Recovery Tips

Uncertainty: How to Handle When You Have OCD

March 8, 2023

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How to Cope With Uncertainty and Still Enjoy Life

Uncertainty can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for those struggling with OCD and anxiety, it can be particularly awful.  Downright terrible. The feeling of not being in control and not knowing what may happen next can trigger intense anxiety and distress unlike anything else. At the end of the day, though, this is really the whole point of treatment.  Because – whether you like it or not – there’s nothing in life that is 100% certain.  You can have faith, trust, and confidence in things, sure – but certainty?  Nah.  Sorry.  That is but a fantasy!  With that said, though, there are ways to sit with uncertainty and manage these feelings. In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical strategies for sitting with uncertainty and regaining a sense of freedom.

Acknowledge the feeling

The first step in sitting with uncertainty is acknowledging the feeling. Recognize that it’s normal to feel anxious or fearful in situations where there’s no clear outcome. Instead of trying to push the feeling away or ignoring it, allow yourself to experience the emotion. You might say to yourself, “I notice that I’m feeling anxious right now.”  You can still move on with whatever it was that you were doing and bring that emotion and discomfort along with you. 

Separate thoughts from facts

Anxiety often leads to catastrophic thoughts, imagining the worst-case scenarios. However, it’s important to remember that thoughts (and feelings) are not facts. Just because you imagine something terrible happening doesn’t mean it will happen. I don’t necessarily want you to logic or challenge your way out of the thought.  I want you to not even talk yourself INTO it in the first place.  That’s the key.

Stay present

Focusing on the present moment is an effective way to manage anxiety and sit with uncertainty. Mindfulness  doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’re meditating for 30+ minutes in a cross-legged position getting your *zen* on, although that’s cool, too.  Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment on purpose.  Think about it – everything related to OCD or that comes from OCD has to do either with the past or the future.  OCD cannot live in the present. When your mind starts to wander or worry, gently bring your attention back to the present moment.

Challenge uncertainty

OCD and anxiety can create a strong need for certainty and control. However, it’s important to challenge this need and learn to tolerate uncertainty. Practice deliberately exposing yourself to situations where you don’t have control or certainty. Start with small steps, and gradually increase your exposure over time. This can help build your tolerance for uncertainty and reduce anxiety.  Make sure you’re resisting compulsions and safety behaviors.

Take action

One way to manage anxiety and uncertainty is to take action. Identify what you can control in the situation and take action on that. For example, if you’re anxious about an upcoming test, focus on studying and preparing as much as you can rather than avoiding or staying stuck in indecision.  By taking action, you’ll feel more empowered and less helpless.

Practice self-compassion

Finally, remember to be kind and compassionate towards yourself. OCD and anxiety can be exhausting, and it’s important to take care of yourself. Practice self-care, such as getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising regularly. Treat yourself with kindness and remember that it’s okay to make mistakes or feel uncertain.

In conclusion, sitting with uncertainty is a challenge, but it’s a skill that can be developed with practice. By acknowledging your feelings, separating thoughts from facts, staying present, challenging uncertainty, taking action, and practicing self-compassion, you can learn to manage your anxiety and feel more empowered in uncertain situations. Remember, you’re not alone in this, and with patience and perseverance, you can learn to sit with uncertainty and live a fulfilling life.

We’re in this together! Be sure to check out my instant download masterclasses if you need an extra boost for sitting with uncertainty – it sure is tough.

And if you need something else to chew on, here’s a podcast episode I did with my good friend, Nathan Peterson, on this very topic – just click here and you can have us in your ears for a quick pick me up.

– x Jenna 

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as mental health or medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional advice of your own professional mental health or medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical or mental health professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

© 2023 Jenna Overbaugh, LLC

i need this stat!

A great tool for those with OCD and anxiety OR professionals.  This free PDF will help you identify goals and set them into motion step by step.

"Imagine  Your Recovered Life" instant download PDF

free worksheet

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