158: Stop Self Sabotage with These Powerful Questions + Healthy Behavior Strategies

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Are you tired of engaging in self sabotage behavior? Then you’ll love the powerful questions and healthy behavior strategies for managing self-sabotage shared in today’s podcast episode. 

These self-sabotage strategies (based on brain science and biblical truth) address the root of self-sabotage from a compassionate perspective that honors the biological and physical drivers of self sabotage. I personally use the questions when I’m tempted to self-sabotage (and share them with my mindset coaching clients in the Christian Mindset Makeover)!

Are you tired of engaging in self sabotage behavior? I’m sharing powerful questions and healthy behavior strategies for managing self-sabotage.


  • [2:19] The steps we can use to manage self sabotage
  • [3:22] Choosing a healthy behavior strategy to manage self sabotage
  • [11:03] An example of using powerful questions to develop healthy behavior strategies
  • [14:23] Healthy behavior strategies for the physical self
  • [18:01] Healthy behavior strategies for the emotional self
  • [20:37] Healthy behavior strategies for the intellectual self
  • [21:23] Healthy behavior strategies for the spiritual self
  • [23:25] Deciding which behavior strategies you can use to stop self sabotage
  • [24:44] Shifting behavior strategies in the moment versus getting to the root of self sabotage behavior

[2:19] The steps we can use to manage self-sabotage

Let’s start by walking through the steps that we can use to manage self-sabotage. If you want to hear more about the four specific steps, I encourage you to listen to episode 156. Here is a quick summary:

Step 1: Notice the thoughts behind the self-sabotaging behaviors. What are we feeling? What is going on at that moment? What is the thought driving the behavior?

Step 2: Acknowledge why the self-sabotaging behavior makes sense. Why does it make sense that we are feeling this way? Why is it a plausible and understandable reaction?

Step 3: Discern what is true and what is not true about the thoughts causing the self-sabotage. We’re going to put that on hold here, because it’s not quite as critical when we are dealing with what we’re talking about today. Although it is important in finding healing and helping us to take a specific action, we aren’t going to focus as much on step 3 today as we are on step 4.

Step 4: Decide on a healthy coping strategy instead of self-sabotage for the pain. This is what we are really going to expand upon today.

[3:22] Choosing a healthy behavior strategy to manage self-sabotage

So let’s dial into that part of managing self-sabotage first, so we can decide on some healthy coping strategies. As we previously discussed, when we are in the middle of self-sabotage our prefrontal cortex or our logical mind is not in control. Usually our subconscious or primal mind is calling the shots. So, we have to come up with these healthy behavior strategies and increase our awareness outside of the moment when we are in self-sabotage. We have to do the prep work to figure out what we need, because this kind of logical thought may not be accessible to us at the moment.

We also talked about this truth inside the Christian Mindset Makeover with Angela in Episode 157. We need to begin to let ourselves make changes and understand that, in the beginning, it will be challenging to build a new habit. We will have to put in effort to work against old habits, and at times we may wonder if it is making a difference. Once we get moving, however, we have the power of momentum and habit formation working for us. 

Going back to step 4, we can then decide on healthy coping strategies instead of using self-sabotaging behavior to deal with our pain. We need to identify what we need and figure out what we are trying to remedy inside of us. We may need comfort, or to feel validated, or to belong. Then the second question underneath step 4 is asking ourselves what would help. What specific actions do we need to take to bring relief? What will satisfy our needs? We will break that down into the four parts of the self.

Keeping those two things in mind, I want us to imagine a grid that combines the list of comforting and calming strategies matched up with the parts of the self that could be used to remedy those actions. For example, we might need to be comforted, heard, validated, known, loved, worthy, or enough. We might need an escape or to get a break. Each of these needs has different thought patterns that could be associated with them, so it takes some introspection. It takes some time to go beyond just, “I’m frustrated” or, “I’m mad,” or whatever you are feeling. We might feel lonely because we don’t feel like anybody understands us, or we might need God’s comfort that everything is going to be okay. These are valid needs and it is helpful if we can spell them out.

Sometimes there can be a combination of things happening. We might need comfort and love at the same time, or we might be trying to remind ourselves that we are worthy by trying to achieve it the same way we did in the past. I would encourage us to focus on one or two at a time, because it will simplify this process and start building momentum. Take the time to pray, listen to the Spirit, and breathe. The Lord can speak to us and guide us, and the Holy Spirit can quell our fears and anxiety. 

Once we identify what we need, we can consider the specific actions that we need to take to bring relief. Thinking again of the grid, we have all of the needs and then we also have ways those needs could be met through the four parts of self: the physical self, the emotional self, the intellectual self, and the spiritual self. These are parts of the self that we know from a scientific and a psychological perspective, but we also can see they are identified in the Bible.

