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Curbing Anxious Habits You Didn’t Know You Have

Curbing Anxious Habits You Didn’t Know You Have

Haley Ostrow, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and she provides therapy to individuals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Haley specializes in working with women who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. You can visit her website: and follow her on Instagram @your.anxious.therapist and TikTok @youranxioustherapist for more!

Have you ever found yourself biting your nails, cracking your knuckles, or constantly playing with your hair? Most people have a few nervous habits, but for some- these habits can begin to interfere with your life.

Anxious habits can be hard to break because they can provide a sense of comfort and a way to cope with the stresses and anxiety that you might be currently experiencing. Oftentimes, you can be unaware that you are even doing these habits in the first place.

It’s so important that the first step is to become aware of what your anxious habits are before you can learn how to curb them by using an alternative coping skill. Keep track of times when you’re doing this habit- where are you located? What happened right before you started engaging in the habit? Unlearning habits, especially during times of stress and anxiety, can be difficult but absolutely possible once you have new ways of coping. I’m going to list a few common anxious habits that people have and tips on how to curb them!

Biting Your Nails

  • One of the most common nervous habits is biting your nails. Some ways to curb this habit are to use something to occupy your hands (as well as your mouth). I recommend popping a mint, sour candy, or piece of gum in your mouth whenever you notice the urge to bite your nails in order to keep your mouth occupied while focusing on the sensations of the sour candy and/or mint.

Picking Your Skin or Nails

  • This is another habit that’s focused on the hands. Sometimes people will pick nail polish off their nails or the skin around their nails. One tip to curb this habit is to start to make a fist with your hands every time you notice the urge to pick at your nails. I like to use my Speks fidgets for this one, as well. Notice and feel the texture of the fidget, describe what it feels like (Is it hard? What color is it? What does the shape feel like? Is it warm or cold to the touch?) Being able to describe what the fidget feels like can help shift your focus and attention on the object and away from the urge to pick. It also helps to be able to dig your nails into the magnetic beads (instead of your skin!).

Cracking Your Knuckles

  • This is one I have done for as long as I can remember! Ask yourself... “What is the gratification or satisfaction I might be getting from cracking my knuckles? Where do I typically do it and in what situations?” For example- if you enjoy the “popping” sound your knuckles make when you crack them, try to use something to fidget with that can create a similar “popping” sound (like bubble wrap). But not everyone has bubble wrap on them all the time! This is another one where I like to keep my Speks fidgets near me because they are super accessible to use right away. Even if they may not make a “popping” sound, I can get satisfaction from rubbing my hands against the magnetic beads.

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