Now that you’ve found relief from your OCD with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), you’re off to a great start!
Following a healthy lifestyle after TMS therapy will help you maintain the benefits of your treatments. Read on for ideas of simple things you can adopt, as well as a guide to identifying and dealing with OCD symptoms, should they return.
How to Maintain an OCD-Free Lifestyle
Now that TMS has significantly reduced your OCD symptoms, certain lifestyle changes can help ensure your OCD symptoms don’t worsen or return.
Accepting and Embracing Thoughts
Involuntary thoughts are one of the key symptoms of OCD. These thoughts or unpleasant ideas can turn into obsessions. They’re intrusive, distressing, and can feel out of your control. These types of thoughts often become more intense when you reject or avoid them. Accepting and embracing them can help reduce their power. If you feel obsessive thoughts returning, think to yourself, “Here is this type of thought. And it’s just a thought.” This can make the thought less stressful and threatening.
Many OCD patients say mindfulness is an effective method for managing their thoughts. Bring your attention to the present moment, and focus on the facts. Being mindful involves noticing thoughts in a detached, non-judgmental way. Let them arise and pass. It’s a simple concept that takes practice, but it can pay off in big ways.
Exposure to Intrusive Thoughts
With practice, you can voluntarily expose yourself to an intrusive thought without engaging in any compulsive behavior. This is the essence of ERP (exposure response prevention) therapy. While it might be helpful to you to find a therapist who specializes in ERP, you can put ERP’s principles into practice in your daily life.
For 20 to 30 minutes a day, repeatedly think of a thought you would normally find unwanted and distressing. When you feel like acting compulsively or avoiding the thought, recognize this reaction without engaging it. Over time, you may be able to train yourself to reduce the intensity of intrusive thoughts and avoid your ritual behaviors.
It’s crucial to find ways of dealing with anxiety without relying on compulsive behaviors. Regular exercise is a great option. Both moderate and vigorous physical activity can help lift your mood; calm the anxiety associated with OCD; and help you sleep well, which itself reduces anxiety.
Moderate physical activities include:
- Gentle hiking
- Water aerobics
More vigorous exercises could be:
- Jumping rope
- Uphill hiking
Since getting a good night’s sleep is crucial in managing OCD symptoms, try to avoid or limit your intake of alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks. Heavy consumption of alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep. It’s also recommended to reduce the amount of processed and sugary foods you eat, as these can stress your body and worsen anxiety.
Which foods help protect your mental health? Eat a balanced diet rich in:
- Whole grains
The Signs of Returning OCD
Keep an eye out for the following signs of returning OCD, so you know if it might be time for another round of TMS therapy and/or a lifestyle change from above:
Obsessions – These are persistent, irrational thoughts or urges and are different for different people.
They can include:
- Fear of contamination
- An obsession with causing harm to yourself or others
- An obsession with order and symmetry
- Feeling that things need to be done perfectly
- Intrusive sexual thoughts
Compulsions – These are physical or mental acts you feel compelled to carry out.
They can include:
- Compulsive checking and re-checking (e.g. that home appliances are turned off)
- Repeatedly seeking reassurance from others
- Repeating actions a certain number of times
- Reordering or rearranging things, so they are perfect
- Compulsive avoidance
Other symptoms of OCD include:
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Social withdrawal
- Inability to manage daily tasks
What to Do If Your OCD Comes Back
If you feel that a healthy lifestyle isn’t doing quite enough to keep your OCD symptoms away, don’t worry! TMS therapy is always available to you. Many of our OCD patients find that maintenance sessions of TMS allow them to remain stable and calm in the long-term. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with the relief you need, so you can get back to living free of the chains of OCD.