We can create our own list of healthy behavior strategies to use instead of self-sabotage strategies. Having this list handy, whether we write it in a document or keep it in our minds, is an awesome life hack. We will feel more equipped, free, and at peace with these healthy strategies in our toolbelt. It might take some experimentation with different strategies, but having this list is powerful.

This is the strategy that I use, and it is what I tell my clients to use. I hear the victories and the testimonials, and it really is such a powerful coping tool. It can be tailored to our unique needs, and to each different situation. As we go through these strategies, we may find that they bring relief on multiple levels. We may be doing something for our physical self that also may be helpful for the intellectual self. It is customized to us and our unique personality God has given us.

[11:03] An example of using powerful questions to develop healthy behavior strategies

Let’s work through an example of this strategy. We are going to go all the way back to the thought and the feeling, and I’m going to break that down into: 

  • What is the need that I’m trying to satisfy? 
  • How am I attempting to do it in a different way? 
  • What are some new strategies that I can use to implement?

We don’t have to drive ourselves crazy with different options. Just pick one thing, start from there, and we will see the shift. 

For example, let’s say I am overwhelmed, frustrated, and annoyed by something in life. Maybe it’s a parenting issue. When I think about that, my core need is to know that my children are going to be okay. What I’m feeling makes sense, because I am concerned. I would say the core need is for me to be comforted, heard, and validated. My temptation for self-sabotaging behavior would be to binge eat. I would go and eat sugar or carbs, with ice cream being my food of choice. Alternatively, I might try to escape my discomfort or not think about it. I may try to run from the feelings. Sometimes I think I can work harder to try to control things. I think about going and giving my children solutions, telling them what to do, and trying to fix everything. These are the kinds of behaviors that sometimes result from frustration and overwhelm related to parenting. Below I will be sharing the healthy behavior strategies I have developed based on the four parts of the self.

[14:23] Healthy behavior strategies for the physical self

For my physical self in the area of comfort, a huge thing for me is having texture. I just feel comforted when I have a blanket on me. In fact, usually when I am recording or doing coaching sessions, I have a blanket on me. So I might think about how I can put a blanket on, or maybe some fuzzy slippers. The pressure and weight of a blanket can be calming. 

Another idea for the physical self might be to take a nap. If I am really drained physically, a 20 minute nap could be helpful. Or if I have the time, I might take a nap for an hour and a half. I have used this strategy since I was in college, and there is brain science behind it as well. When we sleep beyond that 20-25 minute range, we fall into our first REM cycle. If we wake from a REM cycle, then we become more tired than if we had not napped at all. An hour and a half is typically the amount of time for us to have completed one full REM cycle. Using these two nap lengths, therefore, gives us a better chance of feeling rested when we wake up.

Exercise is another healthy behavior strategy. Sometimes I feel stressed and I need to move that energy out of me. I might go for a long walk, do some yoga, or some intense core strengthening exercises. Sometimes I turn the music up and dance, just to get the energy out.

Sometimes, I experiment with essential oils. The smell and the chemical properties of different essential oils have been shown to bring calm and peace.

A good meal can be helpful as well. Don’t we all change when we have that satisfaction of healthy food in our bodies? I also make sure I drink enough water. I usually have a huge water bottle next to me on my desk at all times. Some days when I feel like I’m dragging or things are really bothering me, I get my water and make sure to prepare a healthy meal.

Another thing I do for my physical self is a change of environment. I need to literally change the stimuli and the pattern going on in my head. Instead of just sitting and spinning in it, being outside is huge for me. I love walking in nature, hearing the sounds of the country. Sunshine is awesome for our mental health, as is time with animals. I have three cats and two dogs in my house and I really believe God has given us animals as a way to bring comfort. Spending time with them brings calm.

I’m throwing tons of ideas out here, so you can take what you want and what you think will be helpful for you. Of course, you can also add your own ideas. This is my catch-all list of things I would start to think about for the physical self.

[18:01] Healthy behavior strategies for the emotional self

For the emotional self, I love to journal. One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new town is go to a bookstore or a stationery shop and find a really amazing journal. I ask God to speak to me, and I feel like the cover for the journal I pick represents where He is leading me in the next season. I love journals, and journalizing is such a great way to release emotions.

Praying to God is also powerful when it comes to letting go and letting Him hear what is in your heart. Reading scripture is helpful and validating. It helps me to feel that God is in charge and that He will get me through these emotions.

It’s so powerful to talk to my husband or a close friend. We need to be careful about this, because we always want to go to God first and we want to be careful not to share all of our emotions with every person, but I do believe that everybody needs and benefits from close people in our lives. We need brothers and sisters in Christ with whom to share burdens. This is biblical, and it is part of the body of Christ. This is why we are not on islands by ourselves.

