Nail-biting is dangerous during COVID-19Dave Smith
How to Stop
If there has ever been a time in history to kick the habit of nail biting, now is the time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials encourage preventive measures such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, and keeping our hands away from our faces, eyes, and mouths, a difficult request for nail biting. In addition to increasing your risk of infection, nail biting can damage your nails and cuticles, cause distress or embarrassment, and can lead to a sense of relief or even pleasure. But when we try to unlearn a deep-seated habit, the question is, how?
Here is what can help:
Consider your level of motivation. If you are not really ready to quit smoking, it is unlikely to happen. A genuine desire to break the habit is the important first step.
Don’t just rely on bitter nail polish, manicure, or gum. These strategies are usually not effective in breaking the habit. But if you are a mindless nibbler, bitter nail polish and manicures could at least increase the awareness that you are biting. And if you’re in a stressful situation that would normally trigger your habit, chewing gum might help keep your mouth busy for a while, but it’s unlikely to help you quit.
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Increase your awareness. If we bite our nails without thinking, without even realizing when we are doing it, it may be impossible to break the habit. When you are in the act, take note of what you are doing and how you feel at the moment. Are you zoning in front of the TV, checking emails from work, or feeling anxious or bored? Mr. Davidson recommends writing (even if you just make a quick note on your phone) where and when you are biting, the time of day and what you think when you do it. This can help you identify situations, feelings, places, and even people that trigger your tendency. A combination of a genuine desire to quit smoking, awareness of biting and taking notes or journaling are key components of habit reversal therapy, a proven approach, according to Mr. Davidson.
Consider substitute behavior. If you feel the need to bite, consider an alternative but less damaging act, such as gently pressing a finger against your fingernail or secretly clenching your fist. Or try a method called decoupling: When you feel your hand move toward your mouth, intentionally move it to a substitute location (such as your earlobe, where you could squeeze it quickly and lightly before returning your hand to your lap). With practice, it can help some people break or reduce the habit of nail biting. This approach is less proven than habit reversal therapy, according to Mr. Davidson.
Accept that there will be setbacks. When you’ve had a habit for months, years, or even decades, no one can be expected to reverse it overnight. Recognize that relapses are a normal part of the process. Remember your motivation. Stay on top of the situations you bite into. Consider a harmless substitute action. And seek the help of a behavioral health specialist if you have problems; They can help you find personalized ways to work through the process.