I used to struggle with intrusive thoughts every day. And unknowingly, I did all of the things that made the thoughts stronger, ultimately causing anxiety, panic, and symptoms.
Intrusive thoughts can look like:
Thoughts that are disturbing or violent
Thoughts about harming yourself or others (even though you have absolutely no intent). If you have thoughts of committing suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or text “MHA” to 741-741 to talk to a trainer counselor.
Intrusive sexual thoughts
The thoughts often feel threatening, can make you feel like you’re in some sort of danger, or make you feel as though you’re going completely crazy. And they can have you running on a loop that looks like this:
When I started sharing my intrusive thoughts with others, somebody said this to me:
“Shannon, these thoughts are the opposite of who you are and who you want to be.” Boy did that resonate with me! He was right. The thoughts weren’t true, were things that I wouldn’t do, and weren’t the way that I actually felt about myself.
Here’s the thing, you have tons of thoughts in a day, and so many of them just pop into your brain without warning and make absolutely no sense. And you don’t have control of the thoughts that pop into your head. But here’s the things… You have control of your reaction to your thoughts! And you can work to change your thoughts!
I want to make this post short and sweet with some do’s and don’ts when it comes to intrusive thoughts, because I know how hard it is to struggle with them, and there are some simple things that can help you to get out of the unproductive and unhealthy loop!
Let’s start with what you should do:
Acknowledge when you’re having an intrusive thought and call ‘em what they are! Say this to yourself: “I acknowledge that I’m having an intrusive thought.”
Accept the thought. It’s okay to have intrusive thoughts.
Continue on with what you were doing before the thought popped into your brain.
Identify your triggers. Journaling your intrusive thoughts can help you to identify patterns. Are you having these thoughts at certain times of the day, or when you’re doing certain things? Identifying your triggers will help you to see what you may need to change.
Share your thoughts! Talking them through will help you to process them and will help to give you support. Sharing these thoughts is hard, I know, but suffering through them in silence is even harder.
Implement healthy habits into your everyday life! Things like drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, moving your body for 30 minutes each day, implementing positive self-talk, and making time for self-care will help to shift your mindset.
And the don’ts:
Don’t try to act like the thought isn’t happening, or try to forget it, or fight your thoughts. Doing these things will give the thoughts more power and ultimately have them returning over and over again.
Don’t accept them as truth. Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean that the thought is true, or that it’s your reality.
Don’t try to figure out what message the thought is trying to give you, because it’s not actually giving you any sort of message, sign, or warning. It’s just a thought!
Don’t convince yourself, or allow anyone to convince you, that having intrusive thoughts makes you a bad person or crazy.
Don’t convince yourself that having an unwanted thought means that you want to do whatever the thought is. Our thoughts are often the opposite of what we want to do.
Don’t convince yourself that your intrusive thoughts define you or your journey, because they don’t!
Don’t be ashamed of having intrusive thoughts. Many people struggle with having intrusive thoughts. You are definitely not the only one to have whatever the thought is that you think nobody else would ever think! You are not alone, and you are capable of pushing past them.
I used to convince myself that I’d struggle with intrusive thoughts forever. Some of the thoughts were so hardwired into my brain! But with some changes, hard work, and healthy habits, I rewired my brain to respond and think differently, and so can you!