How To Stop Self-Destructive Behavior
Updated on July 13, 2021 by Amber & The Team
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When things get hard, it’s easy to get depressed and fall into self-destructive behaviors. Most people who have a problem with this think that self-destructive behavior helps them to cope with whatever situation they have. The truth is, it’s rarely the truth. Self-destructive behavior is actually just a way to distract yourself from your current situation, and unpleasant feelings associated with it. Even more – self-destructive behavior can make your situation worse.
Self-Destructive Behavior: “In order to understand, I destroyed myself.”
What Is Self-Destructive Behavior?
Self-destructive behavior is an action or set of actions that people do and that will most likely lead to some kind of harm to their body. It’s an unhealthy coping mechanism that usually comes up in a time when someone feels their life is out of balance, they’re experiencing a lot of stress, or go through a significant change in their life situation.
Why We Choose Self-Destructive Behavior?
Self-destructive behavior is often hiding behind excuses like:
- “you never know what will hit you.”
- “life is too short anyway.”
- “it makes me feel better.”
- … and so on.
However, what this hiding behind excuses says about your personality and your emotional state is that you may be someone who cannot admit your own emotions. Instead, you might pretend that your emotions are someone else’s problem – not yours, or that they are not important and therefore shouldn’t be acknowledged. Instead, they’re being hidden away with help of self-destructive behavior.
Now, it’s a fact that feeling weak is the opposite of everything that makes you strong. Every strong person has admitted their emotions to themselves at some point, even if those emotions are very unpleasant. If you want to stop your self-destructive behavior, you have to learn to notice when you tend to shut your emotions off.
It isn’t always easy to admit your feelings to yourself, but it is important to do so. It is also important to be able to identify your behavior as being self-destructive. What I mean is that by admitting your negative feelings to yourself, you are reversing the inner workings of your mind so that their destructive effects are reduced. When your mind is not trying to destroy your body, you can then direct your energy to build a strong body (and mind) that can protect you from the hurts that you feel when your emotions get out of control.
“It Just Runs In My Family”
If you think that self-destructive behaviors might be a result of something as simple as your genes, you might be right. People can have a tendency to self-destructive behavior thanks to their family line. However, no one has a choice but to carry their strengths and weaknesses through their lives. It is our job to fully understand what we have to do with our lives to ensure that we have the strength to face whatever life throws at us. Learning how to be mentally stronger can ensure that you stand strong in any circumstances you encounter.
Common Types Of Self-Destructive Behavior
There are so many ways people engage in self-destructive behavior. They may feel like helping – numbing the pain – but in reality, they are exactly what their name says – they’re destructive.
- Smoking doesn’t even need an explanation why it’s destructive.
- Exessive exercise increases endurance but with adverse health risks.
- Alcohol damages our bodies in so many ways, it’s worth another article.
- Overeating gives a boost in your mood, but just while you’re eating.
- Gambling gives you the adrenaline you crave when you’re bored, but you can gamble yourself to bankruptcy.
- Gaming excessively helps you to escape your emotions for a while but eats up your time.
- Shopping satisfies your craving for endorphins, but only for a while.
- Cutting masks the emotional pain with physical pain, but never gets rid of the problem
- Engaging in dangerous sexual activities gives a temporary thrill and a ton of regret after.
Some of these behaviors are chronic – you’re not young anymore, you have access to many things, you’ve seen what your parents have done, and you may simply not know about other ways to deal with your stress and hard, suppressed emotions.
“Prepping” Yourself To Overcome Self-Destructive Behavior
There are certain things that have to be dealt with before we can say we are healthy and free from self-destructive behavior. These three factors are not the ones commonly referenced by health experts, but they are vital to your health overall.
The Three Main Principles of Emotional Freedom
1. The first factor is the right daily mindset.
Every situation or activity that you do will push you one way or another, whether it’s helping your kids with their homework, going to the grocery store, or communicating with a friend. The perception or experience of the situation is huge in determining how you will respond to it. If you can keep your ears to the ground of what really is happening, you will end up in a better position to deal with whatever comes your way. But if you jump to conclusions, you are prone to cause more damage than good.
