Coping Cards

I Can Do It—Again

“I can do it again,” aka knowing I’ll eventually get out of the BFRB-low, is a comforting reminder for me when facing major setbacks.

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy and strength to deal with my BFRBs. In these times, I’m fully aware of my skin picking and cheek biting (nail biting hasn’t taken center stage in a long time—knock on wood 🤩).

I know what I’m doing, but I’m not fighting it. To be fair, I don’t do as much damage to my skin as I used to. Maybe that’s because I’m more aware of my picking and biting?

Also, I no longer “dig” and patch up spots and use blockers early. Some of my BFRB coping techniques have even become new healthier habits, which is very helpful.

Of course, setbacks are always frustrating and annoying. But I no longer let them affect my days and my mood. Knowing I “can do it again” gives me comfort in pulling myself out of the BFRB low.

Once I have more energy, I know I can return to my BFRB coping techniques, do my breathing exercises, journal, and take good care of my inner child.

Some days are just more challenging than others. And sometimes, BFRBs are just easier to deal with than other times. And that’s okay. BFRB recovery is not linear.

I send you much love, Anja 💙


Cold Sores & Canker Sores from Cheek Biting & Lip Picking

Have you ever gotten cold or canker sores from cheek biting or lip picking? Let me tell you how most of my blisters and sores result directly from my Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors and how I got them under control. 

Since my youth, I’ve struggled A LOT with painful sores on my lips and the inside of my cheeks.

It took me ages to make the connection that I get cold sores from lip picking and canker sores from cheek biting. 

I’m glad I’ve reached a point in my BFRB recovery where I rarely get them anymore (knock on wood).

Below I’ll show you what I’ve learned and which BFRB coping methods have worked so far.

Getting cold sores from lip picking and lip biting

As a teenager, I got one cold sore after the other. I already got a new one before the previous one was fully healed

Picking my lips made the cold sores get bigger and out of control. It got so bad over a weekend that I went to the hospital, where I got a prescription drug. Since then, I’ve made sure to always have the medication at home.

Finally, in my twenties, I realized that when I’m nervous or worried, I pick my lips or bite the inside of my lips. And whenever my lips bleed, I get cold sores quickly.

At the time, I didn’t know how to control the lip picking and lip biting nor the emotions that caused the behavior. 

Fortunately, with the help of some coping methods, I rarely get cold sores anymore. In this post, I will share the coping techniques that have worked well for me so far.

4 ways to help with lip picking and not get cold sores 

1.     Moisturizing lips:
I apply lip balm every other hour or so. Moisturizing lips helps prevent chapping and mask rough patches—the stickier and thicker the lip balm, the better. When you unconsciously touch your lips, the tacky consistency reminds you not to. I mainly use Vaseline Lip Therapy, but please comment below if you have better recommendations! 

2.     Exfoliating lips:
My lips’ rough and cracked skin triggers the urge to pick and bite. To smooth the skin, I exfoliate it with a mixture of honey and sugar (2/1). Don’t overdo it—you shouldn’t do it more than once a week!

3.     Wearing finger cover:
I wear finger covers as a barrier against picking the skin around my fingers. But they also help against mindless lip picking. Wearing a thumb cover makes picking impossible!

4.     Fidget toy for busy hands:
Fidget toys are always helpful to keep the hand busy and from feeling the skin on the arm, face or lips which triggers the picking urge.

Getting canker sores from cheek biting

I don’t even know when I started biting my cheeks. I engaged in that BFRB without noticing it. I often got painful canker sores, but it took me forever to realize that I got them from cheek biting.

It usually starts by nibbling the insight right corner of my lip. The rough skin then triggers to bite even more and increases the urge to create a smooth surface. And this is where the never-ending biting cycle begins.  

Cheek biting is the most accessible BFRB for me, and that’s probably why I do it most to seek comfort and relieve frustration, anxiety, and overwhelm.

I find cheek biting particularly difficult to control as it’s nearly impossible to create barriers and easy to hide the damage.

I got my cheek biting somewhat under control—more nibbling than biting—through awareness and these BFRB coping methods. 

5 ways to control cheek biting to avoid canker sores

1.     Rinsing with Mouthwash: 
Mouthwash has a burning sensation. Despite the slight discomfort, I rinse my mouth with it until the burn fades away. I feel like it distracts a bit from the urge to bite. 

2.     Wearing a mouthguard
The mouthguard is the ultimate barrier against biting your cheeks, lips, and nails. I wear it to prevent cheek biting and to give the skin a chance to heal when it’s too late.

3.     Nibbling & Snacking:
Chewing gum, hard candy, or the intense sensation of sour candy are the good old classics to keep the mouth busy or distracted. Healthier alternatives include snacking on nuts and sunflower seeds or crunchy veggies like carrots, celery sticks, or kohlrabi. (Hunger is also one of my BFRB triggers, so snacks help with that too!)

4.     Chewy fidget toys:
Snacking obviously is not a long-term solution, so I often use a chewy fidget toy to get the nervous energy out of my jaw. It sometimes helps to curb the urge to bite.

5.     Puffing out my cheeks 
I puff out my cheeks when I notice that I bite my cheeks. This little pause allows me to create awareness of what I am doing. I find it especially helpful when I’m out and about. 

