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Breaking the cycle: How to stop intrusive thoughts from derailing your life.

Do you ever feel like your mind is an active War zone? For much of my adult life, my mind was plagued by unwanted, uninvited and at times all consuming thoughts.


It felt like I was constantly at war, with brief, and fleeting moments mental clarity and peace. I always felt that the external stress and mental focus required to pass arduous Military Courses was a vacation from what I was dealing with internally. It was in these environments of constant stress and external focus that I found peace. I was momentarily freed from my intrusive thoughts, but as soon as I was back to a period of “normal” everyday life, my intrusive thoughts came right back.


This habit of impulsive and addictive consistent thinking made me miserable. But what I thought was only an internal problem was part of a larger all-consuming set of issues.



Intrusive thoughts are described as the unwanted thoughts that seem to appear out of nowhere. They don’t come with a warning or adhere to a set schedule. They can be repetitive or share the same overall theme, they may even be disturbing. Which can lead to mental duress and a feeling of panic.


Intrusive thoughts are a common and normal issue. About six million Americans suffer from them. If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or OCD, you are also more likely to deal with these thoughts as well.


Dealing with intrusive thoughts can make you feel as if you have no control, but that’s not true. You can control them! It just takes discipline, dedication, and work. Before we take the fight to the enemy lets take a moment and outline our strategy for winning this war.


Our strategy focuses on 5 Major Factors

- Stress reaction

- Sleep

- Identifying the Fear

- Addressing the intrusive thoughts head on



1. The way we react to stress can set us up for failure. In order to better combat intrusive thoughts we have to start dealing with our stress in a healthy and productive way. To do this we have to understand and bring awareness to how we physically react to stress. If we understand how stress manifests in our body we can manage it before it gets out of hand. Breathing exercise, mindfulness, meditation, grounding, and yoga are just some of the free and highly effective tools we can use to manage our stress.


2. Getting the right amount of sleep is a key factor in reducing our stress levels. Being exhausted is like pouring a bottle of Gasoline on the “intrusive thought” fire. It just doesn’t make sense to stay up late engaging with the thoughts that are only growing stronger and more consuming the more you fight going to sleep. Go to sleep and if you can’t, GET HELP! Therapists and Mental Health professionals have many tools at their disposal to help you overcome insomnia. Trust me, sleep is a big factor in healing our bodies and mind.



3. FACE.YOUR.FEAR – None of this will end unless you face the fear head on. You have to be strong and face it. If you can’t that’s okay too! That’s why we have therapists and Doctors that can help us in this fight. Some common and very painful sources of intrusive thoughts are relationships, major health issues, and beginning a new chapter in life. I’ve been through all of these, and they all suck, but with coaching and guidance from trained professionals you can overcome all of these.


4. Address the intrusive thoughts head on!

This is it, now comes the direct action and door kicking part. Well not really, but you will have to take action and bring awareness to what you are doing. This is another area were your Mental Health Team can help you. Imagine that your Therapist is your JTAC in this fight. You’re the Ground Force Commander and need them to help you in identifying the best munition to attack the problem. Maybe all you need is to learn how to reframe negative thoughts and to understand the link between your thoughts, emotions and your behavior. Just like that brand new, wet behind the ears, GFC doesn’t know the best way to attack that massive column of Russian Armor with Russian Infantry dismounts in the open, we also don’t have the knowledge of how to best deal with all of our problems. Trust your Therapist just like you would trust your TACP or JTAC to give you the best solution to destroy your enemy.


5. RELAX, BREATH, and know that you are not your thoughts and you can overcome this.

Be willing to practice letting go and meditation. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


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