Nerve Wracking to Nail Biting: 5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

Written by: Shenise Gatson

I have a nervous habit. You can often find me doing it while sitting in traffic, watching a suspenseful scene in a movie or TV show, or waiting for news to be delivered.

I am that person who cannot stop biting my nails unless I cover them with nail polish. Once the nail polish wears off and fades, I am back to my nervous habit.

Whenever my two-year-old daughter sees me nipping the tips of my fingers, she says, “Mommy, don’t do that”. It’s funny because, when my daughter was younger, I used to make sure she kept her hands out of her mouth. Now, I can’t keep my fingers out of my mine. It’s also ironic because I’m a germaphobe too (a person who has an abnormal fear of germs). Some people would call my habit gross. Why do I bite my nails? I can’t honestly say.

I believe it is a nervous habit, but also connected to my anxiety.

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Dictionary.com defines anxiety as: “Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune”.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

a) Apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill a state of being anxious

b) An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it

c) Mentally distressing concern or interest

d) A strong desire sometimes mixed with doubt, fear, or uneasiness

I have had moments in my life that were uncontrollable and unfortunate. As a person who likes to control things, I found it frustrating that I could not keep tabs on many of the things that were happening to me. As a result, my excessive worrying and anxiety spiraled out of control. I looked for ways to cope with those realities. Usually, when my anxiety was on the rise, my nail biting was not far behind.

To someone out there…..you may also be suffering from anxiety due to some factors in your life. Whether yours is mild or major, remember these five things:

#1 – It’s not all “in your head”. 

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Growing up, I once overheard a person sharing with someone else that they were dealing with an anxiety disorder. The person responded, “Oh that’s just all in your head. You’re fine”.  I also remember a loved one sharing with a close relative that they desired counseling for depression. The person responded, “You don’t need to see a counselor. You just need some prayer”.  Although I am a Christian and believe in the power of prayer, I am also not an advocate of belittling or downplaying someone who desires professional help.

If you are dealing with some form of anxiety, mental illness, or disorder, it is okay to recognize that and do not let anyone tell you that you are making things up. Even if you are not sure what you are fully dealing with, the first step is acknowledging that there is something going on so that you can take the next step of getting the help you need.

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#2 – Do not feel embarrassed about getting help. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older”.  With an issue so common, you would think more people would get help, but only “36.9% of people suffering receive treatment”.

There are even people who desire help, but feel too embarrassed to get it. They do not want their social circles, families, loved ones or friends to know that their anxiety has gotten to the point where treatment is needed.

Do not let fear or denial keep you from getting fully well. In life, we occupy a lot of roles. We deserve to be emotionally, mentally, and physically well so that we can live our best life. Our families and friends depend on us.  Sometimes the first step is talking to a trusted friend, calling a counseling line, checking to see what your insurance coverage offers, or making a doctor’s appointment to see what options are available.

#3 – Anxiety is treatable. 

You are not too far gone. There have been moments in my life where I suffered from severe depression and anxiety. Sometimes those days would just come and go. I felt like I was alone, even when I wasn’t. I felt bad that I couldn’t be there for others when I felt mentally and emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t see past those foggy days. I wondered if I would ever feel better. If that is you, realize that anxiety is treatable. You do not have to live a life of excessive anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, depression, etc.  Treatment options include therapy, medication, coping strategies and more. A happier and more satisfied you is possible with the proper resources, help and support.

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#4 – If you are unable to get help due to financial or personal issues, please seek other resources.  

In some cases, I know that receiving help can be expensive. Mental health care is not cheap. Do not let that stop you. Maybe you scheduled your first few counseling appointments, but then discovered you could not afford continuous mental health care due to other obligations.  Maybe you are having trouble getting to appointments due to lack of a babysitter. Maybe your significant other refuses to support your treatment plan. Do not give up! If these are the case, talk to a trusted friend, family member, church member, or spiritual advisor.

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Get recommendations or even research online. People care about you!  There are also resources for those who have limited budgets. If you attend a church, there might be certain ministries or staff members who have professional training/ licenses to counsel individuals. Some companies/employers even have assistance programs, limited free sessions, and telephone counseling lines for employees.

# 5 – NOT getting help can do more harm than good.

I have met people who have denied that they needed help. They told themselves they did not have a problem, they were fine, or that they could just “press through it”. Denial is not healthy and it does not solve the problem. There are many scientific articles that show that emotional/mental health can also affect physical health.  Those same people that ignored the signs and symptoms ended up with physical illnesses that might have been connected to their mental state. I have done that myself until my doctor said one day, “Hmmm…your blood pressure is elevated. Are you worrying about anything?” Do not let it get to the point where stress and anxiety are causing spikes in your blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, ongoing headaches, stomachaches, etc. The time is now. Take control back into your hands and make that first step!

You will feel so glad you did!

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Copyright @ 2018 Shenise Gatson

“Facts & Statistics”. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2010-2018, https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics.

“Anxiety”.  Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2018. Web. 23 October 2018.

“Anxiety”.  Dictionary.com. 2018. Web. 23 October 2018.

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