break bad habits
Mind & Body Wellness

10 Ways to End Bad Habits During Times of Stress

Although some degree of stress in our lives is normal and it challenges us to do more to reach our goals, we may develop negative behaviors as a way to cope, such as consuming too much caffeine, overeating, smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, or becoming shopaholics. More than willpower is required to change negative habits.  Learn how you can change them effectively so that you do not get discouraged.

Here are ways to be successful:

  1. Tackle only one bad habit at a time. Focus on only changing one bad habit until you are sure that you have permanently eliminated it, replacing it with a positive behavior. This will happen when the behavior becomes automatic, which may take more than sixty days.
  1. Repeat the new behavior regularly. Repeat the desired behavior at the same time every day, and have a regular time scheduled on your calendar for exercise. You will be more successful if you stick to a predictable routine, as we are all creatures of habit.
  1. Make smaller goals and focus on your progress. Set yourself up to succeed. Be realistic about your goals and start with a smaller goal that you are able to achieve, increasing it once you think you can do more..
  1. Plan how you will reach your goal. Writing your goal down and keeping it visible where you can refer to it often will help you succeed. Put sticky notes on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom with your goal as a reminder or set phone alerts.

Block out time on your calendar for the days each week that you want to perform your new habit. Pack a change of clothes in the morning before you leave for work if you are going to the gym straight from work. Plan and prepare to succeed.

  1. Replace your triggers or obstacles with something else. If you get a strong urge to eat fattening foods, eat some frozen grapes or a handful of almonds instead, breathe deeply, drink water, meditate, pray, or go outside for a walk. Find a way to distract yourself. Don’t buy food you need to avoid.
  1. Get a support system. Call a good friend or hire a professional coach. There are support systems online that will help you to stay strong, such as Overeaters Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Spenders Anonymous, Weight Watchers, and private Facebook groups.
  1. Stay positive. If you have a relapse, remember that you are only human, so forgive yourself immediately and recommit to your goal. Be kind to yourself and don’t give up. Treat yourself with compassion.
  1. Focus on only what is within your control. Take pride in your efforts and do not get discouraged if the results take longer than you thought they would. Let go of what is not in your power. If you are trying and doing everything that you are able to do, that is all that you can ask of yourself.
  1. Reward yourself for changing a bad habit, just not with food. Decide before you begin to tackle the habit what your reward is going to be. Little rewards, like a pedicure or a bubble bath with a new magazine or book can also boost your self-esteem.

bubble bath with book

  1. Reduce your stress levels when changing habits. You will be more likely to succeed in reaching your goal. Eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, get enough rest, exercise at least three or four times a week, listen to relaxing music, and spend time outdoors. Stop multi-tasking, as that increases your stress. Take frequent breaks during the day to get up, stretch, and walk around. Breathe deeply and slowly frequently throughout the day. Massage, aromatherapy, meditation, prayer, and a gratitude practice will also help to reduce your stress and improve your quality of life.

Rosemary Lombardy is a financial advisor with over 35 years of experience and domestic abuse survivor. She is the founder of Breaking Bonds, a free resource for abused women, and author of Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal- A Survival Guide.


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