Some very basic things often go overlooked in the treatment of OCD or other anxiety disorders. The following are important elements to assess and address as part of one’s treatment plan.
Sleep and mood are very closely connected. Studies show that inadequate sleep tends to increase irritability and stress, making it difficult to stabilize one’s mood. As a result, OCD sufferers are likely to have more difficulty managing their symptoms if sleep deprived. Children and teens are particularly sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation, making them more vulnerable to both physical and emotional problems.
Although sleep needs vary somewhat from person to person, the following are guidelines for sleep requirements at various ages. School aged children need between 10-12 hours of sleep, teens require 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours, and adults need, on average, 8 hours per night.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, good sleep habits such as establishing a consistent routine around bedtime are important. It is especially important for children and teens to have a consistent bedtime that doesn’t dramatically change on the weekends. Also, making sure children and teens are not too over scheduled with activities and schoolwork will help prevent chronic sleep deprivation. For child OCD sufferers who are are perfectionists, this is a very common problem. Parents, at times, may need to set limits and make getting a good night’s rest a priority.
Anxiety and stress can be exacerbated or ameliorated by what you eat. In general, a diet rich in vegetable, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains is best to enhance emotional well being. Eating these foods on a consistent basis will stabilize one’s blood sugar level which, in turn, helps to stabilize one’s emotional state. Refined, highly processed foods should be avoided along with caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and soft drinks. Making sure you are getting enough water (6-8 glasses daily) is also very important. For some great healthy recipes, check out www.whfoods.com .
Although it is fairly common knowledge that exercise enhances mood and diminishes anxiety, researchers are now identifying the specific biochemical changes that take place in the brain as the result of consistent exercise. They are finding that these changes in mood and anxiety can be profound and long-lasting. In fact, one study found that the severity and frequency of OCD symptoms was reduced immediately following a session of aerobic exercise and was significantly reduced over the course of the 12-week exercise program, with gains maintained at 6-month follow-up.
Proper exercise is crucial for children and teens struggling with anxiety. Limiting video games and TV may be necessary to make sure kids have adequate time to play or engage in sports.
Making these changes may feel overwhelming for some, particularly those struggling with severe anxiety. However, it is important to remember small, gradual changes can add up to big ones over time. Anytime, you feel the urge to do a compulsion, try refocusing your energy on making a healthy lifestyle choice. This will help promote a sense of genuine control over your life rather than the false sense of control engaging in a compulsion may give you. Also, remember it only takes two weeks to establish a new habit. If you can drink water (in place of a soft drink) for two weeks, chances are you will no longer have an urge to drink soda. By the way, the same is true for your exposure therapy.