Unfortunately, stressful situations are a simple fact of life. Unless you have nerves of absolute steel, in the midst of a pandemic, you’re probably feeling more stressed than usual, too. Most people will feel stress at some point or another, but everyone will respond to it differently. Some people work out stress through existing hobbies like baking or exercise, while others will develop unhealthy coping behaviors.
Negative behaviors can include things like smoking, drinking more than usual, overeating, or shopping excessively. Over time, these habits can do more harm than good, so it’s important to watch out for them. Fortunately, it is possible to change these negative behaviors and deal with stress in a healthy way. It might take some work, but don’t get discouraged! Here are some strategies that will help you successfully break those bad habits.
Don’t try to do too much at once.
The easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a positive behavior. Eventually, the new positive behavior will become automatic, instead of the bad habit. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t stick right away. It can take up to 60 days for a behavior to become a habit!
Repeat the “good” behavior often.
Make your new habit part of your routine. It’s easier to stick to it when it becomes something you do at the same time every day.
Keep your goals small.
When you’re trying to deal with a bad behavior that has become second nature, quitting it all at once can seem like a monumental task. You wouldn’t decide to learn an instrument and expect to know a Beethoven piece at the end of your first week. Try to focus on the steps you need to take to get there. Achieve the small goals first, then set your sights on bigger ones.
Replace triggers with something that’s good for you.
The easiest way to avoid things that are bad for you is simply to not buy it in the first place. If you have a weakness for soda, skip it when you go to the store. Think about what you really want when you reach for a Coke. Are you thirsty? Maybe give flavored seltzer a try. Do you want a little bit of sweetness when you hit a 3 p.m. lull? Keep some sweet, fresh fruit like grapes or strawberries on hand.
Forgive yourself if you mess up.
Mistakes are only human, and you can’t expect to do everything perfectly on the first try. A relapse or mistake is the perfect time to practice forgiving yourself. Treat yourself with compassion, know that these things happen, and recommit to your goal. This can also be an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and learn in the process.
Get a support system.
Humans are social creatures by nature. Needless to say, trying to get through the difficult stuff alone adds to stress and negative emotions! This is where outside support comes in. Don’t be afraid to rely on friends and loved ones. You also shouldn’t be afraid to seek more professional help if you need it. Though you might not be able to access groups like Alcoholics Anonymous in person during the pandemic, virtual meetings and Facebook groups are still an option.
Don’t forget to celebrate the milestones.
One thing that can help with motivation is a reward. A small reward for reaching your goal, such as a magazine, book, or another small gift, will give you something to look forward to.
What are some bad habits you want to break? Let us know in the comments below!