- Falling Bad Habits: Dr. Messina & Associates: Clinical Psychologists
- Recognize your bad habits
- Be willing to change your bad habits
- Identify good habits to replace your bad ones
- Remind yourself why you want to change your habits when things get tough
- Anxious Habits
- Why is Anxiety So Common?
- Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
- Physical Habits of Anxiety
- Skin picking/hair pulling
- Lack of eating
- Emotional disorder
- Repetitive actions
- Development ofObsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Smoking, drinking, drug use
- Why are Bad Habits So Hard to Bbreak?
- Break the Cycle
- Healthy Habits to Help Deal with Anxiety
Falling Bad Habits: Dr. Messina & Associates: Clinical Psychologists
The fall season is known as a time for changes. The weather changes and creates a new landscape for our world. This gives us a great reason to “fall” the bad habits that may be holding us back in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not.
Believe it or not, most of our days are made up of habits (good or bad) that we pretty much complete on autopilot. It takes around 60 days on average for someone to adopt, correct, or change a bad habit. Bad habits certainly do not cause mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression, but they can definitely lead to factors that contribute to them.
Recognize your bad habits
The first step in working on any form of self-growth is being aware of the habits or problems in your life.
If you are struggling with identifying your habits or thought patterns that need to change, you can try working with a psychologist or therapist in therapy to help with this process.
The great thing about going to therapy is you will be able to talk with someone that is impartial to your situation and your life.
Therapy can also be a great way to learn ways that you can work on changing your bad habits. Change is never easy and having someone that is keeping you accountable to your goals can be a helpful tool to make the changes more efficient.
Be willing to change your bad habits
The second thing that is required to making lasting changes in your life is being willing to change. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people are aware that things need to change in their lives, but they are not willing to put in the work to do so.
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can talk with a psychiatrist about being prescribed medication to help with these issues.
While medication will not solve all of the issues in your life, it can help lighten the load, allowing you to have a clearer mind to focus on the bad habits that you want to change.
It can be difficult to focus on making positive changes in your life if you are struggling with any of the above issues.
It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with taking medication. Mental illness is not your fault and is not something we choose. Taking medication for mental health concerns is just as valid as taking it for physical ailments.
Identify good habits to replace your bad ones
The next step in your journey should be identifying what habits you want to replace. This ties closely with the above section mentioned recognizing your bad habits.
Once you can recognize them, you will be able to start working on ways to replace them. It tends to be easier to replace a bad habit with a good one versus just trying to stop a bad habit.
This may seem a silly distinction, but our minds have a hard time making excessive changes at once and this strategy can help make the process easier.
An example of replacing a bad habit with a good one could be explained through the process of someone learning to quit smoking. Let’s say when you are at work you go outside every few hours for a smoke break.
You can replace this habit by taking a break to walk around your office building every few hours or give a friend a call during this time.
By replacing the bad habit (smoking) with a good one (movement or socialization) you will still be using the time previously spent on your bad habit in a constructive way.
Remind yourself why you want to change your habits when things get tough
As with any kind of change in your life, there will be obstacles that come up. It’s important to be patient with yourself through the journey of falling bad habits. If it were easy, we wouldn’t call them habits at all. They are called habits because they become a normalized part of our lives.
If we go back to the smoking example above, reminding yourself why you are quitting smoking can help you stay on track. You can be deciding to quit for health reasons or maybe for financial reasons. Both reasons are completely valid and can be helpful when you run into roadblocks.
If you are having trouble reminding yourself of these reasons, you can try getting yourself an accountability partner. This can be a loved one in your life that you trust to hold you accountable.
If you don’t have someone in your life that fits this mold, you can have a therapist or psychiatrist help you with this step as well.
You can also try incorporating journaling to track your progress with your habit you are trying to replace. The simple act of writing something on paper can help us stay motivated and actually has been shown to make our outcomes more successful.
One thing we can always count on in our uncertain world is that fall will always come. The change of the seasons can give us a fresh start that we have been looking for. When seasons change, it’s the start of a new week.
