Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cut to the Chase: How to Stop Obsessive Thinking About Illness

It’s not a matter of letting go, you would if you could. Instead of “Let it go” we should probably say “let it be.” Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Chronic disease or not, it’s not uncommon to have obsessive thoughts from time to time. However, for those with chronic or serious conditions, it can be a lot more prevalent as worrying about how you feel, being sorry for  things that may have contributed to your situation and of course, the “what ifs,” can quickly impact quality of life with fear and suffering. 

If you find yourself obsessing, try any or all of the following:

• Acknowledge that you are obsessing. Recognize that the longer you obsess, the more you’re going to spiral downwards, so the quicker you can see that you are obsessing the better.

Practice STOP: Stop Take a Breath, Observe and Proceed. Use this as an opportunity to “shift gears.”

• "Drop It" This is from ToniBerhard author of  several books including her most recent one “How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide.” When you become aware that you’re stuck in regret about the past, or that you’re overcome with worry about what the future holds, gently but firmly say, “Drop it.” Then immediately direct your attention to some current sensory input. It could be something you see or smell. It could be the physical sensation of your feet on the ground or of your breath coming in and out of your body. Dropping a stressful train of thought about the past or the future and relaxing into the present moment is a relief. And adding a slight smile can bring with it a sense of peace and well-being.
•  Breathe 

• Exercise: Moving helps. It can be as simple as standing up and stretching. Try a five minute yoga break. Walk around the house.

• Take a break: Focusing attention on something fun, uplifting, or completely absorbing can help break the cycle. It can be a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, drawing, learning something new, listening to music, smelling the roses, watching TV, video game, gardening. Any activity that lets you lose track of time will help to break the cycle of the obsession.  Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of Take a Break ideas. 

• Learn something new: This builds on taking a break, recognizing it takes concentration to do something you haven’t done before. In short, it gives your brain a break.

• Call a Friend: As the adage goes  “don’t worry alone.” Share feelings, since most obsessive thinking is about thoughts not feelings.

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