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Changing Bad Habits

Are you in the process of changing bad habits that increase your stress? Changing a habit means changing your behavior.

Addressing how you can relieve stress involves change. In fact, it involves changing your reaction to stressful events. The challenge with change is this: most of us have not been taught how to do it.

Help yourself to stress relief by learning how to change.

Two stress relief tips that help you change

Let's shift. And learn how to reclaim your calm.

  • 5 Stages of Self-Change Self-assessment
  • 5 Steps to Help Create a New Habit

A self-care moment. Try these:

Stress relief tip #1: The 5 Stages of Self-Change Self Assessment

"Understanding the stages of self-change is the secret." Dr. John C. Norcross

You may want to change but are you really ready to change? Help yourself by understanding where you are in the cycle of change.

There are five stages to self-change. Each stage helps you identify your readiness to change. These are universal. Everyone goes through them.

Are you ready? Think about how you answered the questions on the How to Relieve Stress page. Read and reflect on each stage below. Are you ready to do the work needed to develop healthier habits and reduce your stress? An honest self-assessment helps to increase your commitment.

The 5 Stages of Self-Change:

  1. Precontemplation: You're thinking about change but you really have no intention of changing any time soon. At least not in the next six months. The hallmark of this stage is resistance. You really don't want to change your behavior.
  2. Contemplation: You're aware of your problem. You want to overcome it but you're not ready to make a commitment to do it - yet. The hallmark of this stage is struggling with what it will cost you to overcome the behavior.
  3. Preparation: You intend to take some action, and in fact, you've tried but you've been unsuccessful. You keep trying though. The hallmark of this stage is continuing to have the intention to change and persevering.
  4. Action: You've made the commitment. You're dedicating the time and energy. You're taking the actions necessary to change. The hallmark of this stage is actually achieving your goal, the new behavior.
  5. Maintenance: This is the stage where you strive to maintain what you've accomplished. Moving through setbacks, preventing backslides and engaging in your new behavior. The hallmark of this stage is maintaining the new behavior for at least 6 months.

When it comes to changing bad habits that produce stress and anxiety, which stage are you at? No matter the stage, it is all good. Self-honesty helps you accept where you are. When you are able to do that, you can decide where you want to go. You can choose your direction and goal.

Are you someone who is at the action stage? Have you made a commitment to reduce your stress? Then . . .

Small steps towards less stress will have big effects

Here are some tips that support positive self-change.

Changing bad habits is the same as changing any habit or creating a new habit. The only difference is that "bad" refers to a habit that no longer makes you feel good. Said another way, a bad habit is a habit that no longer serves you. It has outgrown it usefulness.

Changing a habit takes:

Commitment: Make a commitment to you. It takes time and energy to create healthy habits. Get dedicated and devote yourself to your reducing stress and improving health.
Work: Roll up your sleeves and get ready. It takes real work to change.
Patience: Change takes time. Typically a pattern of action or habit of behavior takes 3 weeks to begin to be established. Give yourself 3 weeks to start and up to 6 months or more to fully anchor in the new habit.

Change is up to you. Help yourself.

Stress relief tip #2: 5 Steps to help create a new habit

1. Think about what you want before you act. Choose a goal that's achievable.
2. Prepare for success and make it public:
Enlist the help of the people who genuinely care for you: family, friends, and your community circles. Let them know you are preparing for a change. Welcome their support. Collaborate. Get a buddy. Partner up. Maybe there's friend or family member who wants to achieve the same goal.
3. Take action:
Begin doing what you need to do to achieve your goal.
Keep a record of your daily progress: Get a calendar marking down each day's accomplishment. Through the ups and downs your calendar will remember what you've achieved even when you don't.
4. Expect setbacks. And persevere anyway: "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again." Acknowledge the setback. Resolve yourself. Remember your commitment to you. Begin again.
5. Maintain your success. Maintaining a goal is harder than achieving a goal. But you've gotten this far. Remember step four. Accept that you will have relapses. Recommit and rededicate yourself. Keep going. You can succeed.

Changing bad habits for your pain and stress reduction is achievable. Studies show that these 5 steps help prepare and encourage lasting change because they increase success rates. Yes. You can do it.

Sources:
Norcross, J.C.& Beutler, L.E. as cited in Corsini, R. J., & Wedding, D. (2007). Current psychotherapies (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. p. 492.
Dr. John Norcross, PR Newswire, December 27, 1989

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