Intrusive thoughts are what are described as unwanted thoughts and ones that can pop into your mind without any warning at any given time. They can definitely begin to be quite repetitive, which means that the same thought might actually crop up again and again. They can be very distressing and very disturbing, so it’s important that if you’re getting these that you reach out to a professional to be able to work on ways you can distract yourself from them. Whilst the thoughts themselves are harmless at the time, they can actually negatively affect your life massively and sometimes you can actually harm yourself or they may affect the way you behave. 

Recognising the intrusive thoughts is something that you should do, never just forget about them. Being able to deal with them is difficult, but if you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts recognise them, but do it in a way you can distract yourself away from them. Cognitive behavioural therapy commonly known as CBT is a great type of therapy to be able to help you with your intrusive thoughts. By allowing you to understand what is causing them in the first place and then help you learn techniques to be able to manage them. 

1) Don’t suppress the thoughts

When intrusive thoughts appear, it can be really hard to be able to not think about them and to be able to push them aside. Most of us will tend to do this if we’re suffering from intrusive thoughts, try and just forget about them in general. But, the truth is when doing this it actually makes it a lot harder on yourself and actually makes them a lot worse. It’s important to not just push them aside and if you start to experience them, to reach out for help or let someone know because they can be very hard to have to push through. Rather than, suppressing your thoughts entirely, you can try and divert your attention away from the thought itself. This then means you’re not trying to push it aside and trying to forget about it, instead you’re trying to guide your mind to a more positive route, so having something that can be seen as a distraction might help you a lot.

Activities like reading a book, going for a walk, doing some self-care, DIY, doing something you enjoy that you can do for a long period of time, but something that you can really focus on. It’s great to be able to put your mind in a different place and be able to really delve into an activity you enjoy that makes you smile and that you know will be able to keep your brain occupied. Not being able to focus on the intrusive thoughts, can be very hard. It takes a lot of strength and power to be able to not think about them but having something to distract you will help a lot. But then, it’s also important to not overwhelm yourself and take on too much. Because sometimes we can fall into this cycle of taking on loads of tasks to distract ourselves but in turn, this then actually stresses us out a lot more and can be quite overwhelming in itself. So, just take it slow, don’t do too much, just immerse yourself in a single activity.

person using MacBook Pro

2) Identify the triggers

The thing is with intrusive thoughts, is they can just come at any time and they can catch you when you least expect it. If you’re in quite a fragile place as it is, this can be the time that they tend to appear a lot more often. If you’re someone who struggles with depression, anxiety or something along the lines, then the intrusive thoughts may feel like they’re more apparent. What has to be realised when going through and experiencing intrusive thoughts is exactly what is triggering them because sometimes you don’t even realise that some of the tasks you’re doing daily could actually be leading to them in general. Something that may be really beneficial to you will be to journal when you get the intrusive thoughts and what they are as well as when exactly they came on.

By doing this it means that you can understand the pattern and this will also help if you do seek therapy because it means you can let the professional know about the patterns. Something else that might help is to be able to actually check-in on your emotions and your overall mood for the day, just jot it down, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Some of us, tend to not like to talk about our thoughts out loud so it’s a great alternative to be able to write down how we’re feeling and keep a note on that every day. Then if you do this it means you can start to notice when the thoughts appear and what exactly you’re doing at that time in particular. It could be that they started to cloud your mind when you weren’t doing much and you were just stuck with your thoughts, or it could be to do with the past or something traumatic that triggers you.

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3) Make some positive changes

If you find yourself having intrusive thoughts constantly it could be because you’re very often in negative mind space. It’s important to be able to focus more on the positive side, to be able to incorporate some positive changes in your life, might make you feel a little better. If you notice that you tend to get these intrusive thoughts at a particular time of the day then make sure you’re implementing a lot more positivity at that specific time. A shift in your mindset makes a lot of difference and sometimes you might not even realise it. Some great positive changes could include getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, watch something that makes you laugh, have a really nutritious breakfast to kick start your day. Try and focus on songs that cheer you up and make you feel good when you listen to them if you choose to listen to music.

Try and take a break from social media, because this can be quite triggering in itself, it’s great to just be able to take a break every so often. If you’re suffering from intrusive thoughts it can be really hard to be able to motivate yourself to be able to work out, if this is the case then just remind yourself that you don’t have to go overboard. You can go for a walk and that will have major benefits, it doesn’t have to be an excessive and ridiculous amount of hours because walking itself has a lot of benefits. Something that might help clear your mind is to organise the space around you, this helps a lot more than you might think. A lot of the time, if we’re surrounded by clutter this can make our mind feel more cluttered, which is why it’s important to be able to clear your surroundings and be able to think clearer.

close-up photo of Thought Catalog book

4) Realise the differences between the thoughts themselves and reality 

It’s important that if you’re going through suffering from intrusive thoughts that you realise they’re thoughts and not reality. Sometimes, it can be hard to determine what is the thought and what is reality as they can be really harsh on the mind. If you suffer from them you can be quite fearful of what they are and what power they have over you. It’s vital to know that intrusive thoughts are what they say they’re, just thoughts in particular. They’re not something that determines what’s to come, there is no intent to act on them and it’s important to not let whatever your mind is telling you to take over too much. You must be able to accept that the thoughts are thoughts when they appear, of course, it can be difficult when you first experience them to be able to do this. It’s something that gets a little easier over time, but it takes time for definite.

Let them pass your mind, recognise them, because it’s important to be able to check-in on your feelings and understand what is going on. It’s important to not let them consume you, except they’re intrusive thoughts as just another thought, which will then in turn be able to help you worry less over time. Being able to try and not think about the thoughts and be able to push them aside, is something that you shouldn’t do. Even though you’d rather not think about them and forget, it can make it a lot worse by doing that. It’s important to be able to focus on something else and realise exactly what is reality. If you suffer from a mental health issue, it can be quite hard to actually focus on what is reality and to be able to focus on that in particular without letting the thoughts take over.

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5) Reach out for help

Many people often overlook intrusive thoughts, but it is something that should definitely be sorted out as soon as it happens. You should never feel ashamed of speaking up about your intrusive thoughts and exactly what they’re. There is always a professional that will be willing to help you get through the hardship they bring and be able to direct your mind to something else. The person suffering may actually be experiencing a large amount of guilt due to them which might mean they’re more worried to speak out about them, often keeping them to themselves. But, being able to talk to someone you trust about them can be so beneficial for you. Of course, by doing this it can make you feel quite vulnerable, but it may lead you to actually find a new perspective on the situation at hand. For some, they prefer to speak to a professional and for others, they prefer to speak to someone they’re close too.

Therapy can be something that might benefit you a lot, it’s also important to be able to find a therapist that you trust and that specialises in the intrusive thoughts side of things. Make sure to always do your research and never just go for someone without reading up about them. Also have more than one therapist that you’ll speak too because you need to also know they’re right for you and that you feel comfortable with them the first time you see them. Intrusive thoughts happen from time to time and it can be really difficult to be able to put your mind into something else, to step out of that negative mindset and enter a more positive side. But, it is possible to be able to overcome them it just takes a lot of time and patience. If you’re able to fight the urge to focus on them massively, then it means you can put your mind elsewhere and focus on something that makes you happier.

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If you’re looking for any online counselling or walk and talk therapy whether you’re a parent and you’re looking for your children. You yourself need it or you’re a student or anyone that is struggling at this time, then please do not hesitate to contact Becky. You can access contact details here. Check out the website for more information.

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