Lately I’ve been struggling with intrusive thoughts. Everything under the sun. In the past week, I’ve gotten caught in thought loops surrounding: what if I become schizophrenic or develop post-partum psychosis? What if I become an alcoholic? What if I get divorced someday? What if I have children and they hate me? What if I relapse and don’t have a support system/can’t make my way out? What if my dog gets run over? What if my parents die in a car accident?
But the thought itself doesn’t matter. The subject matter isn’t the problem. It could be ANY fear I conjure up. Anything scary. So it’s not about solving or rationalizing the fear. Another one would just pop up. It’s about something deeper.
No, we can’t control if an intrusive thought enters our mind. But we CAN control how we respond to it. I’ve been using a few tools that have been really helpful for me in dealing with intrusive thoughts, so I decided to share those with you guys in a blog post (in case anyone else has these!).
- Notice that you’re caught in a thought loop or having an intrusive thought: the first step is to come out of the storyline of the intrusive thought. Many times we’ll have a scary thought and then immediately get terrified and go into all the imaginings of it happening. Instead of running away with the thought, take a step back and notice it’s an intrusive thought.
- Acknowledge the intrusive thought: As soon as you notice it as an intrusive thought, acknowledge it. “Oh hey, intrusive thought. Wuddup?”
- Resist the urge to seek reassurance or “solve” the fear: Don’t Google. Don’t ask someone to reassure you. I’m the worst at this. When I have one of my intrusive thoughts, I usually want to Google to find as much information as I can to reassure me I’ll be fine. Or I’ll go to my boyfriend with my new thought and allow him to reassure me it’s just not true. But all this does is feed the thought. It gives the thought power because I’m playing into it and giving it attention. Don’t give the thought ANY attention after you acknowledge it.
- Redirect your attention elsewhere: this could also be called distraction. Find anything productive or positive for your mind to focus on. Maybe you do a physical activity. Maybe you make a gratitude list. Maybe you plan your day/week. Maybe you write down your grocery list. Maybe you think of a happy memory in great detail. Maybe you write a poem or draw something. Intrusive thoughts are your mind’s way of needing something to do. Replace those scary imaginings with something wonderful.
- Trust: this can be really difficult, but trusting that everything will be okay can help with uncertainty. Trust in whatever you believe- God, love, the Universe, a higher power, yourself. Trust that whatever happens in your life is for your soul’s growth. Trust that you can handle whatever it is that comes your way. Trust that anything that occurs is exactly what you need. Then, you can let go of the need for certainty and control.Intrusive thoughts are difficult to deal with. They’re scary by nature, and it can be so easy to get caught in their stories. But you have the power to respond to them with love. You have the power to not let them overtake you.