The Turnaround: How to Change self-destructive patterns into self-caring behaviours


We all have them. Those things we turn to in times of stress, strain or boredom. They come under many different names: habits, nervous tics, reactions, trigger responses. Whatever we want to call them, these are patterns we use to manage our emotions. To quell them, to not let them overwhelm us.Most of the time, they are also self-destructive. When I say 'self-destructive' I mean anything that is hurtful to us. Smoking, drinking, eating, self-harm, even shopping and nail-biting can fall into this category.Cue puzzled face.:?How are shopping and nailbiting self-destructive? Doesn't everyone do that?Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing... Spending money to alleviate certain feelings is not good for our emotional health. Or our bank balances. There are definitely worse things we can do than nailbiting, but we're still damaging ourselves.Don't get me wrong, these habits aren't all bad. In fact they're the hardest to give up because there are advantages to having them around. The reason we've turned these particular activities into habits to begin with is because they're very good at managing difficult emotions.However, they're still hurtful.What would happen if we tried to take care of ourselves for a change?I've smoked on and off for 3 1/2 years. I quit (again) last weekend and so far, so good. One of the reasons it was so hard to quit before was that taking time to have a cigarette was a chance for me to give permission to myself to take a break and sit with my thoughts. It was something I used when I felt nervous or bored. It was a reward, a motivator and something I looked forward to.It was also something that could seriously damage my health.Now, I've replaced cigarettes with herbal tea. Every time I feel like I need something to look forward to, I flick on the kettle. Sure, there isn't the same nicotine hit but I don't really miss that anyway (it made me feel a bit dizzy). I feel much better about my health overall and have started listening to what my body needs instead of telling it what I think it should need.That's what the turnaround is about. Doing a 180 on self-destructive behaviours and thinking 'how can I take care of myself right now? What can I do that will be a positive, nurturing experience?'Examples of the TurnaroundSwitch a cigarette for a cup of tea.Switch biting nails for some cuticle cream and a hand massage.Switch drinking for some yoga or meditation.Switch buying stuff for making something.Of course, the point of this isn't to distract ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, it's about recognising we need some tlc and responding to that in a way that isn't going to hurt us.The urge to smoke is still there at times, and I think there is definitely part of me that doesn't care if I'm hurting myself. This is going to take time, the positive message is one that needs to be reinforced.I'm moving forward with that, one cup of tea at a time.How can you use this turnaround? I look forward to hearing your comments!