What is the Link between Stress and Habits?
I explained, in my last video, how job strain, namely the pressure of reaching high expectations and the inability to control the outcomes, lead to increase the stress level and diminish the well-being of employees.
Evolution did not prepare us to face the workplace stress and its mental toll. We naturally don’t know how to address this disorder, so our brains try to help us with our habits.
First, we need to understand the 3 components of a habit, which are:
– The trigger: the element or cue that will indicate to our brain to start something. Feeling hungry? Might be time for a snack
– The behavior: I did feel hungry, so now, I am eating. The behavior is the action that follows the trigger
– The reward: I am not hungry anymore. I enjoyed my chocolate bar, I feel good, this is a positive feeling, this is my reward.
Because the behavior has been rewarded, we are unconsciously encouraged to repeat it, as soon as we are triggered. Now, we are under stress, due to external events. This is a trigger. But we don’t know which behavior to associate with it. So our brain will try to help, by substituting a behavior that he knows lead to a positive feeling, lead to a good reward.
So, you feel stressed, even if you are not hungry, you will start eating the chocolate bar. It makes you feel good, it is a “comfort food”.
Before any change can be made, it is important to understand how our brain works and how it leverages our habits to protect us. Then we can start noticing our patterns and work on them, by preventing and dissipating triggers for instance.
More about Habits Management
If you want to know more about habits, you can read my article “Old Habits Die Hard, Learn to Kill the Bad Ones“
I do recommend an excellent book: Atomic Habits by James Clear.
James is an expert on habit and he wrote extensively on this topic on his blog. His book condensed his learnings and structured them in an easy, yet fascinating way to present a subject that can be complex.
The book is full of tips and techniques cataloged and explained by James, on how to get rid of bad habits, while also creating new beneficial ones. Indeed you will find more information on how stress and habits link together.
One thing to get away with is that consistency is key over motivation to build long-lasting habits. Repeating everyday will form habits and to be consistent (without or with little motivation), we need to break in little pieces the behavior, to make it as small and as easy to do as possible. Then, slowly increase it (time, effort, repetition, etc.)
If you want to know more about this book: “Atomic Habits – An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear, use this link: https://amzn.to/3eucURL