Tips for Living With OCD

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on August 28, 2022
3 min read

Even when things are going well, OCD can hijack your day. Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors -- and the anxiety that comes with them -- can take up massive amounts of time and energy.

Though medication and therapy are the main ways to treat this lifelong condition, self-care is a secret weapon with plenty of side benefits.

Food and mood. The only thing more important than eating healthy food is eating it regularly. When you're hungry, your blood sugar drops. This can make you cranky or tired. Start with a daily breakfast, and try to eat small meals more often instead of big meals at lunch and dinner.

Go for:

  • Nuts and seeds, which are packed with healthy nutrients
  • Protein like eggs, beans, and meat, which fuel you up slowly to keep you in better balance
  • Complex carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, which help keep your blood sugar levels steady

Steer clear of caffeine, the stimulant in tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks. It can kick up your anxiety levels a few notches.

Stick to your prescriptions. It can be tempting to escape OCD with drugs or alcohol, but they're triggers in disguise. Drinking alcohol might feel like it offsets your anxiety, but it creates more before it leaves your system. Same goes for nicotine, the stimulant in cigarettes.

Sleep on it. Anxiety can make it hard to sleep. But sleep is important for good mental health. Instead of expecting to lie down and drift off to dreamland, create a sleep routine that sets your body up for success. Swap the time you spend looking at screens for 10 minutes of relaxing music or a warm bath. Dim noise and lighting and adjust the temperature in your bedroom so you go to sleep, and stay asleep all night.

Get active. When you feel anxious, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. It's helpful in small doses but harmful at high levels. Regular exercise keeps your cortisol levels in check and benefits everything from your bones and organs to the numbers on your scale.

Take your meds. It may be common sense, but it's important to take the right dose at the right time. If you forget to take it, or decide to skip a dose, it could set off your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if side effects are an issue, or before you take anything new, including over-the-counter medicine and vitamins.

Seek support. Don't hold it all in. Help is as close as your phone or computer. Sometimes the simple act of saying out loud what you're thinking can lower anxiety and give you some perspective. In addition to your doctor, find a therapist, OCD coach, or support group to connect you with people who understand.

Learn to relax. Your body can't relax if it doesn't know how. Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, taking a walk in nature, or drawing a picture teach your body how it feels to be calm. Try a few to find what works best for you, and spend 30 minutes a day on it.

Celebrate victories. Learning how to live with OCD takes time. Like any other goal, you’ll have successes and setbacks. Yes, it's important to work on your OCD, but it's just as important to step back and cheer the big and small progress you make along the way.