10 Incredibly Common Anxious Habits (And 10 Practical Ways To Deal With Them)


1. Pulling your hair out

This seems like a good one to start with, because it’s the one I struggle with. Whether I’m in a stressful situation, am working on a deadline, or am sitting in stop-and-go traffic, I start to unconsciously tear my hair out. It’s gross, by the way, though not overly noticeable because most people just assume I’m pLaYinG WiTh My hAiR. And once I start, it’s hard to stop my hands from going through the motions.

How to deal it: Replace the ritual. Personally, I use a stressball, so that I can ensure my hands are occupied. Keep it close by (in your bag, or at your desk) so you actually have it within reach when you would otherwise start messing with your hair.

2. Avoiding eye contact

Whether it’s because you’re nervous in social situations, or are just generally shy, it’s easy to avoid eye contact during a greeting or a good bye.

How to deal with it: As frustrating it is, you have to accept that not making eye contact ends up looking less mature, and less friendly. Make sure to at least glance, and meet someone’s eyes, even if it’s just for long enough to smile, be a polite person, and then leave with the satisfaction that you put yourself outside your comfort zone.

3. Biting your nails/Chipping your nail polish/Cleaning out the dirt from under your nails

It’s different for everyone: Some people gnaw at their nails until their cuticles bleed, while others chip at the polish until they’ve scratched them clean.

How to deal with it: Cut your nails diligently, so you’re not tempted. If you’re a nail biter, there’s even a topcoat you can apply that tastes bad, which is specifically meant to deter you.

4. Grinding your teeth

How to deal with it: Honestly, I’m not a dentist, but I think it’s fair to say that if you do grind your teeth regularly, you should consult a dentist. Yes, it’s annoying, but grinding your teeth is messing with your sleep cycle more than you realize. Furthermore, grinding your teeth at night can lead to stress headaches during the day, so you may as well nip the problem in the bud.

5. Not sleeping through the night

Not only is insomnia a bitch, but it also encourages nervous habits in a somewhat vicious cycle, because the more exhausted you are, the less apt you are to combat your other habits.

How to deal with it: Other than consulting your doctor, re: prescribed medicine, etc., trying to go to bed with a ~clear mind~ can help a restless sleeper. You don’t have to go full meditation, but if you can lie down and generally try to focus on nothing at all, or something that won’t cause you to overthink, that’s ideal. Trying a breathing exercise, or reading something that won’t rile you up can also be worth trying.

6. Chewing on pen caps (or other random household objects)

How to deal with it: Obviously, you can try chewing on something else, like sugar free gum. Also, having a hot beverage by you, and sipping that instead of chewing on the back of your pen can distract you, and keep you calm (especially if you’re drinking tea).

7. Freaking out during turbulence

Everyone has their own way of dealing with turbulence, and the impending feeling of doom that comes with the earth’s-end-is-upon-us-type turbulence.

How to deal with it: It depends on what the root cause of your anxiety is. If you’re scared the world is going to end, closing your eyes, blocking out the noise with music might help you relax, or draw your attention away. If you dislike turbulence because it makes you feel like you’re not in control of the situation, and don’t know what is going to happen, taking away your senses isn’t a good idea. Instead, try to breath deeply and remind yourself that the situation is under control.

8. Apologizing preemptively

How to deal with it: Generally, when you’re an over-apologizer, people will tell you to stop. LISTEN. Actually take that advice, and think about when you want to be apologetic, and when you’re apologizing as a defense mechanism, or because you’re terrified of making a mistake. Honestly, apologizing less will show that you have more confidence, and will make you appear to have more conviction.

9. Making yourself nauseous

If you have acid reflux, you understand this one all too well. You get nervous, and it creates acid in your stomach, which makes your stomach hurt, which makes you more anxious, which makes the stomach ache worsen. It’s a never-ending cycle.

How to deal with it: Find something that you associate with a calm stomach, and have it on hand, so that you can turn to it as a means of calming your mind, and your stomach, immediately. For me, it’s mint or chamomile tea. But, I’ve been bouncing back to those reliables for so many years, that now even the ritual of making the tea, and smelling it, makes my stomach chill.

10. Talking too much, stammering, overusing “like”

How to deal with it: Speak slower, and it will remind you to think before you speak. Generally if you’re stuttering, repeating yourself, etc. it’s because you don’t know what else to say, and you’re starting to overthink it. So, stop and think about what you’re trying to articulate, and slow yourself down.