Relapse Prevention Plan

Psychology + Behavior Modification = Unbeatable

This is what I often believe. With a back-up of your psychological info (and let’s not forget the common workings of the human mind), behavior modification would be a lot easier to get through than just ploughing along a commitment to merely change the way you are without knowing the cues that prompt that nasty behavior in the first place.

With these in mind, I’ve made up a plan from this neat psychology self-help chapter that I’ve found to combat my recent unproductive slump. The chapter is called Managing Difficult Behavior (judging from my previous post on New Year’s Resolutions Destroyed –’nuff said). It contains a thorough explaination behind relapses and how to prevent them. You could say below is just a summary of it.

1. Cue Exposure

a. Take risky situations and arrange them from low risk to high risk.


To combat chronic couch potato viewing, watch your least favorite shows for 15 minutes and switch off the T.V. Gradually progress from least favorite to most favorite shows and shave off 15 minutes until it becomes 2 minutes. A timespan of one month should do it for a start. When an important task comes up, you ought to wean yourself away from the T.V. or tape the show or buy a DVD copy of it and watch it next time. A high priority task should not be replaced or shoved aside just because you have to watch a show the minute it is aired.

b. Write self-instructions that will guide you through this.


These are the self-instructions I’ve written on a card to prevent surfing procrastination:

1.) Switch off the monitor button.

2.) Look at your to-do list schedule and ask yourself how it will be affected if you surf. Remember the contents of the website aren’t going to go away but the time for your tasks will.

3.) Visualize that you have already procrastinated and write your thoughts on how you would react on it.

Case scenario

inner voice filled with utter remorse: Why me? Why can’t I be more disciplined? Now I would have to cram tomorrow….If I hadn’t been carried away, this wouldn’t have happened.

Gives you such a guilt trip doesn’t it? 🙂 This would definetely give you a wake up call.

4.) Immediately disconnect from the internet and exit all the windows.

2. Write values or instructions exclusively for the risky situations that will govern your decisions.

Here’s mine whenever I tend to overdo anime marathons and I find myself seeing the pale rays of sunlight piercing the inky sky:

1.) Tell yourself, “The DVDs are not going to run away. I can always watch them next time.”

2.) Don’t think. Make one little step towards the right decision. (Note: I have this very high need for closure so once I begin a small step towards a task I must complete it. So for example, my one little step is push the stop button. Naturally, my finger automatically presses EJECT then to the next action which is taking out the DVD and so on until I complete the action. I think this is called autochaining? This could also be a good behavior strategy if you want to abstain from certain things that is, if you also have a high need of closure. )

3. Prepare in advance for a lapse. One way is through a Reminder Card.

Here’s my reminder card copied from the chapter of Managing Difficult Behavior:

“Slips do occur. They make us feel guilty, that’s normal. But don’t let these feelings of failure snowball right now into feelings of hopeless despair so that you continue to go back to sleep after you wake up. One slip doesn’t make a total failure. Stay calm. Learn from this experience. Learn your weaknesses and how to overcome them. Remember why you are abstaining. Recommit yourself. At this time, do this: get out of bed. Exercise or atone for a wrong or do something good. You’ll feel better.”

4. Substitute an acceptable but incomplete action in place of the bad habit. E.g. push the OFF button in the T.V. remote control as opposed to continuing in watching the show. Practice new response 5-10 mins. everyday for at least a week. Mentally rehearse how and when you can use the new response.

Do #4 when:

a. You catch yourself doing the old habit.

b. You feel the urge to do the old habit.

c. You enter a situation where the old habit frequently occurs.

d. You realize you are doing another habit that often precedes the bad habit.

5. Keep daily records of progress.

I’ve now started to keep a daily log. It’s better you analyze your behavior from yesterday at the beginning of the day so you would keep yourself checked. This also makes you more aware of what mistakes you would most likely make and prevent them.


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