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Section 12
Overcoming Unwanted Habits

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents

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In this section, we will talk about replacing your adrenaline fuel, or your 'fight or flight' response with what we will call healthy, 'premium' fuel to assist you through your holiday let-down and depression.

Today, the most popular drug of choice seems to be adrenaline. Do you agree? Is this true for you? Let me explain.

Adrenaline activates the 'flight or fight' response to stressors that gives us the positive rush when we finish a big project for work, or the negative rush when a traffic jam makes us late. This rush can become addictive, and many of us develop bad habits, like constantly juggling too many projects, that keep our adrenaline levels high.

Adrenaline is not bad in itself, but overusing it keeps us constantly on alert, and high levels over time can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and a suppressed immune system.

Take a moment to examine your life. Do you constantly over commit yourself personally and professionally? Do you put things off until the last minute? Do you always feel short on time? If so, then you may be fueling yourself on adrenaline.

Kicking the adrenaline habit is difficult. Our culture promotes a frenzied lifestyle, so it takes practice and patience to slow yourself down. We will now discuss four simple exercises to help you shift to a more healthy pace.

♦ 3 Steps to Breaking the Adrenaline Habit

Step 1: Analyzing Resistance ot Arriving Early
One simple step is deal with your resistance to arriving early for appointments. This is an obvious one, but why don't you do it? When you schedule an appointment, give yourself space before and after so that you feel less rushed. For example, if you make an appointment from 10 to 11, block out time between 9:30 and 11:30.

If you make this a regular practice, you will notice that giving yourself room to breathe leaves you with more energy. But the problem with this is you lose the adrenaline rush of being late. So truly what you are dealing with is your addiction to adrenaline, and not really this piece of information to arrive at appointments early.

Step 2: Eliminating Distractions
To kick your adrenaline habit, analyze your distractions, interruptions, and annoyances. Think over the last twenty-four hours. Are you constantly interrupted by, kids, co-workers, telephone calls, and/or significant others? That's a really good way to feed your adrenaline rush is to keep your life in a constant stage of agitation.

So if you truly are addicted to adrenaline, you have very little motivation to set limits. However, if you are motivated to have some peace and tranquility in your day, you might discuss in your group that is listening to this section, or write in your journal who or what interrupts you, and how you can set limits.

Step 3: Restructure Your Time
Focus your energy. Instead of working on several projects at once, restructure your time. Block out a period for each project, and concentrate on one task at a time. You will find that this not only reduces adrenaline, but improves the quality of your work, and gets each task done more quickly. Once again, your ability to set limits is tested here.

Now that we have discussed ways to reduce adrenaline by analyzing your resistance to arriving early, eliminating distractions, and restructuring your time, we will talk about ways to replace adrenaline with a more 'premium' fuel for your mind, body, and spirit.

♦ 4 Ways to Add Premium Fuel to the Body

#1 - Eating Right
The first step is to give your body healthy fuel. Eating carrots instead of candy bars is a no-brainer, right? But to make the emotional connection between the food and the comforting it provides is the key.

#2 - Exercising
Second, add fun exercise to your daily routine. Exercise also is a no-brainer, so why don't more of us do it? It's because if you are like I am, you view exercise as hard work, plus you feel you don't have the time. How about if you just took a mental health break by walking out on your porch and breathing the air for a few minutes and looking at the trees.

Believe it or not, deep breathing is a form of exercise, and creates a physical break for your body. So if you are a firm non-exerciser, take a break, roll your shoulders back, and just breathe. No one needs to know that you're doing this, not even your co-worker at the next desk.

#3 - Taking Agressive Steps to a Good Night's Sleep
Third, take aggressive steps to get a good night's sleep. Do you wake up feeling rested and refreshed? If not, let's find out how we can improve your sleeping area. What do I mean by aggressive?

Four Agressive Steps to a Good Night's Sleep
--a. First, let's talk about the air quality in your bedroom. How is the air quality in your room? If you find yourself waking up with red, puffy eyes, or sinus headaches, try buying an inexpensive an air purifier in your room.

--b. Second, let's talk about noise pollution. Eliminate noise distractions by listening to a pleasant audiotape, like whale song or rainforest sounds, or consider using a 'white noise' machine.

--c. Third, let's talk about the atmosphere or environment in your bedroom. Decorate your bedroom in way that makes you feel calm. Don't work in bed or watch TV.

--d. Fourth, let's talk about what you do right before you go to sleep. Watching the news about the latest break-ins may not be the most relaxing thing for you. If you have trouble falling asleep, do something to relax before you go to bed. What would help you wind down from your day? Taking a hot bath? Reading a good book? Spending time with your family?

So regarding your night's sleep, think about your air quality, noise pollution, atmosphere, and what you do right before you go to bed.

#4 - Deep Breathing
Finally, take a deep breath! We talked about breathing being a form of exercise. When you take a deep breath, it sends a signal to your entire body to relax. The way we breathe can help us add premium fuel to our bodies. Try it now.

