Recently, a client mentioned, “I often find myself fidgeting and engaging in compulsive behaviours like nail-biting when I feel anxious. I’d like to be able to calm myself and keep myself from getting caught up in these habits. What should I do?”

After some discussion about the nature of anxiety and the purpose of self-soothing behaviours (which can turn into habitual or compulsive responses to anxiety), I came up with this model.


  1. Aware: Direct your awareness to what you are doing in the moment (hand-wringing, biting nails, fidgeting, self-soothing behaviours)
  2. Acknowledge: “I see that I’m wringing my hands again.”
  3. Accept: Be okay with the way you are acting in the moment. Don’t judge it. Do not blame, shame, or complain about your actions. If you can accept the behaviour but you acknowledge that you want to change it, you can then plan how you will move toward change or what you will do instead. Try to do this all without judgement.
  4. Assess: “How am I feeling in this moment? Am I anxious? Nervous? Bored? Lonely? Sad? Tired?” AM I just doing this out of habit? If I am trying to fix a feeling, what might I do instead that would have more effectiveness? IS there something I am thinking that is contributing to this feeling? IF I shift my thoughts, might the feeling change? If the feelings change, it is likely that my anxious behaviours will stop.
  5. Amend: This is where you actively embark on extinguishing the old behaviour and introducing a healthier choice.

It is important to remember that your thoughts and feelings will impact the choices you make. Self-soothing or compulsive behaviours are a “quick fix” for your feelings, but will never serve to solve the problem that conributed to the anxiety in the first place. Before you can “amend” or change your choices, your must change the thoughts you entertain.

To learn more about this concept, sign in to request a copy of my new E-Book, Radical, Positive, Lasting Change – available exclusively through for Free.