This blog is part of our “SUMMER STRESS DETOX!” Series
Time to clear your slate—and start the summer season refreshed and revitalized. To that end, Experience Life has partnered with meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management system, to bring you this 8-part series on detoxing mind, body, and spirit. You’ll discover strategies for everything from rethinking your diet to clearing clutter and shifting your stress response so that you can feel lighter, cleaner, and healthier than ever. (Learn more about the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!)
Step 5: Retool Your Habits
You learned how habitual thinking can create stress in your life. Habitual behaviors can do the same thing (checking your phone every minute, eating when you’re not hungry). Habits are prime for detoxing because you do them every day—and the bad ones add up. Plus, because they fly under the radar, you may not even realize the impact they have.
This week, become an observer of your own habits. It’ll give you insight into what you do and why—and a leg up on changing them.
… EATING HABIT
If you’ve ever reached for food when you weren’t hungry, you know what it is to be an unconscious eater. The problem is, stress drives you to eat certain foods, even when they make you feel lousy, and the more you eat unhealthy types and amounts of food, the less able you are to make positive changes. It’s a vicious cycle.
What am I really hungry for?
The next time you catch yourself reaching for a bag of something, standing in front of fridge, or staring into the pantry, ask yourself, are you actually experiencing hunger right now? What are you feeling—boredom, anxiety, restlessness? Pinpoint the habitual thought or emotion that caused it. Maybe what you’re really hankering for is connection, a change of scenery, or a break. By looking that urge straight in the eye you can control your response.
>>TRY IT: Replace the behavior.
Once you’ve caught yourself in the act and identified the need, seek to fulfill it in a new way. Instead of noshing on a handful of cookies, call a friend. Bypass the pantry and head outside for a brisk walk. Shift gears from your current task and watch some funny videos. By consciously addressing the real need without food, you can begin to break loose from an age-old habit—and maybe lose a few pounds, too.
We surveyed 15,000 members of the meQuilibrium community about their digital habits. Sixty-one percent of them said that they can’t ignore their phones when they beep, buzz, or ping—and 81 percent interrupt conversations, meals, and other activities to do it. (Read more about what we found.)
How do I feel afterwards? When you removed certain foods from your diet in Week 2’s food-based detox, you paid attention to how your body felt without them, and then as you added them back in. Same goes for digital habits. Sixty-one percent of our respondents said they felt jealous, annoyed, even depressed after checking status updates. And if you realize it makes you feel bad, there’s one more reason not to do it as much.
>>TRY IT: Experiment with an unplugged hour. Notice what it’s like to be off the digital grid for a set period of time. Maybe you love it; maybe you’re antsy. That’s ok. Take note of it. What are the benefits for you of having that time to yourself or with someone else? When you log back on later, what did you miss? Anything big? Probably not.
…. BEDTIME HABIT
If you aren’t sleeping adequately or well, it’s hard to function at a base level, let alone support detoxing efforts. Your days may be nonstop, but that’s all the more reason to guard your shuteye. Make a concerted effort to break your bad sleep habits and your mind and body will thank you.
How do I spend the hour before I fall asleep? If you pass out after midnight with the TV on and no fewer than two digital devices pinging away, you’re not setting yourself up for the best rest possible. When’s the last time you actually prepared for sleep? It’s tempting to want to jam all you can into the tail end of your day, but it’s likely not your most productive hour.
>>TRY IT. Give yourself a one-hour countdown. To improve your sleep, you have to prepare for it, not hope it shows up while you’re busy doing other things. If you’d like to be asleep by 11 p.m., then set an alarm for 10 p.m. to kickoff your new nighttime ritual. Power down the devices, switch off the TV, and shift gears: Take a shower or bath, do some gentle stretching, make some herbal tea, turn down the lights. Send your body and mind cues that sleep is near.
Want to make an even more dramatic change? Take the 28-day summer stress detox challenge!
Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.