Human Development and Family Sciences

Tia Barnes

Recent data suggests that Americans are doubling down on their worst habits (e.g., unnecessary spending, excessive drinking, and eating, binge-watching, etc.) to cope with the stress of the current crisis. What are some strategies that might help people steer clear of temptations during the pandemic and maintain their health?

A core reason why we engage in bad habits is to avoid feeling emotions such as fear, worry, and sadness. This pandemic has certainly increased the frequency and duration of these feelings. For those that are still fighting the urge to double down on bad habits, the key is to allow ourselves to feel the negative emotion and to process it positively. Examples could be journaling, exercising, or talking through the emotion with others.

For those who have already slipped into bad habits and want to start to change these habits, they must learn to engage with emotions in healthy ways and can do this by increasing their emotional intelligence and by keying into social and emotional learning skills.

Another strategy is to engage in self-care for stress management. We often think that self-care includes actions or items that are self-indulgent, but it really is more about parenting ourselves and ensuring that we are meeting our needs much as we would do for children in our care. This includes eating well, getting enough sleep, talking through our emotions with a trusted family member, friend, or therapist. It includes engaging in mindfulness and listening to our bodies to determine what our body needs and also noting how the consequences of our bad habits affect our well-being. We can then use this information to make a small incremental change over time.

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