If you’re wondering how to reduce stress, it’s good to review your current habits. There might be things you are, or aren’t, doing that are getting in the way of you reducing your stress.

How to reduce stress by quitting unhealthy habits

Over the years, I’ve quit a few habits that have helped reduce my stress levels. I’m mindful that we’re all different and that habits that caused me problems might not be the same for you.

These are the things that are personal to me. Don’t feel you need to address them if they’re not a problem for you; I’m just sharing what has worked for me.

1. Drinking alcohol

The last time I had an alcoholic drink was June 2019. Throughout my 20s I’d done the social scene whilst working in London and going out with people after work was “the thing” to do.

However, over the years I realised that alcohol wasn’t making me feel good, physically or mentally. As I got older I realised that, for me, it was a waste of money and not good for my long-term health.

Quitting alcohol can be tricky, though; it’s such a big part of the culture here in the UK that initially it felt uncomfortable to be the only person not drinking.

Over time I felt the benefits because I was no longer missing out on doing things the next day due to being too hungover. I found it easier to keep excessive weight off and my overall levels of anxiety reduced.

Certainly, I’m not suggesting you quit alcohol if it’s something you have in moderation and you enjoy it. However, if you’re reviewing your alcohol consumption it might be worth considering cutting back or quitting altogether.

2. Being around negative or fixed mindset people

I noticed how my energy was affected when I was around people who complained about their situation, without doing anything about it. I’m not saying I’ve never been that sort of person because I have! However, I realised that if I want things to change I have to do something about it.

When I started being proactive I found it harder to be around people who were stuck in that loop. No matter how much encouragement or guidance I gave them nothing changed, and yet they wouldn’t look at how they were keeping themselves stuck.

At the end of the day, we can’t control what people do, say, or think. They may not be ready to hear that they have to do something about their situation. If you find that certain people are draining your energy it might be time to review your relationship. Perhaps you need some time away, or maybe you decide it’s time to end the relationship.

3. Consuming media that doesn’t add anything to your life

Lately, I am much more conscious of who I watch and what I listen to on social media. When I consume too much social media, I notice that my mental health starts to get worse. I feel more anxious about things I can’t control.

Generally, it’s negative news stories that catch people’s attention and get the most clicks, which is why we rarely see good news stories online. I didn’t want to keep filling my mind with negative events I can’t control. What I can do is focus on my reality right here and do what I can to influence it.

If you tend to fall down the social media black hole and want to break free, try being more intentional about the time you spend on social media. Make a decision, in advance, of how much time you’ll spend on social media that day. Once that time is done, you can focus on other things you want to do.

4. Spending money not in your budget

In my 20s my spending habits were largely driven by wanting to fit in with others and making myself feel better when I felt down. It was rare that my wage lasted the whole month and I’d supplement my income with my credit card. Unsurprisingly, I got deeper into debt.

After many years, I plucked up the courage to write out my budget and realised how much money I was wasting on things I didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Getting clear about my situation motivated me to start taking control and stop spending money unnecessarily.

Writing out your income and outgoings can be scary but it will give you so much clarity about where you can reduce your spending. You may even find you have more spare cash to save or put into an emergency fund.

5. Talking negatively to yourself

For many years I struggled with the belief of not being ‘good enough’. This led to me not doing certain things in life because I’d tell myself I’d get it wrong, fail, or make a fool of myself.

I’m a mental health professional. I attended a training course a few years ago where the trainer explained that our minds can’t tell the difference between someone else talking negatively to us, and when we talk negatively to ourselves.

Therefore, when we talk negatively to ourselves it might as well be someone else doing it. Imagine how worn down you’d become if you had someone in your ear for hours each day, talking down to you!

So, start bringing your awareness to how you talk to yourself. Often we don’t realise how automatic our negative thinking can be. There are different ways of addressing it, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be a good therapeutic approach. If you’re unable to access therapy, there’s a website called GetSelfHelp which has loads of self-help resources you can use.

As for me, I’m not saying this belief of not being ‘good enough’ has gone away entirely. However, these days I can spot the negative thoughts when they pop up and I can manage them better, so that they don’t lead me into a spiral of more negative thinking.

6. Not expressing how you feel

There are a select few people I’ll talk to if I’m struggling with something; however, there needs to be a strong connection and level of trust.

One of the other ways I express myself is through journaling. I’ve journaled off and on for a few years, but in 2023 I made the decision to be consistent with my journaling and I’ve done it every day ever since. Something just clicked and now it’s a part of each day.

My journaling varies between reflecting on the events of the day and worries I have. I write what I want and I’ve found it helpful to get things down in black and white.

You don’t necessarily need to commit to a regular journaling practice. However, if you have worries running through your mind try writing them down. Seeing them in black and white can give you more clarity about the situation you’re concerned about.

I hope this list has been helpful and if you’re looking to build habits to reduce stress and be happier in life, this blog post might be just what you’re looking for!