5 ways to increase hope and motivation:
Anyone who has done exposures knows that they are HARD WORK. You are purposely triggering yourself and sitting with some intense anxiety, and without using any rituals to try to lower your anxiety. Tough stuff. Because ERP involves making yourself uncomfortable it requires a good deal of motivation. We talk about treatment motivation a lot in the residential program and I wanted to share some things I have learned. Here are five ways to increase hope and motivation.
1. Make a list of your successes.
Take a piece of paper and start listing all of the exposures you have accomplished. Also write down all of the things that used to be hard and are easier now. Then, any time you are feeling unmotivated you can look at this list and be reminded of how much you have done and how much the hard work pays off. Don’t forget to keep updating your list as you do more exposures too!
2. A small step is better than nothing.
Sometimes when I am feeling down or stuck staff asks me, “What is the smallest step you would be willing to take right now?” The goal here is to just start moving. Do the tiniest exposure you can manage in that moment so at least you are doing something. Usually once you start moving again momentum keeps you moving.
3. Assess your values (a large part of acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT).
Values are “your heart’s deepest desires for the sort of person you want to be and the things you want to do in your time on this planet; in other words, what you want to stand for in life” (Wilson and Murrell). They are different from goals because they are a general direction rather than achievable, and they are different from feelings because it is not just about doing what feels good in the short-term. Examples of values include: family relations, social relations, career/employment, education, spirituality, citizenship, health, and cultural practices. Take some time to think about your values. You can write a short narrative for each value and then rank how important they are to you. Think about how successfully you are living these values or what you have given up because of anxiety. OCD and anxiety often get in the way of pursuing our values. If we are willing to do exposures and experience anxiety the outcome is we can live a more value-based life.
4. Think about what OCD has taken from you. Think about what your dreams are and what you want.
This is similar to examining your values but a little less formal. Simply take the time to think about what you have lost or missed out on because of anxiety. Maybe you missed going to a social gathering with friends or maybe you missed doing your favorite hobby. For me a big one is I had reading stolen from me by OCD. Use these activities and events you care about to motivate you to do exposures. I tried to think about how much I wanted to be able to read again and it worked to motivate me to not avoid reading and to decrease rereading. On the other hand think about your dreams for the future. What do you want to be able to achieve and how might anxiety try to get in the way? Use these aspirations for your future when you are feeling less willing to do a tough exposure.
5. Do it anyway.
This may sound backwards but just because you don’t feel motivated to do something doesn’t mean you can’t still do it. Of course this is much easier said than done, but it is an interesting idea to consider. Sometimes I think these tough moments are actually really good opportunities for doing exposures. If you are able to do an exposure even though you aren’t feeling motivated and may already be distressed, think about when else you can do an exposure. You have just proved to yourself that you can do hard exposures in hard moments, so you surely can do easier exposures in easier moments too. That sure will come in handy in the future.
P.S. Hanging up cheesy, motivational signs also helps.
Previous blog posts for OCD Awareness Week:
Day #1: OCD is when…
Day #2: Debunking Myths about OCD
Day #4: I think I have OCD. Now what?
Day #6: My perfectionism will have to deal with the fact that I missed a day.