Obsessive thoughts or automatic negative thoughts are often associated with anxiety disorders as well as major depression. But they are not exclusive to those conditions.
Do you feel like you cannot let go of certain thoughts in these past months? The current global context, high stress rates and an uncertain future are compelling reasons to explain everything that is happening with these kinds of thoughts.
If you do not know how to deal with obsessive thoughts, I will ask you not to be too hard on yourself. Sometimes, even if the effort to eliminate them is a great one, it is not enough. This is a situation that will only serve to generate worry and despair.
Why can’t I ever find peace of mind? Why can’t I make them stop? Is there something wrong with me? I wish to deepen on these doubts together.
What are obsessive thoughts?
A simple way to understand what an obsessive thought is, is as a mental content of a threatening, automatic and unwanted nature. Obsessive thoughts can be represented as images or words.
People dealing with obsessive thoughts might also focus on events in the future or re-experience the past. What makes these kinds of thoughts so exhausting is that they are accompanied by very complicated and intense emotions, which sooner or later will end up exhausting your resources.
When your brain is facing threats, physiological fear responses are common. However, the stimulus that provokes this fear is not actually there, it wanders back and forth in your head, which is what gives it that exhausting persistence.
In fact, your sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system, will interpret this as a direct experience. It activates all the necessary resources for fight or flight. This is where anxiety will appear.
How to manage obsessive thoughts
Obsessive thoughts are difficult to manage. You will need willpower, discipline, and a lot of faith. Trying to manage our feelings will make us fight against our own mental resources, those that we often do not even know exist.
God supports us even when we believe that He is not, that He has forgotten us and that we will be unable to overcome adversity.
I know that you are worried about the future. I know that the past has hurt you. However, I want you to understand that the first step to battling obsessive thoughts is to not be afraid. Instead, you need to learn what they are about, why they are there and what those unresolved conflicts you have inside are.
Do you find yourself trapped in them? You are not alone, COVID-19 has taken us to extremes we were not able to predict or expect. The health risk, the restrictions in our daily routine and the anxiety about the future may keep you awake at night, and it is understandable.
How can I control it? Here are some lessons that I hope will help you.
Obsessive thoughts are like quicksand
Metaphors help us to internalize concepts that we are not yet able to fully understand. The same happens with obsessive thoughts. So, I want you to look at them as if they were a quicksand trap. It is a comparison that speaks for itself.
When you fall into quicksand, your survival instinct will make you move desperately, trying to get out of it. However, you will not succeed, you will only sink deeper. The same happens with the dreaded obsessive thoughts. The only successful way to get out of them will be to calm down, accept that you are in a dangerous zone, and measure your every move in order to escape.
Fighting a negative thought directly will not be a win. First, you must accept that you have the thought and analyze it for about 20 minutes. When the time is up, concentrate on another activity, and then spend the same amount of time on your obsessive thought. Little by little, you will find a way out of it and relieve yourself.
Letting your emotions flow will give you calm
We talk a lot about emotions, how they affect us and identify us as the human beings we are. However, something you need to know is that, in order to manage obsessive thoughts properly, you must strive to let your emotions flow.
Accept that you feel bad, let this feeling flow, even if it brings a tear or two to your eyes. At some point, you will realize that these types of emotions wear off, and the pain will go away. For example, if you get bitten by a mosquito on your neck, you will want to scratch it, but by not doing so you will protect your skin and avoid aggravating the situation.
We need to embrace our emotions more, not silence them or pretend to make them stop because we do not like how weak they make us feel. Not being strong 365 days a year is not a weakness or a sin.
God is our refuge
In times of uncertainty such as these, remembering our Lord’s presence will help ease the burdens we have upon us. Do not forget that He is in control of everything, and that He is always protecting us.
“God is our refuge and our strength, our sure help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth crumble and the mountains sink to the bottom of the sea.” – Psalm 46:1-2.
When an obsessive thought threatens you again, try to distract your mind by reading the Holy Scriptures. Take refuge in the lessons and wisdom they offer. As you find the calm you have been searching for, you can share your reflections with your family and friends, so that together you can understand how great God’s mercy is.
If it is not enough for you, apply what you have learned. Do not wait for solutions to come and take control of your life. Look for more activities through which you can give back the mercy of our Lord.
Don’t know how to start managing your obsessive thoughts yet? You can call 407 618 0212 for more answers.