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6. Habits Have a Direct Effect

Harmful habits have a direct, negative effect on the body. Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and taking certain drugs can introduce toxic or damaging substances into the body that can compromise the body’s ability to function properly, lead to addiction, and encourage disease processes. Habits can also directly impact our emotional or mental functioning. Becoming intoxicated, overly distracted, or otherwise impaired can make you more prone to accidents, rages, and mistakes, which can, in turn, cause stress.

7. Habits Have an Indirect Effect

Habits also have an indirect effect on your stress level. Knowing you drank too much, stayed up too late, and ate too much the night before can add to your frustration, and low self-esteem in your work life the next morning. Your stress will be higher than it would have been had you not spent the night before being controlled by a habit. Habits can make us feel helpless when they control us, causing stress because we worry about our lack of self-control, the effect our habit may have on others, and the deleterious health effects of whatever the habit may be.

8. Habits Have a Combination Effect

Some habits can have both direct and indirect negative effects. Probably most bad habits fall into this category. Compulsive overeating, for example, is dangerous to the body because the body isn’t designed to take in huge amounts of food at one time. It can also create negative emotional states such as frustration, depression, and anxiety. Even less dramatic bad habits like habitual messiness can have a combination effect. If you can never keep things clean, for example, you might suffer frustration over never being able to find things.

9. Steer Clear of a Drug Dilemma

Drugs can be important tools for maintaining or regaining good health. When used for purposes other than for correcting a health problem, however, drugs can cause imbalances in the body that contribute to health problems.

Some substances used occasionally in moderation (such as alcohol or caffeine) probably aren’t harmful for most people, but other drugs—especially “hard” drugs such as cocaine and heroin—can be very harmful to the body. A glass of wine with dinner is probably fine for someone who isn’t addicted to alcohol, isn’t prone to alcohol addiction, and really enjoys it. Illegal drugs pose multiple risks, not the least of which is the potential for getting in trouble with the law.

Any substance that artificially alters your mental state taken too often or in large amounts will, at best, keep you from dealing with your stress and, at worst, add significantly to your stress. Legal though it is, few would dispute the dangers of overconsumption of alcohol.

10. Don’t Overeat

Eating too much weighs down your body and makes you feel sluggish. Overeating at night keeps your digestive system working overtime and can disturb your quality of sleep. Eating too many simple sugars can raise your insulin level and promote bingeing, which perpetuates the cycle of overeating. Eating too much can also, of course, cause you to become overweight.

Eating disorders are the culprit in many cases. Well-known disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, as well as lesser-known but quite common disorders such as binge eating disorder, often have complex psychological causes as well as physical causes. Please seek help from your doctor, counselor, or other health care professional if you think you or someone you love has an eating disorder.

11. Watch Out for Workaholism

Working hard may seem to you more like a necessity than a habit, and for some people, that’s certainly the case. For others, however, overworking really is a habit. Maybe you work to forget that you don’t have a social life. Maybe you work because you are obsessed with getting that promotion. Whatever the case, if you are in the habit of overworking and your work is impinging on your life—that is, you feel you have no personal time, no time to just relax without thinking about work, no privacy because people from work call you at home at all hours—then overworking has become a habit; one, however, that you can gradually reshape.

12. Moderate Your Media Intake

Like anything else, technology and media are fine—in moderation. But also, like anything else, too much of a good thing soon becomes a bad thing. If your media habit is taking up more than its fair share of your time and you are sacrificing other, equally important or more important parts of your life because of your media fixation, then it’s a bad habit.

Consider the daily news. People depend on the news to be informed about world events, to hear the next day’s weather, and to keep up on local happenings. But obsessive news watching can result in preoccupation with events far removed from your own life, anxiety about the state of the world, even depression as a result of focusing too much on all the bad things that happen. Seek balance in your media habits.

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