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Published on April 1, 2021

How To Identify Addictive Behaviors And Get Rid of Them

How To Identify Addictive Behaviors And Get Rid of Them

There are times when you need activities that bring your relaxation and allow for release. Exercise, writing, playing, creating, and reading are all examples of healthy behaviors that provide an escape—but only to a point.[1] Some pursuits can quickly turn costly if the behavior causes harm or is used as a coping or escape mechanism or if it becomes an unhealthy obsession. If you find yourself engaged in costly addictive behaviors, then it’s time to create a positive change.

Here are some tips on how to identify addictive behaviors and get rid of them.

1. Heed the Warnings

Right off the bat, I’m going to urge you to gauge whether this behavior has become harmful to you or someone else. While this article is not designed to address or diagnose unhealthy addictive behaviors, it is a wake-up call.

If you or someone you know is compulsively engaging in a detrimental behavior, heed the warnings. Your first step should be to contact your local mental health provider or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline1-800-662-HELP (4357). Addictive behaviors that call for integrated treatment require more than self-help mechanisms and should always be handled by a professional.

2. Identify the Addiction

If the addictive behavior is something you can self-manage, then the first step is to put a label on it. Overeating, overworking, or spending too much time engaged in a hobby to the detriment of obligations are just a few examples.

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I want to stress once more that even though these may often require professional support, some activities can help you thoughtfully manage them. Start by defining what that addictive behavior is. If you are over-stressed but find that eating gives you a pleasurable escape, then overeating may have evolved into that addictive behavior. If you are constantly on your phone or find yourself searching social media platforms all day long—and it’s not your job to do so—that could be a sign of another addictive behavior.

3. Understand the Addiction

The next step in getting rid of an addictive behavior is understanding whether or not it is classified as an addiction or simply a bad habit. If the behavior has a pull so strong that you cannot separate yourself from it for very long, odds are it’s an addiction and will require professional support.

If you can, say, turn your phone off for several days without feeling anxious, depressed, or acting out or uncomfortable, then it may be something that you can control. If it is simply a bad habit, then practice separating yourself from the behavior for stretches of time until you no longer turn to it as an instant stress-releaser.

4. Know the Risks

Poor health, lost finances, and broken relationships are just a few of the costs associated with addictive behaviors. One of the most compelling reasons for change often lies in understanding the risks involved. Gambling is an addictive behavior with enormous costs, but some cannot see the risk behind the potential reward.

If you are challenged in identifying why change is necessary, talk to someone and let them help you see how costly the behavior can be if left unchecked.

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5. Understand Your “Why?”

Working too many hours, while seemingly a noble activity, can be a sign that you’re avoiding other activities in your life. It could mean that you are unprepared and disorganized or lack confidence in your abilities. Filling your void in your life with work, substances, and activities is either a sign that something is missing or a mask to avoid facing the truth. Working with a trained professional can help you uncover your “why” and healthily process the systemic issue that could be causing the addictive behavior in the first place.

6. Avoid Toxic People

People are often surprised to discover that relationships can also be addictive behaviors. Deep connections with friends or loved ones that partake in unhealthy addictive behaviors can be a slippery slope to adopting one for yourself. This kind of affiliative or peer pressure style addiction can prey on a weakness or need to feel a sense of belonging. Even the relationship itself can be unhealthy. Allowing a relationship with a negative or addicted person to continue is fostering a pattern that may eventually result in emotional pain.

7. Clarify Your Triggers

Triggers can be internal or external, and they can occur at any time and in any place to reinforce the addiction. Triggers cause stress which provokes addictive behavior that serves as a coping mechanism for calming the nervous system.

For example, if one is sensitive about their weight, unhealthy internal and external dialogue can lead to overeating or avoiding food altogether. Work-related stress such as having an overbearing supervisor could be the trigger that causes someone to either work themselves sick or shut down and fail to perform. There isn’t always a drastic reaction when a trigger takes place, nor does the trigger need to be catastrophic.

A friend shared that he ate most of his meals while watching television. He lives alone, so it helps him relax and he feels less guilty watching shows while eating because he’s doing something, rather than laying listlessly on the couch. But television also became his trigger. Every time it was on, he wanted to eat. So, watching and eating became an addictive behavior that he eventually needed to address.

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8. Find a Substitute

Socially responsible addictions—like consuming caffeine and sugar—are still difficult behaviors to change. And they do have their downsides. While you may not see the immediate downsides, failing to take into account the long-term effects of overindulging can be detrimental. Occasionally substituting decaf, tea, or fruit instead of candy is a gentle way to get rid of the addictive behavior without going cold turkey.

9. Find Some Support

People need people. And when it comes to addictive behaviors, the best way to get rid of them is with the support of others. In addition to professional care, connecting with others that share the addiction can be comforting and supportive.

Communities exist in your neighborhood and online for all types of addictive behavior and there are plenty of people to support your positive change and hold you accountable to your goals. Remember, this also includes your friends and family. While they may not share the same addictive behaviors, they will be there for you when you need them.

10. Apply Healing Techniques

Some mild addictive behaviors can be thoughtfully managed without the support of a professional. But it begins with understanding your “why.” When you define the underlying reasons, you might find there are healing techniques at the ready to help you overcome.

Take social media addiction. For some, the compulsion to always be on Facebook or other platforms can be tempered with practice, accountability, substitutions, and support. But digging a little deeper, you may find that your “why” is centered around a need to be liked. Applying positive self-talk, biofeedback, positive reinforcement techniques, exercise, and meditation may help shore up your confidence and self-image.

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11. Build Your Willpower

It’s a known fact that when you can build your willpower through less daunting challenges than overcoming a more substantial one—like addictive behavior—it’s more likely that you’ll succeed. Navy SEALs in BUDS training go through grueling tests, challenges, and exercises to build up their stamina and willpower so that when faced with real-time adversaries, they are conditioned to respond at a high-level.

While you don’t have to become a SEAL to overcome addictive behaviors, you may find that smaller willpower-building exercises will help you manage bigger challenges over time.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are struggling with addictive behaviors is to get the support that you need. That begins with identifying whether or not the behavior needs professional care. And of course, building on that professional care by employing personal management strategies, like those listed above.

Remember, if left unchecked, addictive behaviors can grow more engrained and may have bigger costs over time. Therefore, it’s important to identify them early and work on getting rid of them.

More Tips on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: Umur Batur Kocak via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Psychological Association: Healthy habits for healthy families

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Kim Monaghan

Career Happiness Coach, HR Consultant, Trainer & Speaker

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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