Tuesday, 26 April 2011

How to Overcome Your Nervous Habits

We always try to stay alert and eliminate all such actions which might result from an unconscious state of mind. But sometimes certain situations – when we are anxious or tense – force us to showcase our habitual behavior in front of the outer world. These unintentional acts are very unappealing to the eyes and can even affect our health. So, let’s check out the most common nervous habits:

Biting Nails

Problem: Biting nails is a habit that is adopted and carried through from childhood and can become apparent in stressful situations throughout adulthood. Nail biting is often a subconscious habit that is an expression of some deeper anxiety that gets worse at times of stress. To most people, nail biting is associated with nervousness and shyness and is an involuntary response to certain social situations. This habit has a weakening and damaging impact on your nails and teeth. When you bite your nails down to the nail bed, the skin lying underneath suffers from reddening and swelling. The cuticle and the nail lie in close contact with each other to prevent the entry of harmful bacteria, fungus and water into the nail. But when the cuticle gets damaged, you might develop paronychia, an infection of the skin around the nail. Additionally, nail biting can cause broken or chipped front teeth, and gives an opportunity to germs and bacteria from underneath your nails to enter your mouth and cause cavities or gum infections.
Solution: It is very difficult for individuals to discontinue this habit. Keeping your hands clean and covering them, when possible, might help to check this habit. Keep gloves in your back pocket and wear them when you have a desire to bite. There are also certain bad tasting over-the-counter products available that you can apply on your nails.

Cracking Your Knuckles

Problem: We often choose to pull at our fingers or stretch our knuckles, thereby producing a cracking or popping sound. Those who are into this habit, say that the act relieves stress and feels as good as taking a nice short stretch. But why do we get to hear this crackling sound? This sound comes from the release of gases. All of the joints in our bodies are surrounded by synovial fluid, a thick, clear lubricant which contains dissolved gases like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. When you stretch or bend your finger to pop the knuckle, the connective tissue capsule that surrounds the joint gets stretched. This stretching drops the pressure inside the joint capsule and leads to a sudden release of the gases, creating the popping sound. It takes about 25 to 30 minutes for the gas to redissolve into the joint fluid. During this period of time, your knuckles won’t crack.
Although studies have shown that cracking your knuckles doesn’t lead to or increase the risk of arthritis, however, habitual cracking of knucles can lead to other types of damage, including soft tissue damage to the joint capsule and a decrease in grip strength.
Solution: Since a nervous habit is in response to stress, identifying the source of the stress is the first step in dealing with the habit. With time, children can come out of this habit. But adults cannot get over this habit very easily. They might need the guidance of a behavior-modification therapist.

Hair Twirling and Pulling

Problem: Playing, twirling and fiddling with hair is a common habit that develops during childhood. As the child grows, it may develop into hair pulling. It is indicative of number of emotions and behaviors such as nervousness and boredom. Individuals who are into this habit believe that this act can soothe their stressed minds or can act as a mind-stimulator during boredom. Highly nervous individuals may feel impelled to pluck the hair out of their scalp, usually one strand at a time. This type of routine and severe hair pulling can be an inherited condition known as trichotillomania, which the puller uses as a self-soothing mechanism. Over time, this habit can lead to damage of the hair follicles, thereby causing patchy baldness.
Solution: Experts suggest that a cognitive or a behavioral therapy can prove to have fruitful results in this case. As part of this therapy, people are taught to recognize triggers that cause them to pull hair, such  as boredom or creeping anxiety. They are instructed to wear gloves or Band-Aids on their fingers so they’re aware when they start to pull, and are trained to substitute another behavior for it, such as twirling a piece of string or squeezing a stress ball.


Problem: Smokers have found a very popular excuse for smoking: “smoking calms my mind in moments of tension”. But according to experts, nicotine present in cigarettes actually makes you feel more nervous. Nicotine works by binding certain sites of the brain and raising the levels of dopamine, a hormone, which makes you feel good. This means, we need to smoke at regular intervals to maintain dopamine at those elevated levels. This causes you to smoke more frequently and you turn into a chain smoker. As everybody knows, smoking cigarettes can lead to many health problems such as lung cancer, respiratory illnesses and other health conditions as well.
Solution: It’s never too late to quit smoking and there are many benefits to be gained no matter what age you are when you give up. Counseling sessions apart from treatment with nicotine patches and tablets (in the form of sugarless chewing gum) can help to come out of this habit.

