Breaking Bad Habits

If you’ve leaned on vices during the pandemic, it’s not too late to change. Maybe your occasional glass of wine has turned into a nightly routine. Maybe stress inspired you to start sneaking cigarettes outside. Maybe you ate a whole pan of cookies after the kids went to bed—more than once. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, it’s understandable to have embraced a few bad habits to cope with stress, job loss, and separation from family and friends. This is a natural reaction to stress, so know you’re not alone. However, if your coping mechanisms are bad for your health, it’s time to try something new. Here’s how to start making changes in the right direction.

Identify your triggers. Are you really pouring a drink to relax or to escape from feeling sad? Are you eating all those chips because you’re hungry or because you’re bored? Knowing the emotional reasons behind your unhealthy habits often makes it easier to assess and make a change.

Try replacing a bad habit with a good one. Instead of doomscrolling—reading a lot of online news at once—call a friend. Instead of smoking on the porch, take a walk around the block. Keep prepped crunchy vegetables, such as carrots and sweet peppers, on hand so they are as easy to snack on as a bag of chips or candy.

Keep it simple. It can be tempting to say, “Today’s the day I’m going to start exercising every morning and quit biting my nails and eat right.” But research has shown that trying too many changes at once is likely to result in backsliding. Even if you’re enjoying a new, healthier habit, it’s important to make it manageable and maintainable long term. Try adding small bursts of exercise into your day instead of committing to a 90-minute workout. Add a fruit or vegetable serving to every meal instead of restricting calories or eliminating food groups.

Don’t give up. So you didn’t exercise this morning or you ate that cupcake tonight. Don’t beat yourself up or quit trying. Just reset tomorrow. You can do it.

Know when you need help. Making changes is difficult, and if you think you might be addicted to a substance, it can be even harder. A mental health professional can help provide the support, advice, and even medical treatment you might need to stay sober or lose weight. Free support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous can also help you stay accountable as you try to make changes.

If you’re struggling to break your worst habits, Carson Tahoe Behavioral Health Services can support you. Learn more at www.carsontahoe.com/BHS.