Managing stress and intrusive thoughts in your daily life by Charlie Winton
Stress comes in many forms for me, some of it helpful whereas some of it can be a hindrance to both my personal and work life. Stress that helps me deliver a project on time or push through another kilometre on a run can be incredibly useful. Stress that builds up over worrying about things that are out of my control (such as the success of our business, the delays in projects or a deal that has not moved forward) can take its toll on my mental health.
I have always been open about my OCD and how intrusive thoughts can become quite debilitating in everyday life. This is exacerbated by continuous stress or overwhelm when worrying about my work, health or family over longer periods of time.
Intrusive thoughts can be uncomfortable (most of the time it is thinking and worrying that the worst will always happen) and piling stress on top of this is an unhealthy mixture.
I have found some useful techniques that have helped with these challenges and wanted to share them in case they are helpful to you:
Understand the root cause of your stress
Often stress builds up and can take a while to notice. I log my moods every day to notice trends each week on what has made me feel stressed and what importantly has made me feel calmer and reduced anxiety levels. If I do not understand or notice what is causing my stress it can be difficult to make a plan to reduce it.
Rationalise intrusive thoughts
Intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming themselves and often feel very real. An example being, when I am happy I always think what would happen if I lost a loved one, lost my flat or my business went under overnight. I try to rationalise it and ask three questions:
Is this something I can control?
Is it something that I want to happen?
Is it likely to happen?
Most often the answer to all three is no and if that is the case I know it is an intrusive thought and can move on from it quickly. It reduces its power to negatively affect my day or week.
Make simple daily or weekly plans to maintain your mental health
Once I have understood the root cause of my stress and when I am having more intrusive thoughts, I will make a plan of how I am going to focus on these areas for the next day or week. An example being, I am worried about a project being delayed and call the organisation to put in place timescales to hold to. This controls what I can control and allows me to relax more that I have done as much as I can to move it forward. The only way we can maintain our own mental health is to understand what we are feeling and why we are feeling it. I hope this is useful and resonates in some way for you, it can be a very lonely space when stress builds up over time and sharing experiences is a great way to help both yourself and others around you. Holding it in or burying the root cause to try and get by will only lead to a longer-term issue. There are always small things we can do for ourselves and sharing what works for you with others around you can be very important as you never know what someone is going through.