A clean slate and a chance to try again. If you are feeling lost or unfulfilled, examining what parts of your life aren’t working should be the first step.
It’s never too late to change how we’ve always been, no matter how long it has been.
Change is hard, but it is never impossible. Believing that you have the power to make substantial changes in your life is the key to life-long growth. Growth is always possible. But believing it is possible is the key to your success.
The seasons will always change and this should remind us that we can too.
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Worried? Nervous? Concerned? Just plain stressed? If you are any of these then you are no stranger to anxiety or at least feelings of anxiousness. For those people who deal with more than just everyday stress, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
There are five major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Many people suffer from anxiety, in fact, according to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year”.
Why is Anxiety So Common?
Whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder or just experience bouts of anxiousness, it still has an effect on a person and can be interruptive to their daily lives.
Anxiety can manifest from a series of complicated risk factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Given that at some point in our lives we all experience some kind of loss, the drama surrounding family and friends, work-life balance challenges, pressures of society, among many other elements of being a human on this planet, we all deal with stress in one way or another.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
When the human brain is under a certain level of stress, the human body can and will respond. Everyday Health notes that some of the obvious physical symptoms the body undergoes when experiencing stress include, but are not limited to:
- Increased heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular body temperature
Physical Habits of Anxiety
When ongoing stress is present in our lives, there is only so much of it that the human body can swallow before it begins to reveal itself to the outside world. Every human copes with worry and concern in their own ways.
Some of these coping manners turn into habits, particularly bad habits. The reason bad habits can develop during periods of anxiety is that we are so overwhelmed in our minds that we start to act out as a form of distraction.
Some of the most common bad habits used to cope with anxiety include:
- Biting and picking at your nails, oftentimes to the point of bleeding and infection
Skin picking/hair pulling
- Picking at scabs and facial blemishes
- Pulling at your hair (arm, head)
- Constant eating and snacking on unhealthy food
- No sense of portion control
- Noticeable weight gain
Lack of eating
- Loss of appetite or no interest in eating
- Noticeable weight loss
- Development of eating disorder
Dealing with distortion of body image and desire to lose weight by controlling food intake
Serious medical concerns are associated with an eating disorder due to the lack of nutrients to the body.
Can have serious implications to the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, as well as organ functioning within the body
Development of habits that become disruptive to daily life
- Cleaning/lack of cleaning
- Hand washing
Development of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Repetitive and unwanted ritualized behaviors
- Habits can become time-consuming and take over life
Smoking, drinking, drug use
- Initial use may be recreational and may take the edge off
- Concern for the development of substance addiction
- Coping mechanism for pain and suffering
- Self-punishment and harm
- Looking for physical relief
- Cutting can be a call for help
Why are Bad Habits So Hard to Bbreak?
These habits can be hard to break as they form a sense of personal security around ourselves and our anxieties. Habits, especially bad habits provide a person with a sense of control. They feel that without the ability to cope with anxiety using their habit, they have no control and no outlet.
Oftentimes people can be unaware that they are acting out by using a habit as it becomes part of who they are. To the outside world, especially those we are closest to may become bothered or annoyed by your habits. This can cause friction and anger, promoting more anxiety between friendships and relationships.
Break the Cycle
It is imperative to break the cycle of bad habits for yourself and those around you. Although it takes consistent hard work, with dedication and support you can make significant progress in your life with your anxieties.
Surround yourself with family and friends to help support your process and your journey to recovery. Although the health severities on some of the above-listed habits can range, the importance of breaking your habit is the same.
Reach out to a professional immediately if you do not have local or advisable support for help.
Healthy Habits to Help Deal with Anxiety
Sometimes breaking the cycle of bad habits needs to come from awareness and exposure to good habits. Good habits are used in the same fashion: for distraction, control, and security.
Try some of these fun and healthy habits as a means to deal with your anxieties.
Side note: if it’s too overwhelming to try something new right away, try some of these habits once you are over the bad habit.
- Exercising (Yoga)
- Spending time outside (walks, hiking, biking)
- Rest (permission to nap, getting sufficient nighttime sleep)