Your boyfriend just called and he’s livid. “Where are you? I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes!” Oops, late again. Or your best friend refers to you as mouthus interruptus because she can’t finish a sentence during conversations. Whether checking your cell phone every two minutes or racking up tons of fees with kamikaze credit-card spending, crappy habits can wreak havoc on your life and the lives of others. But there is hope.
“Behaviors are often unconscious ways to avoid feeling painful feelings,” says NYC-based clinical social-worker Barbara Kass. “So, most frequently, helping people learn [by experience] that their feelings won't kill them, while maladaptive behaviors can have pretty negative consequences, is what's needed.” In other words, take a hard look at yourself in the mirror sans fear. It’s the first step in breaking these all-too-common bad habits.
Illustrated by Gabriela Alford
Tardy For Every Party
If people around you are always complaining about your lateness, listen up. The key to banishing the habit is understanding why you’re always late. “When people get into the habit of constantly being late for things they develop a pattern of doing so, and begin to believe that it's just who they are,” says NYC-based life coach Julie Holmes. “It becomes a part of their perceived persona and can lead to a feeling of entitlement to continue to do so.”
Whether it’s about looking perfect before you leave the house, avoiding a dreaded doctor’s appointment, or chronically adding one more task to your morning routine, simply stop making excuses. Holmes recommends making promptness a priority. Journal how you realistically spend time performing daily routines for a week and note patterns. Then estimate a bit of extra time into the equation. Focus more intently on what can be done in the present, and what can wait.
Hitting the refresh button on your mobile phone every few minutes? We get it. We’re obsessed, too. It’s a temporary fix that eases the anxiety of our perpetually busy lives. “We're expected to be reachable any moment of any day, whether by an employer or a friend, and a quick response time is rewarded and therefore reinforced,” says NYC-based life coach Sam Zuniss. She recommends changing your relationship with your phone so that it's less “I can’t quit you” and more “friends with benefits.”
But how? “Create boundaries. Give your phone its own ‘bed,’” Zuniss says. “Make it a fun, silly ritual to say goodnight to it, tuck it in, and then do the same for yourself. If your phone acts as your alarm clock, get an actual alarm clock.” Zuniss also emphasizes the importance of being in the moment. “Before reaching for your phone "just because” — stop,” she says. “Sit with the discomfort for a few seconds and ask yourself what feeling is driving the desire. Boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Acknowledge it and see if there's another way in that moment you can fill that need without covering it up with the ‘Band-Aid’ of the phone.”
Newsflash: interrupting someone mid-conversation essentially conveys that you don’t care about what the hell they’re saying. “People interrupt during conversations because they are thinking about what they are going to say next, more than they are listening,” says Holmes. “Oftentimes they think that their response has more value than what the other person is trying to say.” Luckily, breaking the blab habit is fairly simple. It’s all about being present, so just slow down. “Quiet your mind, learn to listen to what is really being said…and really try to understand what they are saying before you respond.”
Bad Bedtime Habits
Work sucked. Traffic moved at zero miles per hour on the drive home. It’s time for a hot date with a glass of wine, a bag of cookies, and an entire season of True Blood. But the next morning you wake up with purple teeth, crumbs in your bed, and mascara smeared on your pillow. So gross. “By the end of the day, we've made so many decisions — exercised our will to resist that second doughnut, taken care of a lot of other people's needs on the work and/or family front, and we don't have anything to give ourselves.
So, how do you stop putting basic care for yourself last on the list at night? Change up your typical routine. “Put the things that fall to the back of the list at the front. Get in pajamas and floss and brush your teeth hours before going to bed,” Zuniss says. Positive visualization of the following morning works wonders as well. “Imagine yourself waking up rested and in your actual bed, in actual sleep clothes, having taken care of yourself the night before,” Zuniss says. “Feel yourself stretching and smiling as you soak up the last few minutes of bedtime.”
ATM Fees & Credit Cards: Rack ‘Em Up
Ah, the high cost of going broke. According to a 2013 government audit, ATM fees have increased 20% over the last five years! And we could all use our credit cards less, right? Guilty as charged—especially in light of tough economic times. However, “compulsive spending is often related to addiction, impulse control and compulsivity,” says Kass. The first step of banishing these poor financial habits? Awareness. Acknowledge the habit, your “reward,” or why you crave it, and reroute patterns that exacerbate impulse spending and ATM use.
Instead of hitting up the corner bodega’s ATM three times per week, plan out expenses for a few days and visit your bank’s ATM just once. Changing up routines helps, too. When shuffling through almost-maxed credit cards to snatch up that DVF wrap dress “because it’s totally on sale and it might sell out,” just pause — and take a breath. Try to resist the urge to buy until the following day or week. Stalling a self-sabotaging behavior like spending can bring the clarity needed to banish the habit over time.