How to cope with OCD during the winter months

December 19th 2017

Winter can be a difficult time for everyone. Avoiding colds and the flu like you’re in a PE lesson playing dodgeball. For those with OCD, in particular contamination OCD, a winter cold can be more than just a mild hindrance, it can literally feel like a matter of life and death for the sufferer.

I love Christmas and the holiday season, not only because it’s my birthday (double presents in one month, GET IN) but it means that I get to spend lots of lovely time with my family, eat delicious food, and binge watch cringe-worthy Christmas films. However, it’s not all as good as it seems.

Christmas and the winter months, in general, can bring some unwanted challenges to those who struggle with OCD. Going to busy and unfamiliar places, eating new foods and desperately trying to avoid getting a tummy bug at all costs are just a few of the challenges I face, as an OCD sufferer, in the winter months.

Although, it may not be the easiest time of year, for you, if you struggle with OCD, I promise that you can manage or overcome some of these problems, without letting OCD ruin your Christmas period. I’ve put these methods to the test over the years, so I know just how much they have helped me get through things. I hope my little tips, prove useful to you guys as well.

1. Make family and friends aware- There is nothing worse than going around a relatives or friends house for a Christmas meal and not being able to eat anything because those intrusive thoughts creep in telling you, it’s not safe to eat the food. You don’t want to seem rude but equally can’t go against what your OCD is telling you. My best suggestion is to make sure you let them know beforehand, so if you don’t eat much, they don’t take it personally. You could also ask for something different, something safe, if chicken, for example, is not something you are comfortable with eating, which I know for a lot of people it isn’t.

2. Push yourself- Staying at home avoiding going out from the next three months, in fear of getting ill for example, isn’t going to help in the long run, even if your OCD is telling you it will. Use the festive season as an excellent opportunity for exposing yourself to your fears. Go to your local Christmas light switch on or market, get involved in the festive spirit and try not to let OCD stop you.

3. Look after yourself- This point can seem almost contradictory to what I just said. However, I think it is really important, whatever time of the year, that you look after yourself. If you are going to try and push yourself to challenge your OCD beliefs, make sure you do it gradually and have anxiety relieving methods, e.g, breathing techniques if you do find yourself in a panic. It also might help to take someone with you and let them know about your OCD struggles, so that they can support you.

4. Self-care self-care self-care- Self-care is essential all year round, but in my opinion even more so in the winter. Lots of OCD sufferers also struggle with depression, due to the debilitating effects OCD can have on your life. If winter is a particular triggering time of year for you, please keep practicing self-care. Self-care should be unique and personal to you. Whether you’re a mediation fan or a lover of bubble baths, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re looking after yourself.

5. Don’t be hard on yourself- Christmas can be a difficult time of year if you suffer from OCD. If OCD is stopping you going out, joining in with work parties or tucking into the festive food and you don’t feel ready to tackle it this year- that’s okay. It’s SO okay. Take your time. You are doing just great. Remember to praise yourself for the little achievements. They matter.

I hope these tips help you if you struggle with OCD during the winter season. From all of us on the YAP, we hope you have an enjoyable and safe Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

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