Earlier this week, I wrote about intrusive thoughts, what they look like, and what we can do about them. Intrusive thoughts can be hard to recognize – I went years before I even knew what they were – but we can deal with them and manage them in a healthy way. There are many ways to deal with intrusive thoughts, and I wanted to share some of the best ways I’ve found of doing so.
Name and label these thoughts as quickly as possible. One of the reasons intrusive thoughts can run wild in our minds is because we can’t figure out what’s going on. I’ve had so many thoughts that I wasn’t able to recognize or name as intrusive; that’s years of moments where a false narrative about who I am and what I’m about ran wild. Labeling intrusive thoughts as intrusive, as unwelcome and unwanted, as soon as you can will go a long way toward mental wellness.
Remind yourself that these thoughts are intrusive, and that not all your thoughts are up to you. I used to believe that every thought I had was a conscious decision on my part. I’d like to say that this was because I was young, or even a kid, but it’s mostly because of the misconception I had surrounding my brain and my thoughts. Not all of our thoughts have to mean anything, and most don’t. But when intrusive thoughts come in, it’s important to have that reminder in the moment so that things don’t fester and grow within us.
Don’t expect the thoughts to disappear in the blink of an eye. As much as I’d like to tell you that intrusive thoughts disappear when you acknowledge them, that’s unlikely to happen. In fact, awareness of an issue can often make things challenging in the short-term (something I’ve continuously learned in therapy this year). But even if it feels like there’s no progress being made, there is. You’re becoming stronger and more resistant to the false narratives in your head, and hopefully gaining mental strength in the process.
Acknowledge that there might be an underlying problem. While intrusive thoughts are associated with several mental health disorders, they can also be triggered by stress, anxiety or trauma in our lives. They can be short-term or long-term problems for people but either way, there might be something going on outside of these thoughts that we need to deal with. In fact, many people who deal with intrusive thoughts aren’t dealing with a mental health disorder, according to experts.
Remember that your thoughts are not who you are. People have thoughts, but they are not what make us. Accepting a thought that we’re having does not make us evil, rude, mean or a bad person. Pushing thoughts down, trying to ignore them and not deal with them, do nothing to make those difficult moments pass. Oftentimes, those thoughts will just come back bigger and badder than before. You are so much more than intrusive thoughts that might come and go every so often. In the grand scheme of things, intrusive thoughts can exist as they are – thoughts that come and go just like thousands, or even millions, of others in the course of our lives.
We can’t choose to have intrusive thoughts, but we can choose how we engage with them. The better prepared we are to go up against them, the better chance we have of building a mentally healthy foundation against intrusive thoughts, and other lesser-known aspects of health and wellness.
Have you ever dealt with intrusive thoughts? What’s a piece of advice you have for someone who’s had intrusive thoughts before? Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend, friends.