"While there are many reasons someone might bite their nails, nervous energy can be one," says Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do. "Nail-biting can reduce a little tension and often turns into a common habit."
Fortunately, experts say that it's not the nail-biting that's helping — it's the mere action of doing something with your hands. In fact, Steven Levine, MD, psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, says that doing things with your hands can channel the nervous energy that comes with anxiety.
"It can provide a distraction from the anxiety and serve as an outlet to discharge that nervous energy," he says. "Also, by engaging other senses, like touch, it can divert attention away from anxiety to something physical."
Morin adds that if you're feeling anxious, finding something to do with your hands will help distract your mind, too.
"Finding something to busy your hands can help change the channel in your brain," she says. "Some activities may bring you into the present to keep you from rehashing what happened yesterday, or worrying about what might happen tomorrow."
Of course, if hands-on activities aren't enough to help you manage your anxiety, there are plenty of other options that can help, like anxiety-tracking apps or talking it out with a therapist. As always, it's best to talk to a mental health professional if you think you may be experiencing anxiety and are looking for ways to cope.
But if you're just looking for some non-nail-biting activities to keep your hands occupied, read on for some ideas.