7 Unexpected Signs You Give Off Nervous Energy
Not everyone who exhibits nervous energy is actually nervous at all times, but often even those with high-functioning anxiety could be letting out stress in ways they don't realize. Your body responds to anxiety in all sorts of ways, and giving off nervous energy is just one sign that you may want to address these issues more directly.
Nervous energy is a physical reaction to complex emotions. "When a person is anxious or stressed, our body produces adrenaline," Jenny Matthews, LMFT, LADC, mental health therapist at State of Mind Therapy, tells Bustle. "Nervous energy is the actions and behaviors a person displays as a result of excess adrenaline in the body. These behaviors serve as a form of 'release' and self-soothing behavior under times of stress." Since some of these habits are so engrained, you may not even realize you're doing them.
While it's pretty easy to detect nervous energy in others, if you're the one giving off this energy, it may not be so simple. But if you already know that you deal with anxiety on a daily basis, then chances are this anxiety is — at least occasionally — visible to others.
Understanding what habits can be interpreted as giving off nervous energy may also help you understand the way your body is responding to stress. The more aware you are of your symptoms, the likelier it is that you can address them.
Here are seven unexpected signs you may be giving off nervous energy, according to experts.
1. You Crack Your Knuckles
Cracking your knuckles can be a nice relief every once and a while. But if you do it around other people enough, they may interpret this habit as giving off nervous energy.
"[Knuckle-cracking is a] self-soothing habit," Matthews says. "There are many nerves within the joints of our knuckles, and when 'popped' it stretches the joint and provides a feel-good sensation." Examining why you're looking for this soothing relief, however, might help you stop when necessary.
2. You Take A Lot Of Deep Breaths
If you have caught yourself needing to take deep breaths in social situations before, then you may be giving off nervous energy.
"[People with nervous energy] may try to diffuse the energy themselves by taking frequent deep breaths in public to calm themselves down" Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. This habit could be a sign of social anxiety, and may be helped by seeking the professional support of a therapist.
3. You Pick Your Skin Or Bite Your Nails
Even as an adult, you may still hang on to certain habits that soothe you — even if they come across to others as signs of nervous energy.
"The act of picking a hangnails, loose nails, and biting nails when nervous is used as a way to distract from uncomfortable feelings and focus on something else," Matthews says. "Like earlier coping methods, such as thumb sucking, nail biting services as an oral soothing technique." Addressing the root cause of your anxiety may help you kick these nervous habits.
4. You Tend To Interrupt People
If you've noticed awkward moments where you accidentally cut people off, or finish their sentence for them, this may be due to your nervous energy. And others may notice this.
"[People with nervous energy] may not wait for you to finish a thought and try and complete your sentence," Dr. Klapow says. Finding ways to deal with stress around social situations, like talk therapy, may help make social interactions easier for you.
5. You're Chatty
Of course, not every chatty person gives off nervous energy, but if you have an inability to feel comfortable in silence, others may pick up on that.
"As a way to cope, some people will talk fast or excessively in order to avoid [anxious] thoughts and feelings," Matthews says. To others, you may seem highly-caffeinated or tightly-wound, but this is likely a sign that you're experiencing anxiety around social situations.
6. You Rock In Your Chair
Not being able to sit still could be a signal to others that you are giving off nervous energy.
"[A rocking] motion continues to bring comfort and self-soothing when nervous," Matthews says. It reminds your body of days as an infant, but it can be quite noticeable if you do it often. Thinking about when and why you feel the need to rock in your chair to soothe yourself may help you deal with this habit.
7. You Like To Multitask
Multitasking isn't necessarily a nervous habit, but being constantly motivated to accomplish multiple tasks at once can be a sign of anxiety, and be interpreted as "nervous energy" by others.
"[People with nervous energy] may try to multitask in an attempt to discharge the energy," Dr. Klapow says. "All of their actions are designed either consciously or not to get rid of the excess energy in their system." If you can tell that you have a need to control your surroundings at all times, it may be a good time to seek help from a trusted friend or a mental health professional.
It's important not to beat yourself up for exhibiting nervous energy. Most likely, it's your body trying to help you out. "All of [these nervous] actions are designed either consciously or not to get rid of the excess energy in [a person's] system," Dr. Klapow says. "[...] An individual who is filled with nervous energy is on a mission to dial it down — even if they don’t realize that is what they are doing." So if you identify certain nervous habits you may have, then you may be able to find more effective and holistic ways to deal with this anxiety, rather than having to release it throughout the day.