Habits will change your life- the only question is, for better or worse?
Over the last few months, I have changed a lot of my habits, and I am happier and healthier and more productive because of it.
I want you to know how you can change and grow, even while feeling overwhelmed.
How I Changed my Unhealthy Habits as an Overwhelmed Mom (and You Can Too)
After the birth of our 3rd child, I felt really overwhelmed by life- not for any particular reason.
Maybe it was just my hormones, or that I was exhausted from having three kids, but I just didn’t have the motivation to do much of anything.
I just wanted to play quietly with my kids, snuggle my sweet baby, and watch TV or look at my phone all day.
I also picked up a bunch of bad eating habits, stopped exercising, and gained weight.
This lifestyle was literally beginning to weigh on me (and I was already overweight to begin with).
I wanted to feel better, so over the course of a few months I made a lot of changes.
I eliminated triggers
I’ve noticed that sometimes I get on my phone to send an e-mail or send a text, and instead I unlock the home screen, mindlessly click on Facebook, and start scrolling through posts on autopilot. Eventually, I stop and think “Wasn’t there something I was going to do?”
After catching myself doing this a few times I just moved my Facebook app icon to a different location on my screen. I then found myself clicking mindlessly on an empty background like an idiot- but it was a good wake up call to be more intentional with my phone usage.
Whatever your triggers are- try to get rid of them or make them less accessible. If you are wasting time on Pinterest, disable the notifications on your phone. If you are spending too much money on Amazon, unsubscribe from their email list and delete the app from your phone. If you are watching too much TV- take the batteries out of the remote. Don’t be a self-enabler. Be mindful of the choices your brain is making without you.
I eliminated the need for willpower
Sweets are my weakness. They are my go-to when I am feeling stressed.
Sweets are the main reason I have been obese or overweight my entire life, and they are the reason I didn’t want to join my husband on a diet to get a handle on my weight (a diet he had been trying to do for years on and off and that my bad habits had been sabotaging).
I was eating so many sweets a day to try and curb any stress in my life, big or small.
It scared me to even think about giving up sugar- like I didn’t know how to deal with life without it.
So how bad was my sugar habit? Let’s just say, in three months it was enough to give me a cavity, gain 10 pounds, and start getting heartburn from chocolate (when I had never experienced heartburn before- not even during pregnancy).
When I would go shopping at the store, I would convince myself to buy candy and baked goods to keep in the house for “emergencies.”
Then at home, when I tried to will myself not to eat candies or bake cookies, or just to eat one small piece, it took a lot of mental energy.
I just didn’t have the willpower or even the real desire to give them up yet.
After several months of this habit, followed by days of wishing I could stop and feeling gross, I talked to my husband about it and we made a plan. I convinced myself that I had to stop this habit.
The next day, I gathered up all of the sweets and threw them in the garbage, and I donated unopened baking supplies.
Without the sweets in the house, I didn’t have to practice willpower.
My cravings were still really bad, so I thought I might wean myself off. I bought a small bag of the darkest Ghirardelli chocolates I could find. If my cravings got really bad, I would eat a square of the dark chocolate.
This really helped me because chocolate makes me happy. After a couple days of this, I realized that eating sugar had just made me want to eat more sugar- but because the chocolate I was eating then was so dark it was more satisfying and kicked the cravings I had better. After that bag of chocolates was gone, I didn’t buy any more.
Since the end of January, I have been sugar free (except having cake at my daughter’s party).
I have also joined my husband on his diet and I am losing about 3 pounds a week.
It is so empowering to be able to feel in control, and I am so much happier.
When I get stressed out now, I still crave sweets. Instead of eating them (because they aren’t in the house) I do self-talk that is calming, positive, and proactive.
If there is something you are trying to quit- like smoking or desserts or snack foods- just don’t buy them. Get them out of your house and out of your life. Then you won’t have to summon dwindling amounts of willpower. It just won’t be an option.
I changed my environment
When my husband and I had our sordid list of bad habits we wanted to eliminate (junk food eating, letting dishes rot in the sink, too much TV) we were coincidentally moving to a new place at the same time.
We took advantage of the fact that we wouldn’t have any negative environmental triggers associated with our new place. We would be starting with a clean slate.
When we moved in, we put the TV out of the living space and into the bedroom (which doubles as my computer monitor). We eliminated junk food from our house– didn’t bring it with us and we are keeping it out. I also set up a new way of motivating myself to clean the dishes every day.
Our new place is associated with these new good habits now, which reinforces our ability to continue with these new goals until they are done on autopilot.
You can change your environment in small ways for a big impact– even if you aren’t doing something as big as moving. You could rearrange your furniture or paint a room as a reminder of your clean slate.
The coffee table that keeps getting cluttered? Why not sell it on Craigslist?
If you keep hitting the snooze button every morning, you could move your alarm to the other side of the room so you have to stand up to turn it off.
If you mindlessly snack in the kitchen, you could move the food items to a different cupboard so you don’t do it without thinking.
I started to think positively
I have been overweight my entire life and I kind of believed that I always would be. But after losing what I thought was a piddly 10 pounds compared to the 70+ I have to lose, I happened to look down at my lap and notice my legs were smaller.
It was such an empowering feeling that came over me. I thought “I can be thinner- It is possible.”
Believe that you can change and that you can be the person you want to be.
You could cut or color your hair as a reminder.
You could do something that you would be scared to do, but the new you might love- like buying an online course to learn a new language, or getting rid of half your clothes and embracing minimalism, or breaking up with cable.
If you are anything like me, the overwhelm in your life may be due to having some bad habits that need to be changed.
Start by eliminating your triggers, and the need for willpower.
Make changes in your environment to remind you of the changes you want to make in yourself, and think more positively.
Believe in yourself and trust that you can change.
If I, a reformed lazy, stressed-out, sugar-addicted, procrastinating mom of three little kids can do it, you can.
This Post is Part of the Habits that Last Series:
Create a new life for yourself with less stress.
- Habits that Last: Less Mom Stress is Possible (Series Beginning)
- 7 Tips on How to Make New Habits Last (and Change Your Life)
- 4 Steps to Breaking a Bad Habit For Good
- How a Habit Tracker Can Keep You Motivated to Reach Your Goals (Free Printable)
- 5 Stress-Causing Habits No Mom Has Time For (and How to Stop Doing Them)
- Keystone Habits: Transforming Your Life by Changing the Way you Define Yourself
- 7 Simple Habits for a Tidy, Less Stressful Home
- How to Find Time for New, Good Habits (and Finally Reach your Goals)
- How I Changed My Unhealthy Habits as an Overwhelmed Mom (and You Can Too)
- How Busy Moms Create Balance with Weekly and Daily Routines
- A Morning and Evening Routine that Will Change Your Life
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