Written by Minah Yoo, Canadian Certified Counselor (CCC, Canada)
Do you ever find yourself engaging in a behavior even though you don’t want to? Some of you may have tried to stop an unwanted behavior but you keep finding yourself not succeeding or continually trying to break the habit. If you have, what have you tried to stop? And why is it not working?
The pandemic has brought us many changes, and I am sure most of us can agree that we have reduced time spent socializing with increased time spent alone and/or with family. Along with many other changes, many of us have struggled to find a balance in daily life which, for many, have led to unwanted behaviors such as increased screen time, excessive eating and drinking, or overworking. Michael J. Rounds (2021), an addiction recovery specialist, states in his article in Psychology Today that “during the COVID-19 crisis, American adults have sharply increased their consumption of alcohol, drinking on more days per month and to great excess,” which is one of many articles that shows an increase of unhealthy choices during the pandemic. If you found any of your unwanted behaviors difficult to stop, this article may provide you with a different perspective to approach it.
Tanya Curtis, a behavior specialist, and director at FABIC, introduces Body Life Skills which is designed to help people feel equipped to respond to what is in front of them in life. According to Curtis (2016), “…all unwanted or non-preferred behavior is preceded by anxiety…” and “…anxiety is understood to occur when a person is presented with any aspect of life they perceive they do not yet have the required skills to respond to” (7). With this understanding, we might want to better understand our anxiety and the initial root cause of the unwanted behavior, instead of simply trying to stop the behavior.
Here are some suggestions Curtis provides (11). First, identify your unwanted behavior and think of it as a form of communication. Second, simply ask yourself, “what part of life seems difficult to me now?” Some example skills we learn throughout our lives include dealing with hurtful comments, sadness, loneliness, rejection, judgment from others, loss, feelings of failure, resentment, jealousy, self-worth, and unmet expectations. Lastly, support yourself to learn the skill to respond to that part of life, which can be a lasting change rather than a temporary change that can repeat over time.
We may struggle again even after knowing what skills in life we need to learn. However, it’s essential that we become aware of them and keep trying to master each skill. Because if we don’t work on it now, there’s a high chance that it will come back at us at some point in our lives. At that time, we’ll probably need to deal with it again, so why not learn the skills now?
Want to know more about the services we offer at Adaptable Human Solutions, including therapies that enable behavior change? You can read more here.
Source: Curtis, T. (2016). Understanding the root cause of eating disorders and applying the principles of functional behaviour assessment in a clinical setting. Fabic Journals of Lasting Behaviour Change , 1–12.