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  • Sara

How to Ease Obsessional Thinking

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Obsessive thoughts are a major part of having anxiety. People with anxiety often have negative, persistent thoughts that seem impossible to get rid of. These thoughts can distract you from everyday life and put you into a negative headspace. They tend to stem from fears and stressors in your current life and can make your day to day extremely difficult if you do not know how to manage them. Moreover, they impact your quality of sleep at night.

It feels like you have tried everything. Distracting yourself with work, a hobby, school, socializing or even just trying not to think about anything but your obsession, but nothing seems to work. You feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of trying to rid yourself of obsessions and only making them worse in the process.

Studies show that the more you try not to think about something the more likely you are to continue thinking about it. This is because by telling yourself not to think about whatever you’re obsessing over you are actively reminding your brain of the thought. This can make it incredibly difficult to turn off ruminations.

So, what do you do to make the obsessive thoughts stop? While there is no guaranteed way to make obsessional thinking cease once and for all, there are certain things you can do to ease your anxiety. Once you’re able to mitigate some of the symptoms of anxiety, the rest will follow.

Practicing mindfulness is great for eliminating some of the stress associated with obsessional thinking. The practice of mindfulness is all about being in the present moment and allowing your thoughts to flow without judgment. When you’re trying desperate to push thoughts away, you’re only making this unwanted processing stronger. On the other hand, accepting that the thoughts are there and allowing them to pass without pushing them away relieves the mind of its duties to try to contain them. The more this is practiced, the less stressful the thoughts will be and you’ll feel a reduction in anxiety across your whole being.

Before deciding to engage in a mindfulness practice, set your intention to accept your anxiety for what it is as well as the thoughts that are tied to it. Just because you tell yourself not to worry about it or to stop thinking about it doesn’t mean they are actually going to stop. By accepting these thoughts, you are acknowledging they are there, and this allows you to now deal with them. It can be freeing just to release yourself from the burden of attempting to erase thinking patterns all of the time.

After practicing mindfulness for some time, you may want to not only acknowledge and accept these thoughts but find the source of obsessional thinking so you may be able to problem solve. Of course, you don’t want to try to problem solve during your practice – only after you’ve gotten used to allowing the thoughts to flow. Tune in to the thoughts and ask yourself: Are their patterns of thoughts that repeat over and over again? What might be making me think of this today? How can I reframe these thoughts? How can I resolve my fears around this?

Talking to someone about your fears – someone who you can confide in, such as a close loved one – can help you jumpstart problem solving. Often we need to “get out of our own head” in order to find a solution to the problem we’re experiencing. Alternatively, you might consider writing the thoughts down can help you get them out of your head and into the world. When they’re written out, you will also be able to better study them to determine what to do next.

If you can’t seem to rid yourself of the anxiety surrounding these thoughts, talking it out with a therapist can help you differentiate between your irrational and rational thoughts, which can help bring clarity to the situation. Therapists can also help you eliminate cognitive distortions, as well, that may be tied to them and find ways to reframe negative patterns. You can work together to establish better coping mechanisms during times of heightened anxiety and find ways to better manage the stressors in your life that lead to these thoughts. The next time your thoughts are racing, you can apply some of these strategies to see if they work for you.

Remember, by trying to push away obsessional thinking and telling yourself not to be anxious over it, you’re often going to become even more anxious. The majority of the time you just have to allow yourself to be anxious in the moment, then begin to work through a solution to help these thoughts. Whether you choose to do so be talking to someone, writing them down, or committing to positive changes is up to you. While obsessive thoughts are, unfortunately, a symptom of anxiety, you don’t have to let them consume you.


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