How To Stop Biting Your Nails

Tip #145: Stop biting your nails.

Fun Fact of the Day: The Earth’s continents drift at the same pace that nails grow.

The Why: One common symptom of anxiety, or being anxious, is biting your nails. I used to be a serial nail-biter, as though I was constantly watching an intense sports game.

Not only does nail-biting harm your teeth, but it also can look rather unsightly. Looking at people who had long, lovely nails made me feel even more self-conscious and anxious about my short, broken stubs.

Many people suffer from this bad habit, but it can be one of the most difficult to stop. Although no one is quite sure as to why this is such a common reaction to stress, some believe that the act is one of self-destruction under stress. We feel the need to pull, pick or bite at something to relieve the pressure within us, and nails make a good proverbial punching bag.

When I was recovering from anxiety, I made a commitment to myself; I was going to stop biting my nails. After a few trial and errors, eventually, they grew up to be long and healthy. Every time I looked down and saw them, they served as a reminder of how far I had come in beating my demons.

So, if you’re out there and need to find a way to stop chowing down on the ends of your fingers, here are my top tips.

Number One – Understand why it’s bad for you. One of the easiest ways to stop a bad habit, is to know exactly why that habit is bad. Whether that’s googling what happens when you bite your nails, doing some research, or talking to others for their horror stories, it’s important to really get to grips with why you should stop. Looking at the reasons for quitting will motivate you to want to stop immediately, as you’ll know why it’s a problem in the first place.

Number Two – Commit to quitting. To stop any bad habit, you have to really understand what is motivating you, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you make a commitment to stopping, then one of the key things that will make you keep that promise is remembering your why. Make sure your reasons are clear in your mind. Also, commitment isn’t a one-time thing, it’s something you have to do every. single. day. Keep reminding yourself of that promise, until it’s drilled into your brain, replacing the bad habits.

Number Three – Get an accountability buddy. When trying to stop a bad habit, it’s always helpful to have someone else to keep you in check. With nail-biting, it can sometimes be an unconscious habit, where you don’t even realise that you’re doing it. Having someone else who’s around you regularly to monitor your habit and point it out to you can be incredibly useful. For instance, my mum used to squirt me with a small water-pistol whenever she saw me doing it.

Number Four – Do something with your hands. Whether that’s a fidget spinner, a small stress cube, a squeezable ball, doodling, tapping, drawing, or anything else to distract you. Displacing the activity of biting your nails, and replacing it with a fun, dopamine-releasing activity instead will mean you begin to associate good feelings with not biting your nails. Building good associations is a key part of overcoming anxiety, or a bad habit.

Number Five – Feel good about your progress. When overcoming a bad habit, it’s important to constantly reinforce the good habits and recognise your progress. Whether that’s every time you catch yourself doing it you stop and reward yourself for stopping, or for every day that you haven’t bitten them treating yourself to a bar of chocolate or a stick of celery depending on your tastes.

Conclusion – breaking a habit is hard, we all know this. But it’s not impossible; that’s key to remember. Stopping biting your nails can serve as a turning point in your fight against anxiety, and serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come.

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