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If you’re a chronic nail biter like me, it can be hard to stop reaching for your face every time you get nervous or bored. But according to the Mayo Clinic, nail biting can increase the chances of getting an infection around your fingers. It also allows germs from whatever you’ve touched to get into your body, which may lead to getting sick more frequently. Gross.
One way to stop biting your nails — or similar habits, like touching your face — is to give your hands something else to do. Fidget spinners became popular in 2017 because they offered a quick, casual way to engage in the same subconscious behavior as nail biting. They were also great to help relieve stress and anxiety, giving you — and your fingers — something to focus on besides your anxious thoughts. More importantly, they were pocket-sized toys that were portable enough to carry around with you, providing an easy way to rid yourself of nerves or nervous behavior, no matter where you were.
But fidget spinners were designed for kids, and they quickly faded from store shelves as schools began banning them from classrooms, and manufacturers over-saturated the market with cheap imitations. Still, they served an important purpose: a little structured distraction could actually be the key to finding focus.
If you’re trying to bite your nails or fidget less, or trying not to touch your face during these heightened times, we’ve collected ten accessories that can give you something else to do with your hands. They’re portable, easy to use, and most importantly, fun. It’s still up to you to change your habits, but everybody needs a little help.
1. A Massage Ball Kit
Fitballz Message Ball Kit can actually help you replace a bad habit with a good one. The kit contains three foam balls, a peanut ball, a firm spiky ball, and a soft spiky ball, which were designed as massage tools to be used after a workout.
But, you can also squeeze or roll them around in your hand at a desk, which the company says can relieve stress in your hand muscles, and even improve your blood flow. The different pressure points keeps you hands and joints activated too.
Slime, like fidget spinners, has become a global online phenomena over the past few years — and not just for kids. The gelatinous, elastic substance can be stretched, slammed, and shaped any way you want, but it’ll always revert back to its original form. Fans of this Elmer’s slime say it’s very therapeutic to use, and doesn’t make a big mess.
Elmer’s has been in the arts and crafts business for over 70 years, and the company’s “GUE” comes in a two-pack, with eight ounces of slime per container. It’s clear, but you can add “add-ins” like slime dye to customize it to fit your aesthetic.
3. A Fidget Spinner
If you prefer the now-old-fashioned appeal of a fidget spinner, this is a good one to get. Fidget spinners seemed to explode out of nowhere a few years ago, but it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. The pocket-sized spinners, which twirl between your fingers with a little bit of force, provide just the right amount of distraction and relief when you get the urge bite your nails or touch your face.
This five-pack from FIGROL has LED lights built into each fidget spinner, which you can turn on and off with the push of a button. Each fidget spinner creates a different color pattern when it’s spun with its light enabled, so you can mix and match them based on your mood.
4. A Hot Wheels Car
Yes, Hot Wheels are children’s toys, but the pocket-sized cars are also a simple tool to curb repetitive actions like nail biting. The car — in this case a Tesla Model S — can be rolled around your desk, or fiddled with in your pocket. It worked for me.
5. A Thumb Piano
A fidget-device for the musically inclined, Deoukana’s thumb piano is arguably the most productive option on this list. The piano has 17 keys, which you can pluck individually with your thumb. The sound reverberates inside of the piano’s hollow shell to make music.
It’s 9.6 x 7.7 x 3 inches, so you can’t carry it in your pocket, but this is a great accessory to keep on a work desk or bedside table.
6. A Mini Zen Garden
Nail biting is commonly linked to anxiety, and while the tools on this list can help you channel nervous energy, they might not clear your mind. Nature’s Mark’s Mini Meditation Zen Garden will require more focus than some fidget toys, but that might be a good thing.
The set comes with: a base, four rocks, a bag of sand, a rake, a succulent, and a pavilion statue. You can move each object around, or rake the sand whenever you get stressed out. Taking a couple of minutes out of your work day to focus on something other than the task at hand may help you calm down and increase your productivity when you get back to work.
7. Sport Ball Poppers
Poppers are another small, simple toy that can give you something to do with your idle hands. They’re small, domed toys that pop up and flip inside out when you push them down.
They don’t jump too high, so you won’t lose them when they pop, but it’s still pretty entertaining. This pack from ArtCreativity comes with 25 poppers designed to look like balls from different sports.
8. Antsy Labs Fidget Cube
This palm-sized device lets you roll, spin, click, glide and squeeze away your anxiety. The six sides of this cube all contain a different activity to occupy your fingers — and your brain — to give you a little distraction when you need it. Originally launched on Kickstarter, this fidget cube is now one of the most popular “toys” for kids and adults who can’t keep their fingers still. The best part: this tucks easily into your pockets, so you have something to fidget with no matter where you are.
9. Speks Magnetic Balls
My go-to distraction toy is Speks, a set of tiny, magnetic balls that actually challenge your creativity. Speks come in a neat, cube-shaped case, which you destroy the moment you start playing with them. You can squish the magnets, pull apart each bead, and create any shape of any size.
I love the way the beads feel in my hands, and it’s satisfying to move the whole set around in my hands. I’m also happy that I can use Speks to create mini designs over and over again if I need to divert my effort into a fun game for a little while. I’ll admit I was a Speks skeptic before I tried them, but they’re a lot more fun than I originally thought.
10. A Stress Ball
Sometimes the right solution is the easiest one. If you’re biting your nails or touching your face because of nervousness, it might help to use a stress ball.
This one from Serenilite is made from non-stick fabric and a tear-resistant gel core, and comes in a number of colors. Squeezing the ball may help relieve tension, and the company says it may also help to reduce carpal tunnel and arthritis symptoms.