Updated: 2/5/2020 A busy schedule. A quickly approaching deadline. A major life change. All of these factors can cause a person to feel stressed. Stress is a normal part of…

pressure at work

Breaking Bad Stress Habits

Updated: 2/5/2020

A busy schedule. A quickly approaching deadline. A major life change.

All of these factors can cause a person to feel stressed. Stress is a normal part of life, but it can have a negative effect on health if you’re not careful.  When people feel stressed, they often pick up some bad habits such as nail biting or hair twirling. However, these habits are unhealthy and should be avoided when possible. Keep reading for tips on breaking bad stress habits.

Bad Stress Habits

Nail biting/other hand-related habits

Why it’s bad for you: Nail biting can lead to skin infections and/or broken teeth. In addition, the contact between hands and your mouth can encourage the spread of infections due to the bacteria on your hands that comes from contact with other objects.

How to beat it: Try keeping your hands busy some other way – clenching your fists, wearing gloves, or using your non-dominant hand, which will require focus and draw your attention to what you are doing with your hands.

Jaw clenching

Why it’s bad for you: Clenching your jaw can cause wear and tear on your teeth, and over time can cause headaches or jaw popping.

How to beat it: First, pay attention to when you are clenching your jaw. Being aware of the problem can help you prevent it and avoid unconscious clenching. You can also try keeping your mouth busy in other ways, like by chewing gum or keeping your mouth in a slightly open position.

Playing with/chewing on hair

Why it’s bad for you: Playing with your hair adds dirt and oil from your hands, which causes your hair to appear more dull. Twirling or chewing on your hair may also result in breakage or other damage.

How to beat it: Keep your hair out of your face and out of reach by putting it into a ponytail or bun.

Compulsive, mindless eating

Why it’s bad for you: Compulsive, mindless eating means you are not watching your portions or paying attention to what you eat. Both are unhealthy and can result in weight gain.

How to beat it: Be aware of what you’re eating. Pay attention to portions and nutritional value. Keep yourself busy in other ways to help keep you out of the kitchen.

Ways to Reduce Stress

If you’re feeling stressed, try one of these tips to reduce the stress and, consequently, the bad habits that go with it.

  • Go for a walk: Walking (and exercise in general) boosts the production of the neurotransmitters called endorphins, which help reduce stress.
  • Eat a healthy snack: There’s a lot of research that suggests a connection between the gut and stress (hence stress eating), so eating a healthy snack that will fill you up may actually help you feel less stressed. Try eating half an avocado, a handful of nuts, or a hard-boiled egg.
  • Avoid the computer: Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, so if you’ve been staring at the screen for too long, take a break away from technology.
  • Listen to music: Classical music has often been associated with de-stressing, but any genre will work. Listening to music floods your brain with neurotransmitters like dopamine that cancel out any stress-related chemicals, causing you to feel better.

Try using our tips to reduce stress and break bad habits caused by stress. If any health complications occur or if you think you might be dealing with chronic stress, talk to your doctor.

  1. I used to have a big problem with biting my finger nails. I broke that habit by having fingernail clippers with me at all times. I would clip my nails so they would be short = nothing to bite. A few months later I noticed that I never really bit my nails any more.

  2. I perform stressful duties in my office and spend a considerable amount of time in front of a computer, these guidelines will surely help relieve my stress. I have already been doing walking exercises in recent months. Indeed I have a goal of walking at least 8 miles every weekend.

    • Elzie, try wearing a head band or hat to hold your hair back, or find another way to keep your hands busy so they are not touching your hair. Thanks for reading!

  3. Thank you for the stress-relieving tips! I love getting up and going for a walk–even if it’s just around the office to chat for 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes can go a LONG way in helping you get through the day without getting mentally fatigued!!

  4. I couldn’t agree more with taking a break from the computer screen! I seriously need to get up once every hour or two just to clear my head and quit straining my eyes so much! I’ve learned that it seems to help for me to stare at the keyboard when I’m typing–since there’s not bright images popping from the keyboard. :P Great tips for stress avoidance!

  5. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer and have set up an alarm to go off top of the hour so that I can get up and move around. It really helps me to focus on what I’m doing when I get back and gets my blood pumping.

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