How to Break Bad Habits with 5 Healthy Coping Mechanisms That Work

How to Break Bad Habits Anxious Woman Chewing on Your Phone
Photo Courtesy of Pexels – Andrea Piacquadio

Though we may not realize our bad habits that we turn to when anxiety hits because they can be a difficult thing to break. This automatic response that occurs when worry and stress dominate our thoughts such as twisting hair, chewing or licking the lip, overeating, going on a shopping spree, twitching, and talking too fast are just some unhealthy coping mechanisms that need impulse control. Yet, if we are absently doing these bad habits how can we stop them before they continue to ruin the quality of our lives from physical health, beauty to our mental well-being? In this post, I’ll share five healthy coping mechanisms that can help end that destructive cycle.

Effective Coping Mechanisms for How to Break Free From Bad Habits

  1. Understand the Cause That Promoted the Behavior – Figure out the source of stress that triggered that response in the form of that bad habit is how you begin to move forward to changing it.

For instance, you may usually bite your nails or twist or pull out strands of your hair every time you get upset. Usually, most of us are sitting when doing those bad habits. Therefore, you may want to stand as soon as you start nibbing, pulling or yanking for impulse control, which can be a step in the right direction.

Whenever you have that urge to bite or your hands move to your hair, gaze down at the state of your nails or look at the sad condition of your hair as a reminder of your unhealthy coping mechanism.

  1. Make It Harder for Allowing the Bad Behavior to Occur – Since our habits are automatic reactions, it can be beneficial to put some distance between the trigger and the bad habit.

For example, a bad habit may be overspending when stressed. Instead of taking your credit card with you if traveling to the mall for a buying spree, leave it a home. You can’t buy excessively when you only carry a limited amount of cash that could tempt you. If your style is more on the order of shopping online, then remove your normal method of payment from your favorite company’s website can be another strategy worth considering. After all, it takes time once you erase that saved information when you have to type in all that information again. It also can help to put credit cards away out of temptation, perhaps, in another part of your home so you may have to walk an extra flight of stairs can be a preventive measure of stopping the behavior.

  1. Practice Habit Reversal – What is involved in this coping mechanism is replacing the bad habit with a better habit or competing response.

To illustrate, if you’re biting your nails and can’t stop, sit on your hands the moment your hand reaches for your mouth. This replacement habit may sound silly, but in time it could be enough of a reminder to help for how to break one of these bad habits.

Then again, you may always raid the freezer for ice cream. In that case, avoid having it in the freezer in the first place or replace the trigger with a frozen banana. If you never tried a frozen banana, then they can help satisfy that delicious and creamy sweetness in a healthier natural way than ice cream’s excess sugar.

  1. Promise Yourself a Reward – Working to change a bad habit is easier, the more motivated you are. Therefore, you are more likely to work to exert more willpower toward ending the bad habit once working toward a reward that you promised yourself.

5. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself When Progress Stalls – Everyone’s behavior is different in how long it may take to break their bad habits. Though you may have heard it takes 21 days for breaking bad habits, there is no absolute certainty based on the research to prove that.

    For more on this subject, you may want to read my earlier posts on building emotional resilience for life and five ways to develop more positive thinking to overcome negative thoughts.


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