To live a healthier life that’s free from self-destructive behavior, it’s necessary to be aware of both good and bad things that are happening to us and to be able to refer to them easily. If we take this approach into consideration, it’s not difficult to do so. Well, I know it is difficult at first, but it’s a whole lot easier to adapt to change than to change to adapt.
2. The second factor is the right coping mechanism.
When you get frustrated with life, you may be experiencing one or a combination of the following:
- helping others feels way too hard;
- coping with unfamiliarity is even more difficult;
- dealing with rejection is exhausting;
- stress is particularly exhausting;
- other people are behaving unreasonably;
- … and so on.
But life is unpredictable and it’s normal to feel like that sometimes. To prevent self-destructive behavior when we encounter these situations, we need some sort of support system. For example, if we learn to relate to others, we will feel more at ease when they do something wrong. If we learn to accept rejection, we can make it less painful.
But how do you deal with it all? How do you process all those hard feelings without turning to self-destructive behavior? This is where meditation steps in. Many lives have been changed by a simple set of steps. Meditation is a great way to set your focus and make you feel more at ease. Set aside twenty minutes a day to meditate, and let it take its own time. Many people, especially those who have used meditation for a while, swear by it (including me).
3. The third and final factor is motivation.
This is probably the most important of all the factors. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, free from self-destructive behavior, you will need to become self-motivated. If you are the type of person who says, “crap, I’m tired”, or ” I’m depressed” or ” I don’t have time”, you won’t achieve your goals of physical and emotional health. You need to have motivation, and it needs to be something powerful enough, yet easy on you too.
“How do I get there?”
Start small. So small, that it won’t feel too exhausting to your already exhausted mind. What I like to do when my motivation is low, is to simply read motivating words. It’s simple, it’s easy, I can do this much without a lot of effort. And usually, it helps. It gives that tiny bump in your motivation to help you get up and do another tiny task. Then another. And another. Until you notice yourself doing a lot better just a few hours later.
Here are a few motivating affirmations that can lift your motivation by making you feel more at ease:
- I am free.
- I choose to be free.
- I allow myself to be free.
- I can create and recreate myself.
- I view myself and my possibilities as limitless.
- I am free to choose to accept or to decline.
- I am free to approach my goals, dreams, and aspirations in as many directions as I wish.
- My free time is now consumed with exploring new possibilities, and with taking the opportunities offered to me.
- My free time is now filled with exploration and curiosity, with saying, “what if?”.
- My free time is now filled with questioning “what’s next?”.
- My free time is now filled with planting seeds of change that I now have the ability to see.
Now that you have some sort of start, let’s see how you can use mindfulness to make self-destructive behavior less common in your life.
How to Be Present To Reduce Self-Destructive Behavior
The past few weeks have been quite challenging for me as they have been a reminder of past hurts. You probably know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you remember something clearly unpleasant. It makes you want to run away, to hide, to make it stop. However, there were so many times in the past when I have proven to myself that I should never turn a blind eye to the presence of unpleasantness. Because as you already know, suppressed emotions are a straight way to self-destructive behavior.
Despite the challenges you get to face, you have to remind yourself that these thoughts/feelings are simply a call to attend to the present moment. To get back to where you are. To stop lingering in the past, or projecting yourself into the future, that does not exist yet (P. S. I wrote a very important article about this kind of anxiety here). To take care of yourself, while processing those negative feelings in the background. Sounds tricky, but here’s how you do it.
1. Properly name your reactions.
Sometimes, it is not the emotion itself that is important, but how you are reacting to it is. It’s important to properly name your reactions to avoid self-destructive behavior that may come out of your suppressed feelings. Here are a few examples.
- You might be feeling depressed because you didn’t get a raise when you worked so hard. But is it the missing raise you’re sad about – or the fact that your effort hasn’t been appreciated?