I also sometimes find silence helpful for my emotional self. I live in the country, so I will go outside and sit in the stillness. If you don’t have that opportunity, you can go to a place in your house and close the doors. You can sit in your closet. You can listen to calming music or find something to meditate on. 

There are other times where I need to create something. I love to paint, draw, cook, and garden. Being creative can help me to release my emotions and be more spontaneous. There is a side of me that’s very organized, very planned, and very structured. I have a lot going on in my life, so I have a lot of systems in place to keep things going. Sometimes it feels really good to drop the systems and do something different. 

 [20:37] Healthy behavior strategies for the intellectual self

Intellectually, what helps me in these moments is to be heard and validated. I can read a non-fiction book on the topic, helping me to realize why it makes sense that I am feeling a certain way. For comfort, it can also be helpful to read a fiction book because I can escape and think about something else. It breaks that mental cycle, as we were talking about before. We could also try a new recipe, explore a new area of town, or learn a new hobby. These experiences all help my intellectual side that needs to be heard when things feel overwhelming.

[20:34] Inviting the Holy Spirit for help in overcoming self-sabotage

As Angela mentioned, it is also important to recognize that we need the Holy Spirit’s help as we overcome self-sabotage. We need God’s help, and He is the one who can help us redirect and give us ideas and the grace to love ourselves through this time. She shared that she had already asked the Holy Spirit to help her and she was getting some ideas already. I think another part involving the Holy Spirit would be to ask what it is that we are really needing. If we aren’t sure, we can ask God to show us what we need. Can we put a name or an emotion to it? It might be just that touch from God that we need. Letting God continue to speak to us and reveal to us what that might be, and having the openness to experiment with it, can be so helpful. 

[21:23] Healthy behavior strategies for the spiritual self

Lastly, my spiritual self often craves quiet or connection. I love to connect with my sisters in Christ and share stories. Meditating on scripture nourishes the spiritual self, as does listening to Christian music. I have a playlist that I call my “warrior songs” and I listen to them when I am struggling. Certain songs make me feel comforted, like the arms of God are with me. They make me feel known and validated. Sometimes I sing loudly with no one else around or in my car, and it reminds me of God’s truth.

Serving someone is also a powerful way to get our minds off frustration. We can let the light of Christ move through us and bring healing and hope to someone else. 

Recognizing how God is at work is an awesome way to nourish the spiritual self. When we feel like we need comfort and to be heard and validated, we can think about how God has been showing His presence in the last 24-48 hours. Part of that is also praising God for past and future faithfulness. God cares and loves, and we have so many examples of that in our past. It’s so helpful for us to continually call those back into memory and to remind ourselves that He will continue to be faithful.

 [23:25] Deciding which behavior strategies you can use to stop self-sabotage

I just provided a ton of ideas, and I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with all the things I said. I shared all of those things to say, there are a lot of healthy behavior strategies you can use. There might be things I would reach for in one moment that I wouldn’t reach for in another, and there might be things that would apply for you here that wouldn’t apply in another time. The goal is to come up with a list, have it written down or in your mind, so you have it in your back pocket in those moments where you are tempted by self-sabotage. You can actively decide to take control in your life.

The best news about all of this is that God is on our side. God is here to help us. As we are brainstorming ideas, even just a couple to start, God will bring more to mind. We can continually add to this list. God wants to see us come up with healthier alternatives to self-sabotage. He wants to help. That’s such encouragement, isn’t it? God loves us. God cares, and He wants us to try something different so we can find healing in these areas.

[24:44] Shifting behavior strategies in the moment versus getting to the root of self-sabotage behavior

Inside the Christian Mindset Makeover, we talk about the root behind these questions of why we may not feel like we are enough, loved, or worthy. I feel like there are two different tracks. We can talk about these in the sense of shifting things in the moment, but there is still that deeper work that needs to be done in terms of rewiring the core broken soundtracks. We mentioned that in the call I shared with Angela in episode 157.

Again, I see this as part of the strategy. It’s very helpful, but we also have to have this other brain priming part. I highly encourage you to check out the Christian Mindset Makeover, because that is where we teach you and walk with you in creating this brain priming. We help you get to the root of the core soundtracks around identity and feeling loved, enough, and worthy. We figure out what is causing negative thoughts and what new patterns we can put in place instead to get to the healing that God wants us to have.

Next week we are going to finish up this topic of self-sabotage by talking about a very specific exercise we do in conjunction with this list of new strategies. It is my favorite exercise, and I can’t wait to talk to you more about it next week.




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