A Chronic Nail Biter’s Guide to Stress Management: 6 Unconventional (& Unexpected) Ways to Reduce Stress


No matter where you fall on the spectrum of stress management, no two individuals’ list of stressors looks exactly the same. While workplace mishaps can drain the batteries of some, others thrive in the face of a boardroom-meeting adrenaline rush. Whether you find calm in the chaos or panic at a moment’s notice, even-keeled and stress-prone individuals alike experience similar stress-induced symptoms. Our hearts start to race. Our metabolism kicks into high gear, and our adrenal glands spit out neurotransmitters, sending us into fight-or-flight. 

If you identify as a stress case on the loose, it’s time to unlock clenched jaws and deep-breathe your way through anxiety bursts before your digestive system or blood pressure pays the price. The next time your stress takes over, try these six unconventional ways to beat the panic. 

Dog ownership

Companionship is proven to reduce stress and increase mood, and there is no better companion than a dog. Occupy those busy and over-gnawed fingernails with scratching the belly of your new best friend. Playing with your new family member can boost serotonin levels, and having that fluffy support system helps keep your blood pressure in check. It’s proven that anxiety-prone humans who come home to a furry friend make fewer visits to the doctor and are less likely to suffer from severe depression.

Looking for a lovable dog breed like a Labrador Retriever? Search for lab puppies for sale, and find yourself a stress reliever that can cuddle with you, too. 

Watch what you eat

While reaching for the potato chips and a pint of ice cream is tempting during a bout of stress, try munching on some superfoods to de-stress your mind and reset your body. When stressors stare you down, your body floods itself with cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. Eating foods rich in zinc and vitamin C can help control this influx of cortisol and ease your racing heartbeat. Foods rich in healthy fats, like avocados, help improve neurotransmitter function and boost brain health. 

Busy your hands

Bandages on each finger, choppy nails, inflamed cuticles– if any of these sound familiar to you, your stress manifests itself in your hands. Whether it’s biting your nails or picking at your cuticles, when your hands are idle, the situation at hand can quickly turn into a thirty-minute nail-biting session. 

Looking for a solution? Keep your hands busy, which will defeat the unconscious need to fidget and pick. While fidget spinners were created for stressed hands, they are not the only solution. Take up knitting, and stitch your stress into a blanket. You can also treat your mind to a break while your hands color or draw. For those looking to capitalize on breakthrough stress-busting trends, give slime a try.  

Silly putty or slime activates the “satisfied” part of your brain as you work it to a smooth and warm consistency. Whatever your mindless pass time of choice, give your fingers a break and distract wandering hands, allowing you to channel your stress into something productive. 

Color yourself calm

The colors that surround us have a significant effect on our mood. Bright colors, like red, orange, and yellow, inspire an energetic state of mind. These stimulating colors can become stressors in anxiety-prone people, especially if they are already feeling worked up. Try incorporating calming colors in your house. 

Hues of blue, green, white, and purple are all calming and soothing colors. Because these stress-frees shades inspire rest rather than activity, they’re the perfect hues for stress hotspots, such as home offices.

Slow down

When our bodily functions start to race due to stress, bringing them back down to their resting rates can be challenging. Try slowing down when faced with a stressor. If your anxiety makes you sputter, or jut out in tangents, try taking a deep breath before speaking. Thinking through the end of the thought helps your mind connect and keeps your panicking brain from derailing. For those notorious stress cases hoping to keep their thought train on the right track, remember that slow-and-steady wins the race against stress. 

Because stress kicks our bodies into overdrive, frantic minds may succumb to the temptation to snack at rapid speeds. When our bodies are in a state of distress, we tend to eat quickly and leave our bodies no choice but to race through the digestion process. Speedy eating leads to overeating, putting our bodies in yet another uncomfortable position.

By contrast, eating slower encourages mindfulness. When you take time to chew each bite, you can ask your body how it feels with each food intake. This beginning step into intuitive eating helps your mind become a part of the eating process, and your body and mind open a dialogue that informs how you continue to nourish your system.

Say “yes” to “no”

It may be tempting to accept every offer that comes your way. From concerts to dinner parties to extra assignments at work– saying “yes” fills up your plate faster than you realize. Before you know it, your stress is at an all-time high, and you have no time to decompress. 

Give yourself permission to say “no” to birthday party invites and late-night cocktail hours. Investing that extra time in yourself pays off and helps you reduce and manage stress. Use this time to catch up on things that are stressors in your life. Behind on housework? Full voicemail? Laundry basket overflowing? Unstructured time allows you to rid yourself of these stressors.

This downtime also grants you a rare opportunity to listen to your body begging for decompression.  Stress manifests itself physically, so taking time to relax your body and mind is beneficial to your overall health and well-being. Use “no” to reclaim your time and get ahead of your stressors.

Before you go

Not everyone deals with stress the same, and there is no holy grail when it comes to banishing stressors from your life. While some people may be able to take the stress away by the power of positive thinking, most anxiety-prone people need more than a motivating quote to get through a stressful situation. 

Utilizing these strategies, however unconventional, can help you achieve a stress-less day. While not guaranteed to remove the pressure, employing tactics like healthy eating and keeping your hands busy can help slow down the bodily processes that tend to race when faced with a threatening situation.