Living with OCD during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many, but for people with health anxiety and OCD the most challenging aspect is about to unfold. As the country starts to reopen people are faced with a difficult choice: Start to engage in daily life or continue to quarantine. Worse, some do not get the choice! They are being called back to work or other responsibilities. I have three tips below to help you when you choose to reenter the world with COVID-19 still present.
1) Make a decision about how you will reenter society and stick with it! For myself, my family, and my patients I recommend following CDC guidelines for any social contact. The CDC guidelines for personal safety have not changed much since they were first created: you may leave your house for necessary outings and you should maintain a social distance to the best of your ability, wear a face-covering, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands. Once you have committed to those guidelines you take some of the uncertainty out of leaving the house. You cannot control the rest of the world, but you can control the steps you take to maintain your safety. You may find it easier to leave the house if you have a plan for how you will interact with others.
1) Be prepared to feel anxious! You will likely feel anxious and triggered by leaving your house and that is okay! Do not judge yourself for feeling what you're feeling, instead allow yourself to feel uncomfortable, practice self compassion, and make the choice to continue to engage in your day in a meaningful way. Once you are prepared to feel anxious you may even use your trips out of your house as an exposure opportunity. You can start with full trips outside or a more pleasant walk around your neighborhood. Wherever you choose to start make sure you make the space to feel some feelings and continue on confidently with your decision. If you chose to go to the grocery store you can also get yourself some ice cream as a reward!
3) Practice at home. If you have experience with ERP you may be familiar with imaginal exposures. An imaginal exposure is the exercise of imagining a triggering situation and allowing yourslf to sit with the feelings without feeling like you have to reduce them. Give yourself time to imagine yourself leaving your house, feeling anxiety, and continuing on with your outing. This may help you feel better prepared when you do decide to start to re-enter the world.
If you think you need professional help in conquering anxiety related to COVID or any other issue, please contact me at any time!