It will be almost impossible to find someone without stress. It affects our everyday lives and creates a huge impact on our daily habits. It’s very common to develop negative habits as a way to cope with daily stress and disappointments. Some drown their sorrows in food or alcohol, others numb themselves in front of the television or complain endlessly to friends without making any effort to change their situation.
Rosemary Lombardy, a candid domestic abuse survivor, and an
What are the most common bad habits we develop during stress?
Some degree of stress in our lives is normal and necessary to help motivate us to achieve our goals. Excessive levels of prolonged stress can trigger negative coping mechanisms which commonly include immoderate caffeine consumption, smoking, drinking, compulsive spending, and emotional eating, among other bad habits. People respond differently to varying levels of stress, and some people have a much lower level of tolerance to it than others.
People dealing with too much stress can become overwhelmed with anxiety, develop high blood pressure or a racing heartbeat, suffer from insomnia, irritability, depression, or even strokes. Working mothers have to deal with much higher levels of stress once they have children, as they are, in most cases, the primary caretakers and must juggle multiple tasks. According to workingmom.com, mothers who have a job work on average 98 hours a week. It is no wonder that they feel overwhelmed.
How do these habits affect our stress levels?
People initially experience relief from these bad habits, which is why they started relying on them to deal with their stress in the first place, but the feeling of relief is temporary. These negative behaviors compound their problems, only adding to their stress levels and making it less bearable.
- Too much caffeine consumption can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and insomnia. Excessive alcohol consumption may interfere with a job or even end valued relationships.
- Addiction to smoking or alcohol is extremely difficult to overcome and negatively affects physical health and longevity.
- Compulsive spending may result in unintended consequences, such as the loss of one’s home and/or family.
- Compulsive eating negatively affects health and can result in diabetes, heart disease, and other deadly illnesses. It lowers energy and activity levels and affects mood, confidence, and self-esteem. Overeating can result in isolating behavior that affects your relationships and may result in the loss of a beloved partner and the breakup of your family.
How to get rid of these bad habits?
- Tackle one bad habit at a time until you are sure that you have permanently removed it, replacing it with a positive habit. This only occurs when it becomes an automatic behavior, which takes an average of more than sixty days, so be patient.
- Plan for how to reach your goal of implementing your new positive habits into your schedules, such as your support meetings or exercise. Write down your goal and refer to it often.
- Be realistic about what you can do and start with a small goal so that you do not set yourself up to fail. Focus on your progress and only on what is within your control. Taking pride in your efforts, even if your goal takes a bit longer than you anticipated to achieve it, is where you need to concentrate your attention.
- Get a support system, such as a buddy, a coach, a Facebook group, or an organization such as Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Spenders Anonymous. Use a calorie counting app every day if you are trying to lose weight. Avoid people who encourage you to maintain your bad habits and surround yourself with people who want you to succeed.
- Reward yourself for reaching mini-goals, just not with food. Little rewards, such as a bubble bath or pedicure can boost your self-esteem.
- Stay positive. If you mess up, forgive yourself immediately and get back on schedule. Treat yourself with compassion, as you would a good friend, recommit to your goal, and don’t give up.
What are the 5 things you can recommend to manage stress?
- Stop multi-tasking, as that increases your level of stress and actually decreases productivity. Only look at emails every two or three hours, for example.
- Take frequent breaks during the day to just stretch, walk around and breathe deeply. You will have a clearer focus and remain calmer.
- Take care of your body so that you have more resiliency when dealing with stress. Simple things like making sure you get plenty of rest, with no computers, television, or cell at least two hours before bedtime, no caffeine at least four hours before bedtime, a good diet, staying hydrated, and making time to exercise for at least thirty minutes three to four times a week will help you to feel better, have more energy, and reduce your stress levels. Massage, relaxing music, meditation, prayer, time outdoors, aromatherapy, and a gratitude practice are great stress relievers, too.
- Ask for help when you need it. Decide not to let yourself get to the point of being overwhelmed and ask your partner, relative, friend, or colleague to pitch in when you need a break. If you are overworked or need more limited and predictable work hours, discuss this issue with your boss so that adjustments can be made. It is up to you to speak up when you are dealing with too much, as others cannot read your mind and do not necessarily know everything you have to handle.
- Let go of perfectionism. A few dustballs under the couch or ordering takeout once in a while when you are too tired to clean or cook or will not matter in the long run. Quality time that you get to relax and spend with family is essential to your health and well-being and theirs. Focusing on what’s important and staying positive will help you to better deal with whatever stress comes your way.
What is the most important advice you can give to a Sifa’s Corner reader who is battling with stress?
You do not have to be perfect or a superwoman. Just do the very best you can, that is all that you can ask of yourself. Start implementing some of the points I have given above to take care of yourself and improve your life. You deserve it!
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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