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Behaviors that Create Stress

Have you ever taken a different route to work?  Have you tried something new you have never done before?  Have you turned off the TV or computer and simply read a book?  Have you tried given up your favorite latte and muffin for a week? 

Habits are comfortable and resistant to change.  We keep them in place because we get a payoff of some kind.  We don’t have to think, we aren’t challenged by learning something new, we can zone out and we get an immediate emotional relief and instant pleasure or gratification. 

We seldom think about the cost in keeping some habits in place. The pleasure of the moment keeps us from thinking about long term consequences: the cigarette we smoke, that glass of wine that becomes two or three, the pounds we put on become increasingly difficult to take off, the hours spent on internet social media that shrinks time spent together. We get comfortable and stuck.

Cost-Benefit of Current Habits 

Habits are resistant to change.  Which ones are okay to keep and which ones need to be replaced?  What is the immediate payoff?  What are the long term consequences?

Take a sheet of paper and write down some of your lifestyle habits that you might want to change or replace. Mark beside each one the cost and benefit. What is the cost and benefit of eating on the run, having that routine latte and doughnut, staying up late to play video games or interact every moment on Facebook, etc.  

Evaluate each habit in terms of short term and long term benefits and consequences. How are my old habits keeping me from reaching my lifetime goals? What new habits can I put in place? 

For example, I want to be healthier, have more energy and less stress.  The habits currently in place do not provide dependable routines, structure, regular meals, new ways to rest and relax. 

Replacing Habits

Once you know the payoffs and consequences, make a note of the environmental cues that trigger certain behaviors. Remove tempations from your environment or remove yourself from the environment.  Don’t purchase those sugar laden muffins.  Go for a walk instead of going to the malls to shop. Try something new. Replace a usual behavior with something totally opposite. 

Will power alone doesn’t work.  Habits need to be replaced.  New habits require a new mindset, a new way to think about our lives and what we want, and replacing with more positive habits.  

To put a new habit in place define exactly what you want to do, repeat your goal daily, post visual reminders, find ways to reward yourself for your efforts.    

Any new habits or new self-regulating choices will be uncomfortable at first.  Putting in place a new healthy habit will require some concentrated effort.  But the payoff is usually huge.  

Slow Down, observe, evaluate

The world seems to be moving faster and faster and at times I feel  like the hampsters that get in their exercise wheels and run and run in place but never go anywhere.

To evaluate habits and behaviors that may keep us running in place without ever getting anywhere, we need to STOP, observe and evaluate.  

Go back over your list of lifestyle habits.  Which ones do you want to replace? What is involved in replacing this habit? Maybe it is challenging old beliefs and ways of thinking that keep you from believing in yourself and your capabilities. Maybe it is time management. Maybe it is removal of temptation from  environments that lead to impulsive behavior and rationalization (I will only do it this once time, or I deserve it). It may be the need to take charge, learn to say No, and learn more constructive outdated beliefs that keep you from saying No and taking charge of your life. 

Begin with one habit

Choose one habit you want to replace and make a goal plan. Your goal statement should say specifically what you want to accomplish. List the obstacles that might keep you from achieving your goal.  Then put together a plan of action that will work for you, that fits with your personality, your strengths and weaknesses.   

You are in charge of your life. You can change habits that have destructive long term consequences. You can replace them with ones that will reduce your stress levels while you achieve your long term goals.

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