Nervous Habits and Our Body Images

For those of us with various forms of anxiety, nervous habits can temporarily alleviate stress and nerves. But these habits ultimately become a source of anxiety and low self-esteem, as they often leave physical traces of our emotional state. It's a vicious cycle that can feel impossible to break. I myself am still trying.

Some examples of these nervous habits are: biting your nails, pulling or twirling your hair, touching or picking your face, and grinding your teeth. There are, of course, more cases of nervous or anxious habits — these are just a few of the most common. What I'm most concerned by is the toll that mental/emotional habits impose on our body image. (Although, it's equally important to note the medical health implications of these various habits.)

If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are simply self-aware of your emotional and mental health, you generally know what triggers you and attempt to avoid those things or implement your personal coping mechanisms.

However, we can't avoid anxiety forever (as much as we wish that were true). In fact, we may not even realize that we're stressed or nervous until we've chewed our nails to the nub or picked our faces nearly raw. And, for those of us with nervous habits, this can make matters worse. When your mental state is already low, these physical signs of your anxiety can wreak havoc on your body image — making you more anxious.

I'll be the first to admit how unfair and frustrating it is that mental health — something that already takes courage and hard work to overcome — can also affect the way we look. Suddenly, all of our insecurities are on display.

But, as difficult as it is to see past the scars, chapped skin, or thinning hair, our nervous habits are just our bodies' way of communicating an otherwise invisible condition. 

So, in order to heal these unwanted symptoms, we have to address the real issue at hand. Anxiety can touch numerous aspects of our lives — one of the many features that makes it such a significant hurdle to overcome and accept — but we can use this to our advantage.

When you feel down about your body image or, more specifically, the effect your nervous habits have on your body image, take a moment to appreciate them as helpful reminders to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. 

Take a quick nap. Meditate. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Get tea with a friend. Write down what is making you nervous and make a list of achievable goals. Whatever is worrying you can wait.

Cover photo source: Kat Smith