I love the whimsical storytelling in Jimmy Buffet’s songs. So much so that, at one point, my son believed he had an Uncle Jimmy with his own satellite radio station. I enjoy the escapism of being at the beach anytime I want to go, simply by wasting away again in Margaritaville while chomping on a Cheeseburger in Paradise.
There’s one song that I particularly enjoy due to its biblical basis. It’s called the “Bank of Bad Habits.”
The song talks about (I don’t mean to point out the obvious) a bank of bad habits where we make deposits and withdrawals. However, at this bank, it’s not money, CDs, etc. It’s a bank where we deposit and withdraw our bad habits.
While it’s a bouncy song with a beach/blues sound, it’s honest about the impact of bad habits:
Bank of bad habits – One by one they’ll do you in.Jimmy Buffett
They’re bound to take their toll.
This is particularly true when it comes to stress. In our individual pursuits of happiness, comfort, and success, it’s no secret that the lives we lead can be stressful. Here’s the kicker – stress isn’t always caused by something big and terrifying. Sometimes it’s the small, daily pressures that get to us. For example, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 12% of people in the UK feel stressed by a need to reply quickly to messages.
Everyday things like this can bring unnecessary stress into your life – some are known to you, while others are secret stress-builders.
Bad habits that add to your stress.
Look, I’m not going to go into an exhaustive list, but feel it’s important to highlight some common bad habits and how they impact your stress.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can provide an energy boost. But drinking too much of it can have less desirable effects.
Cortisol is a hormone that’s released when you feel threatened or stressed. Caffeine triggers the release of cortisol, which can leave you feeling anxious and depressed. It can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Are you someone who struggles with the thought of breakfast? If so, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that more than 50% of Americans (about 33% in the UK, if you happen to be from across the pond) skip breakfast at least once a week, and roughly 15-20% never have breakfast.
What’s the impact? Missing meals may mean you aren’t getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need, which can lower your energy levels and leave you feeling tired and stressed.
Along the same lines, your diet has a huge impact on your mood and stress levels.
Lack of exercise.
When you need a release, there’s nothing like a good workout, as exercise is a scientifically proven stress reliever. But the question that remains is, can inactivity actually cause stress? It would appear so, as many who don’t regularly exercise report feelings of anxiety, depression, and (you guessed it) higher levels of stress than those who do.
Don’t feel bad. Procrastination is a widespread issue. We all put things off and it’s not good for our stress. Procrastination can leave you struggling to finish everything later on. This can cause stress, which can impact your health and how well you sleep. Failing to keep up with your priorities can have the same effect.
More than half of Americans are overwhelmed with clutter and don’t know what to do with it. The cause of clutter may be different from person to person, but the result is the same – loss of time and money, and increased levels of stress. No good.
Glued to devices.
And, it’s seriously stressing you out. There’s a reason you’re constantly encouraged to unplug (and before bedtime, especially). It’s because while modern technology is among the greatest advents of the 21st century, unfortunately, our brains weren’t designed to adequately process it compared to how often we consume it. Studies have linked the use of electronic devices and the frequent consumption of artificial light to increased stress and the development of mental illness over time.
Now, this is just a sample of the everyday practices that elevate our stress levels.
Would you like to feel calmer? Of course, you would!
Put these steps into play to discard your negative habits.
Identify the issue.
In order to get rid of a weed, first you have to notice it. Negative habits are the same. If you take a moment to recognize these undesirable ways, you’ve taken the first step toward doing something about them.
Now that you’ve identified the weed, notice how it’s choking out the cucumbers and tomatoes you’re trying to grow. Negative habits result in negative consequences.
For example, when you interrupt your partner (the bad habit), their feelings get hurt or they get angry (the negative consequence).
When you eat donuts for breakfast (the bad habit), you’ll gain weight or end up with high cholesterol (the negative consequence).
Make a conscious decision. If you want to expel a negative habit, make the choice to stop.
Rather than saying, “I’ll try to stop interrupting my partner,” say, “I won’t interrupt my partner.”
Build a safety net.
Come up with a plan to use when you slip back into your bad habit. This plan should help you get back on track. For example, say to yourself, “If I accidentally interrupt my partner, I’ll stop talking and apologize for it immediately.”
Since most of us find apologizing less than enjoyable, you’ll learn that your safety net is meant to help you curb the habit.
Use diversion. Some habits can be combatted by diverting our attention.
For example, when your co-worker arrives with a box of donuts, you could go to your office, close the door, and begin checking your email. Or you could go to talk to your supervisor about a project you’re working on.
Find a positive action to distract you while you’re avoiding the donuts. Not only will you avoid the donuts, but you’ll accomplish something positive as well!
Replace old habits with new ones.
Plan to do a specific action each time you find yourself doing the old habit. Replacement gives you the opportunity to implement a positive habit rather than the negative one you’re trying to avoid.
For example, Instead of eating a donut, you could eat a delicious yogurt with fresh fruit.
Expect relapses, but cease the old behavior swiftly.
Especially at the beginning, you’ll tend to backslide into your negative habit. Stop the behavior the moment you notice it and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can rid yourself of that habit.
It’s important that we weed out those negative habits and live in a “garden” that’s positive, healthy, and happy. Your life is filled with plenty of positive actions. Avoid letting those few negative ones take your life in an unfavorable direction by adding unneeded stress.