- You might be mad because you can’t get a job when you have always had one, but is it the lack of jobs that angers you, or the feeling of not being good enough?
- You might shame yourself for gaining weight because you are overeating every night – but is it the fact that you gain weight, or that you can’t find a balance in your life to start eating normally?
Naming your thoughts, feelings, and reactions properly gives a great foundation to overcoming them and preventing self-destructive behavior.
2. It is very important to be aware of how you are treating yourself.
Are you dressing in clean clothes, eating healthy food, feeling positive about yourself? Are you showing love to every piece of your mind and your body? This is your health, this is what balance and wellness look like. Lack of self-care is the perfect breeding ground for self-destructive behavior, which then leads to even worse health. Here’s why.
Imagine your mind is a garden. If you notice bugs (negative thoughts) in your garden, you need to find a way for your garden to thrive despite this little infestation. You can plant helpful fragrant flowers to keep those pesky bugs away (self-care). You can add ladybugs to your garden so they can minimize the number of bugs (pleasant activities that lower stress). Or, you can buy an insecticide (self-destructive behavior) and get rid of those bugs instantly, only to watch them come back later, and you will have to do it again. Now, if you keep putting chemicals on your garden to keep the bugs away… How do you think you will feel? You can’t even imagine how your garden will be affected!
3. Exercise is a wonderful way to keep weight down and improve your overall health.
I find a lot of passion and energy when I exercise. Not only does it energize my body it also gives me “happy hormones” such as endorphins. Exercise improves the cardiovascular and pulmonary system as well. It also improves brain function and gets your blood flowing. A side benefit you will gain from exercise is feeling lighter. Not just physically lighter, but also mentally lighter. If you can’t cope with your emotions right now (and end up in self-destructive behavior), start with simple exercises and it will get easier. P.S. Walking is great for that.
4. Do what you can!
This one applies to all of us at some stage. It is simply a matter of determining what is important in our life and then making decisions accordingly. To lower stress, feel less overwhelmed and avoid self-destructive behavior, you must determine what you can and cannot do in your life. If the only priority you can think of is taking better care of your children, do that. If you feel that it’s too much for you to host children’s parties once a month, don’t do that. If you really want to take better care of yourself and erase the self-destructive behavior out of your life, you have to learn to say “yes” only to the things that matter.
5. You CAN love yourself.
We all lead hectic, busy lives. It’s necessary to make room for life’s priorities, but one thing we must never forget is ourselves. We are individuals and have our own special needs. To make sure you are taking care of yourself as much as possible, you must take time to love yourself. You must make it a priority in your life – and I know it’s hard to love yourself when you’re not doing what you think you should be doing (like “living a balanced life”). It’s okay if you don’t yet.
You must accept that all emotions, including pain, anger, sadness, and guilt are perfectly normal, and it’s okay to feel them. The fact that you feel guilty does not mean you should love yourself less. The fact that you’re tired doesn’t mean that either.
When you feel good within yourself, you tend to be a better caretaker of your family, your friends, and yourself. You will find that by simply slowing down you can take great care of yourself and see less and less self-destructive behavior in your life. You will feel better and the knowledge that you are doing this for yourself will make a huge difference.
You can read more about self-love here: How To Love Yourself, Unconditionally
Self-Destructive Behavior Is Not Your Friend
It is not helping, and deep inside… You know it.
Our health is the body’s expression. Every breath we take is either a gift, or a chance for us to grow, or to die. Every movement of our thoughts and feelings not only brings about our physical state, but also our emotional, social, and professional environment. What we do with our body, voice, thoughts, and feelings not only affects us as individuals in our lives, but also our family, our community, and our country.
Choosing your mind over your self-destructive behavior is not always an easy choice. But, with the right combination of relaxation, self-love, healthy boundaries, and affirmations, you can succeed in making this process fluid and effortless. And if you try it, and it still doesn’t work, remember that it’s perfectly fine to ask for help. People do it all the time because help is what it is – it helps you to get you out of the tricky situation.
Keep your garden flourishing.
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