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  • Catherine Benfield

The Art of Relaxing when you have OCD - Say WHAT now?

Updated: 3 days ago

Olivia leaning in a corner listening to a cassette player

As someone with OCD and anxiety, I often find it impossible to relax. My mind races, I create issues where there are none. Even when I can feel how badly I need a brain brain, it is really, REALLY, difficult for me to switch off. I know a lot of us in our community feel the same way.

I could be sprawled on the sofa in my pj's with a hot water bottle and blanket and look to the world like I'm chilling, but it's all go inside - believe me! And it's exhausting.

I'd always assumed that knowing how to relax was something I should automatically know. That I should have been born with the ability to relax and the skill set to insert it into my life. I used to hold a thousand of these not so helpful assumptions - thankfully I've challenged a lot of them. So why not this one? Who says relaxing isn't a skill? Why can't relaxation be something that takes initial effort? What if we can learn how to relax? What if we can learn to eke a little time in for ourselves?

I don't just mean hot baths and mediation type of relaxing, I mean chilling out doing something we enjoy relaxing.

I think for us, our recovery work comes in big time here. Whenever I had down time you could guarantee the intrusive thoughts would ramp up a lot and I'd get busy finding a distraction. Would learning how to challenge or accept the nature of my thoughts stop them ruining that time for me? It's well worth a try!

Would doing breath work or yoga help me to relax enough to access downtime? Again, why wouldn't I try it.

I always despised going for walks because I couldn't get out of my head. Same for baths - not relaxing at all. Would learning about mindfulness and staying in the present moment help to stop this happening? Again, why not give it a try?

I know people who are brilliant at relaxing. They can switch off in an instant and genuinely relax. I accept that's probably a tad beyond my reach - my personality type, life experiences and condition would make that hard. But that's okay. It just means I need to teach myself to chill. And that's what I'm going to start doing from now on.

I'll start with what I know about myself. I'm often highly vigilant and get distracted easily. I find listening to music a brilliant way to hold my focus and positively impact my mood. It keeps my mind busy, it soothes me and it takes over enough of my senses for my muscles to start to relax.

Finding what relaxes you is very personal. What is right for one person won't be right for all of us. So, with that in mind, how do we work out the most beneficial ways of relaxing for ourselves?

Well, we could try answering some of these questions...

  • Do you prefer moving your body or keeping it still?

  • Which senses would you like to access? eg, Incense sticks for smell, music for sound, low lighting for sight, reading etc.

  • Would you like to be creating something? Or maybe have an end result?

  • What do you enjoy?

  • Is there a particular practice that helps you - yoga, meditation, sound baths etc.

  • Is there anything you can get lost doing? This is also known as flow state. It's where you become totally absorbed in doing something and don't notice the passage of time.

  • What others questions could you ask yourself?

Just to be clear this isn't necessarily a hobby, I'll do a post about hobbies in the future although of course it could be if your hobby helps you to relax.

When I knew I'd be writing this blog, I asked how people in our communities relaxed. Most deal with OCD, anxiety or a combination of. Here are some of their ideas, just in case you need a little motivation and/or fancy giving them a try. I hope it helps!

  • Painting

  • Listening to music - a popular one!

  • Play instruments

  • Song writing

  • Listening to podcasts - another popular one!

  • Concentrating on breath

  • Learning something knew

  • Meditation,

  • Exercise,

  • Cooking

  • Embroidery

  • Drawing

  • Yoga

  • Diamond art (google this, it's amazing!)

  • Hot bath

  • Cross-stitching

  • Reading - easy reads popular and cheesy romance

  • Lifting weights

  • Being near the sea, water

  • Laying in a dark room

  • Playing with pets, walking dog

  • Lighting candles

  • Watching films

If you try any and find it helpful please let me know! And if you have OCD and have mastered the art of relaxing please let me know if there's anything you do that I've missed off the list.

Okay, I think that's it for me for this post!

Please keep an eye out on my social media for more updates, and new information about Waving - we're doing the last of the filming in a matter of weeks and we're all very excited!

Loads of love everyone,

Catherine x x

Do learn a lot more about how to carve time out of your busy schedule in order to have some chill time please read this post here.

To meet the team behind Taming Olivia please see here! Please feel very free to send a message to say hi - we love hearing from people.

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