5 Ways To Manage Your Intrusive Thoughts


Photo by Rebe Pascual on Unsplash

Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that pop into your consciousness, often without warning or prompting, with content that is alarming, disturbing, or just flat-out weird.

Picture it like this —

Intrusive thoughts is like a running faucet. If you watch it long enough, gradually more and more water would arise. If you react to it and make an attempt to suppress them, they will start overflowing, welcoming a mess to spill at any moment.

In this article, I’ll provide ways to combat such intrusive thoughts to give back a sense calm into your life…

Redirect your mind

So when you have whatever thought it is make yourself present in the moment and say what you are doing while you have the thought i.e “I’m making a cup of tea”. “I’m walking through the kitchen,” etc.

Separate Yourself

Try to distance yourself from the thought, emotionally. To do this, try to think of intrusive thoughts as something like a brain glitch or imagine your brain is a computer and it’s just temporarily malfunctioning. It’s just an annoying thing your brain does. Don’t take it personally. Think to yourself, “oh, my brain is having a glitch again” immediately when the thought comes in. When you imagine it like that, it is less disturbing because it doesn’t feel like your own thoughts, fears or desires. Just random data and your computer has simply gone wonky.

Cancel It

This is especially useful while you are in bed or relaxing. As soon as you start to get the thought, close your eyes and imagine you are sitting alone in a movie theatre and everything is dark. All you can see is black and on the screen ahead you can only see big white letters with the word CANCEL. Just keep looking at the word. It’s not easy to keep this visualisation for more than a few seconds, so keep concentrating and bringing it back. This will help in stopping the intrusive thought.

Recognize that it’s just a thought

Most often we buy into the thoughts, making us unaware of ourselves in the process. We buy into the stories they tell and forget that it is everything but a story. Recognizing the fact that it isn’t real makes it much easier to distance yourself.

Reality Check Yourself

Other kind thoughts can be very negative or simply untrue. A simple reality check as to facts you actually know often helps in this. For instance, who has said that you were bad or lazy or dumb? Where did you actually hear that? Do you actually know what your friends think of you? Why do you then believe that it must be negative? What undeniable proof do you have? If you do not have any, choose to believe something else instead. So continue to ask yourself those questions and if they aren’t reaffirmed by concrete evidence, brush it off.

Similarly to my computer/brain glitch analogy, my most helpful advice is to turn the intrusive into something objective. After all, those thoughts is not YOU and they aren’t REAL. Transform into being a ‘pesky insect or nosy neighbor who wants to mess up your peace and calm. Try not to fire up and simply say “Ah, here you are again, you silly waste of time.” Take acknowledgment in its existence. Then let it slide away, pass through, and float off into obscurity.

— And relax for a bit. You got this.

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A writer who’s in a constant state of self-reflection sharing my perspective with the world.

Pittsburgh, PA

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