DIY: Stop Obsessing

Dr. Lipkins’ Tip: Tools for a Better Life


For those of you who like to do it yourself (DIY) consider the following self-help exercises:

Change the Channel and The 5 Minute Rule are two kinds of behavioral options that you can try. Sometimes these kinds of exercises will help you to control unwanted or obsessive thoughts. It is best to practice these short exercises whenever you can; even when you are not anxious or obsessing.

Like exercises to strengthen your arm or leg muscles, these exercises are to strengthen your self-control and work best when you develop your emotional muscles on a regular basis.


Change the Channel

When you are trying to stop thinking about something or if a conversation is going in a direction that will be unproductive or emotionally overwhelming use the Change the Channel intervention.

Imagine a channel changer.

Instead of TV channels, imagine icons for different moods.

When feeling depressed imagine changing the channel to something lighter, like comedy. When your boyfriend is into his bathroom humor mode, change the channel to something more adult, like reality or the news.

Use the phrase “change the channel” as a visual and verbal cue to stop doing whatever is happening at the moment, and change to something new.

Exercise your brain by practicing Change the Channel or The 5 Minute Rule.

Dr. Lipkins’ 5 Minute Rule…

Obsessing about something that worries you is a pretty common activity. Usually people obsess about things that feel out of control. Medical symptoms and tests; money and job related concerns; troubles with family and friends, are typical sources of anxiety.

“Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda”. Ever repeat a conversation in your mind? Think about what you could have or should have said. Feel frustrated that you didn’t seize the moment to make your point?

These are the kinds of behaviors that many people engage in. They are self-destructive. It is the same as consuming empty calories…worrying can be harmful to your mental health.

How can you stop thinking of something that is driving you crazy?

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The 5 Minute Rule

Here is how it works:

Give yourself only 5 minutes to focus on the obsessive thought.

Look at the clock, and if possible, talk with someone you trust, but only for 5 minutes.

Stay on topic, allowing all your fears and thoughts about the subject to be verbalized (or if no one is available, write it out, make a list of all the points that you are thinking about.)

At the end of 5 minutes your time is up!

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Know that you made your points. They have been acknowledged by your trusted person, or are safely tucked away on your list. Now, let go…

If you need to use the 5 minute rule each day, that is fine. If you need to use it more than once a day, that is fine too.

The trick is to limit your thoughts on one topic to a specific time frame.