Take a deep breath into your belly so that your stomach pushes out. Count to four as you breathe in through your nose, hold it for a count of eight, then let your breath out slowly through your nose as you count to two. Notice how you feel. Try this deep breathing during pauses in your day- waiting at a red light, in between tasks at work, right before you go to bed.

♦ 3 Techniques to Fuel the Mind

Technique #1 - Making a Wish List
Now, that we've talked about ways to fuel your body via eating, exercise, sleep, and deep breathing, let's discuss ways to fuel your mind. First, make a wish list. Write three items on a 3"x5" index card. Be specific. Do you want to add a thousand dollars to your savings account? Would you like to find a higher paying job? Keep this card with you throughout the day, and visualize having these things. Be mindful of them, but don't be too attached.

Technique #2 - Making a "Treasure Map
Next, create a "treasure map" to your wish list. The treasure map that leads to your wish list is actually a collage of images that reflect your goals. These goals can be material, like a picture of a new car, or you can include images of a place you'd like to visit. Include goals for your whole life: relationships, career, fun, health. Make the collage attractive to you. Take a moment to think what images you might add to your treasure map. Is there a saying or image that particularly inspires you?

Technique #3 - Thinking "High Quality Thoughts"
Train yourself to think 'high quality thoughts'. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself during the day. Do you find yourself thinking "I'm not good enough" or "I can't do anything right"? Create a self-loving affirmation or mantra, for example "I deeply and profoundly accept myself". If you catch yourself using this negative self-talk, replace the thought immediately with your mantra.

To guide you in creating this mantra, think of what you might say to a loved one who was being to hard on himself or herself. In addition to your mantra, choose inspirational reading to raise your spirits. Decorate your workspace with simple visual messages like "love" or "joy". Reduce the number of negative images you put into your mind by making conscious decisions about what you watch and read. Is there a TV program or magazine that makes you feel unhappy?

♦ 3 Ways to Add Premium Fuel to the Spirit

We have discussed fueling your mind by making a wish list, making a "treasure map" to your wish list, and thinking high quality thoughts. Now let's talk about five ways to fuel your spirit.

#1 - Music
First, add your favorite music to your day. Is there an artist you really loved when you were younger? Listening to your favorite music can inspire you, bring back fond memories, and put you in a happy mood.

#2 - Laughter
Second, take the time to laugh. Laughter is a powerful healing tool. What makes you laugh? A group of friends? A funny movie? Fuel yourself with laughter at least once a week. Do you have a problem laughing? If so, what parental messages did you receive. Were you told by your parent "you'll be crying by the end of the day; wipe that smile off your face"? If you are listening to this section in a group setting, you might discuss what messages you received as a child regarding laughter.

#3 - Cry
Third, allow yourself to cry. This may sound uncomfortable, but good cry can cleanse the mind and reenergize you. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give yourself a private space to cry. Some people find it impossible to cry; if crying is not a possibility for you, look for another safe way to release negative emotions and fuel your spirit. As mentioned earlier, try hitting a pillow. On the other hand, if you find yourself crying often, look into the cause of the wound, and ask yourself what you need to do to heal that wound. You are the most knowledgeable person about yourself.

Listening to music, taking the time to laugh and cry are good ways to give your spirit 'premium fuel'.

In this section, we have discussed breaking the adrenaline habit by trying to discover the payoff for you in being late, analyze your distractions, and reorganizing your time. We have discussed ways to add premium fuel to the body, by eating right, exercising, taking aggressive steps to a good night's sleep, and deep breathing. We covered fueling the mind by making a wish list, making a treasure map, and thinking high quality thought. Finally, we discussed using music, laughter, and crying to add premium fuel to the spirit.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bailen, N. H., Wu, H., & Thompson, R. J. (2019). Meta-emotions in daily life: Associations with emotional awareness and depression. Emotion, 19(5), 776–787. 

Bardeen, J. R., & Fergus, T. A. (2020). Emotion regulation self-efficacy mediates the relation between happiness emotion goals and depressive symptoms: A cross-lagged panel design. Emotion, 20(5), 910–915. 

Cetinkol, G., Bastug, G., & Ozel Kizil, E. T. (2020). Poor acceptance of the past is related to depressive symptoms in older adults. GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry. Advance online publication. 

Kuhbandner, C., & Haager, J. S. (2016). Overcoming approach and withdrawal habits: Approaching former enemies is easier than withdrawing from former friends. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(11), 1438–1447. 

Maas, J., Keijsers, G. P. J., Cangliosi, C. M., van der Veld, W., Tanis-Jacobs, J., & van Minnen, A. (2017). The Self-Control Cognition Questionnaire: Cognitions in the maintenance of unwanted habits. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 33(5), 328–335. 

Watkins, E. R., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). A habit-goal framework of depressive rumination. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(1), 24–34. 

What is a way to kick your adrenaline habit? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 13
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