental health. However, saying you have OCD when you do not is insensitive to those whose obsessive compulsive disorder has an increasingly negative impact on their mental health and ability to carry out every day activities.

Remind your loved ones that their fears are valid and their feelings are justified. Remind them that their OCD does not define them, and that they are capable of overcoming any difficult times. Without making comparisons in severity, remind them of hurdles that they have overcome in the past. Assure them that you will support them through this time.

If you are struggling during this time you can call the suicide prevention help line at any time. Call 1–800–273–8255 if you need to talk to someone. You are not alone!

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