1: Refocus your attention
Aside from seeking professional help, remember that self-help can be a powerful tool. Compulsive thoughts and behaviors do not need to control your life.
Refocusing your attention on the present moment takes time to learn, but has huge benefits for your mental and physical health. There are two strategies that may help: mundane task focusing and a more formal meditation practice. These two coping mechanisms complement each other and can become part of your daily routine.
2: Practice self-compassion
Along with meditation, self-compassion is another form of mindfulness. Studies indicate that individuals with higher levels of self-compassion have fewer body dysmorphic symptoms. Focus on ways this can be applied to your daily life to help ease your stress and anxiety. Learning to accept your imperfections, especially during challenging times, is part of embracing self-compassion.
Most of us treat others with more kindness than we do ourselves. Negative self-talk only leads to more scrutiny about our appearance and distorted self-image. This inner dialogue may become so familiar to us, that we don’t even notice this harmful ritual. Think about how you would speak to a friend or loved one and apply the same caring tone and empathy to yourself. Expressing love and acceptance to ourselves, despite our flaws, is a significant step in the healing process.
People who have experienced abuse and neglect are more likely to engage in self-criticism. When you practice self-compassion, you are still aware of hurtful thoughts and emotions, but you don't blow them out of proportion. Once you begin to notice the negative self-talk, you can make a concerted effort to say positive affirmations instead.
3: Start a journaling habit
Writing your thoughts, feelings, and emotions down in a journal or diary is a great way to express yourself. It doesn’t need to be a long, formal entry and it’s not about correct spelling or grammar. This exercise can be as simple as jotting down a few words. Set aside a few minutes each day and just let it flow naturally. It may be helpful to have a designated time to do this and utilize the same journal or app.
Writing down your thoughts and emotions can assist with identifying and working through distressing days. You may be surprised about much this tool reduces your anxiety and lifts your mood. Journaling can also be a way to prioritize the problems you’re facing. By keeping track of your BDD symptoms, you can pinpoint the triggers and focus on controlling them more effectively with mindfulness and meditation.
4: Reduce negative predictions
Once you become more skilled at managing your thoughts, you can use these coping strategies to talk yourself down before you face a triggering situation. This could be anywhere that you feel self-conscious about your appearance, such as a birthday party or a work conference with a room full of strangers.
If you have BDD, you may find yourself defaulting to negative predictions about how a particular event will go. You may start to imagine the worst: that everyone will make fun of you, for example, or that you’ll find yourself sitting alone because nobody wants to associate with you because of your perceived “flaw”. In truth, though, reality is much less distressing.
5: Seek social support
Support is available to you from many different sources, so remember to keep the lines of communication open. Make sure that you don’t isolate yourself from others. Your close network of family and friends cares deeply about your health and well-being.
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