Biting and Sucking Pens

Problem: Our mouth is the main entrance to all the germs that enter our body. When we bite pens and pencils we never think that these objects are fully loaded with germs. Studies indicate that there are almost 60,000 types of germs of which only 1 to 2 percent have the capability to cause potential harm to our body. Your pen can get contaminated with these germs when you or your friends and family members – who have touched microbe-laden objects like keyboards, door knobs etc – get in contact with the pen. These germs can be the cause of cold or an acute case of gastroenteritis.
Solution: You can solve this problem by keeping your hands clean. Frequently wash your hands to prevent the transmission of microbes from your hands to pens and other objects. If you are unable to give up on your habit of pen sucking, try substituting another activity like drinking a cup to tea to satisfy your oral fixation.

Grinding Teeth

Problem: Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, denotes an uncontrolled movement of teeth from front to back and from side to side. This habit often occurs at night while asleep on a subconscious level, usually in response to emotional stress. It has the potential to harm your teeth because when you are in the sleep mode, some of your protective reflexes do not work and you become susceptible to excessive damages. This can lead to a variety of dental problems including excessive wear of the teeth; chipping, cracking, and fracturing of teeth and loosening of teeth. It can also cause pain in the jaw joints, headache and severe toothache. A sore jaw or achy mouth can be a sign of teeth grinding. Many people normally do not grind during the day, but might resort to a clenching activity. This might loosen our teeth by loosening the periodontal ligament which anchors the teeth in the bone.
Solution: If clenching causes tightness of the muscles of the mouth, then massaging the area can bring some relief. Behavior modification techniques like self-checking for clenching can keep this habit under control. Health experts suggest that the upper and the lower teeth should always be separated by a small gap. To limit the damage teeth grinding can cause, your dentist may suggest you to wear a mouth guard at night.

Crossing and Uncrossing Your Legs

Problem: Some people choose to cross, uncross or swing their legs in times of anxiety. Though it seldom causes problem, your sitting posture determines the degree of the harm that these movements can cause. When you choose to sit with your legs crossed, your entire body weight tends to shift to a single buttock and thus, the weight is not uniformly distributed among the two sitting bones. You feel very relaxed to sit in this position without realizing that the sciatic nerve which runs from the spine through the legs is getting compressed. This condition can lead to reduced blood flow, pain, numbness and tingling in the legs. You might also develop long term consequences in the form of chronic musculoskeletal problems.
Solution: Experts suggest that you should keep your spines in proper alignment by finding the best possible sitting position. You also need to check and correct your postures from time to time throughout the day. Correcting the sitting positions would be a remedy in itself, but if the condition becomes chronic, then stretches, manual therapy and exercises can help.

Touching and Rubbing Face

Problem: We often tend to touch and rub our face without any justification to do so. Teenagers, who display anxious or nervous behavior and become very conscious about their looks during the adolescence, tend to display this behavior more prominently. People with this habit often experience tingly sensations or an itch in the face (a nervous sensation), which strongly draws them to touch it. Touching the face with the hands can cause irritation of the skin and this again provokes the hands to touch these areas! This is enough to cause acne due to the blockage of pores. Once an eruption occurs, you tend to scratch it even more, causing pimples to bleed which might develop into scars. Further, as your fingertips contain germs, you might pass on more infections to the already affected pustules.
Solution: The problem lies in the fact that most of us do not realize how harmful this habit can be! So if you cannot give up the idea of pricking into your pimples, then it would be better if you cut your nails short. At least, this way you can avoid bleeding! You should also avoid looking at the mirror very frequently since it would again tempt you to scratch the acne.
We never realize what we are doing or how we are acting in our unconscious state of minds. We even fail to realize that others are observing us in social situations. But we keep on pursuing our habitual behavior. Some of these habits are so unappealing that we have to hear comments. If we just ignore these comments, then we should at least try to give up these bad habits after thinking about its ill consequences on our health.

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