The other day I left my house with a feeling of ease and relaxation. Clearly, something must be wrong!! ​You see, I usually leave after mentally prying myself from a series of repetitive rituals such as checking the kitchen appliances, the faucets, and that the front door knob is locked (20 times). I have learned to do this discreetly, especially in front of my husband and children. Even after I follow through with my obsessive thoughts and perform my rituals, I often drive away unsettled and fearful that I had forgotten something that could cause chaos or danger in our home.

For the past 30+ years I have performed various repetitive rituals that change depending on my location and stress/anxiety level. When I was in my teens I did not have a name for these actions nor an understanding that I was too ashamed to try to seek help, or even where to turn for help. Thankfully, therapeutic treatment and my own training as a counselor helped me to understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There are various treatments for it and I can honestly say for me not much has worked. My OCD had also significantly progressed after having children. I have learned to accept it as part of my life and I work hard on changing the thought patterns in my head to not let it gain control over me. Like all of life, it is a work in progress.

So imagine the complete and total surprise the other day when I realized I was not mentally tormenting myself, or wanting to turn around the car to check the doorknob (just one more time).

It did not take me long to piece everything together.

For the past year I have been not only introducing others to the outstanding benefits of improvisation, I have also been pushing myself to take more improv classes. The aha moment hit me with great joy, as I realized that participating in improvisational comedy more frequently was having a positive impact in lessening my repetitive rituals. I realized that was not the only time I left my house in less of a panic in the last few months. The more I thought about it, everything started to make sense.

Engaging in improv comedy exercises introduces me to the exact life and communication skills I need to lessen my high state of anxiety that contributes to my OCD rituals. When I am participating in improv I am actively listening, exercising mindfulness, giving and getting social support, practicing failure and not running from it, trusting the process of it all (my teammates have my back as much as I have theirs), and just getting out of my own head.

If I am practicing all of these skills, even just once a week, I am likely to see positive results in other areas of my life. To me, that is the true beauty of improv. For me, I never imagined improv would help with OCD. In addition to not loosening the doorknobs from checking so often, I am doing way more than just trusting the process of improv….I am trusting myself!