Wrinkles from making weird shapes with my mouth

I don’t know if it’s age, but certain lines around my mouth seem to be caused by my mouth distorting when I bite my cheeks.

I have no solution for that. But I’ll just leave that statement here as it is. Maybe it serves as a motivator or reminder not to bite your cheeks 😉

Coping Cards

BFRB Beauty Basics

What has your BFRB taught you?

I’ve learned so much about BFRBs and, consequently, about myself. And I’m still on my way to learning more. I wish I had known many things sooner, but better late than never, eh?

In BFRB recovery, in addition to avoiding inflammation and pain, we focus so much on having spotless skin, smooth fingers, or stunning long hair or nails—to look a certain way and fit a certain beauty profile.

However, BFRB recovery is much more than that. It’s about inner healing, unlearning trauma, and getting to know yourself.

It might sound strange, but I’m grateful for my BFRBs and what they’ve taught me.

For example, these are some things I’ve learned so far on my BFRB recovery journey, aka my BFRB Beauty Basics:

💙 More self-love
💙 Less self-doubt
💙 More self-acceptance
💙 I’m good enough
💙 Creating awareness helps to heal in many aspects
💙 More self-compassion and patience
💙 Less perfectionism

What would you add to this list?

I send you much love, Anja 💙


The Role of Emotions in BFRBs

Emotions are communicators and play a big role in Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors. Even if we are not always aware of our feelings, they strongly influence our picking, pulling, and biting behavior.

It’s essential to be in tune with our emotions when an urge occurs to help recognize what may have triggered it.

Anxiety, stress, and nervousness are the most common feelings associated with BFRBs.

But our emotions are much more than that. We even engage in our BFRB when we seem to be feeling just fine. Therefore, becoming aware of our feelings and their reasons is crucial for BFRB recovery.

Put emotions into words to better understand your BFRB

I didn’t have the vocabulary to name my feelings. In my family, there are two emotions: “I’m fine” and “not so fine.” It was an interesting experience to dig deeper to answer questions in therapy like “how did that make you feel” or “what are you feeling right now?”.

When we verbalize our feelings, our fears, worries, and pain become less intense. That’s why talking to a friend or therapist can make us feel better about getting the most out of our system.

See your BFRBs as inner alarms telling you to take a break, not take things too seriously, set boundaries, or focus on your mental health to heal and feel better. Jeez, sometimes I think my BFRBs know me better than I do!


3 Ways to Track Emotions

Tracking our emotions is almost as important as logging the BFRBs themselves. This encourages us to reflect on why we feel a certain way, which can help us find a solution to prevent picking, pulling, or biting.

1.     Log Your Emotions Using a Mood Tracker App

At the beginning of my BFRB healing journey, I used Mood-Log (by Barry Langdon-Lassagne). It is an app where you can choose from many emotions and make notes. I tracked the overall summary of my feelings at the end of the day. This app has helped me name my emotions and look for patterns in how my moods changeover time based on different situations and circumstances.

Emotion tracker app

2.     Simultaneously log your emotions and BFRB

As mentioned above, emotions and BFRBs are closely intertwined. And because logging both is super helpful for my BFRB recovery, I created the BFRB Awareness JournalNow I have this one place where I can put my emotions into words and analyze the situation that triggered my BFRB.

3.     Journal Speak

Set a timer for 10–20 minutes, and just vent by writing whatever comes to mind. I like to delete what I’ve written after the timer runs out. Shredding the paper or permanently deleting the file makes me feel safer and freer to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I learned this super helpful technique on the podcast The Cure for Chronic Pain.


Feelings, thoughts, and urges won’t last forever. They come and go like the clouds in the sky. So try to locate your emotions in your body and stay with them until they go away. I know this can be difficult but becoming aware of and accepting them makes this process more manageable over time.

Do you track your emotions or your BFRBs? Let me know in the comments below!

Sending you much love, 


Take BFRB Progress Photos

Taking progress photos of your BFRBs can help you stay on track, reduce negative self-talk or motivate you to achieve goals. 

It never occurred to me to take pictures of my ragged fingers and skin, which I’m ashamed of. If anything, I used to edit the spots. 

But seeing other people’s photos of their BFRB struggles on social media encouraged me to capture my healing journey with its ups and downs.

I photograph the best and worst conditions of my BFRB-prone areas and collect my progress photos in two separate entries in my Notes app.

The BFRB setback jar and BFRB praise jar

The setback images help me as a BFRB coping reminder that I no longer want to be in this condition. When I took these pictures, I was in pain and unhappy with the way my skin looked. I felt defeated, ashamed and weak in these moments. 

On the other hand, every time I took the “success” pictures, I felt proud, confident, and happy. Sometimes I even have to pinch myself (in a non-BFRB way) because I can’t believe that the hands I’m looking at are mine!

Document your BFRB healing journey with progress photos

I find the positive pictures more helpful for my BFRB healing journey. When I experience setbacks, and I’m like, “this is my reality; I’ll never have nice nails anyway,” I’ll look at my BFRB praise jar folder and know I can get my fingers and skin to look like this again. 

Being on a BFRB healing journey can be daunting because setbacks are part of it, and at times it can feel like you’re not making any progress at all. This is where the BFRB progress photos come in handy.

When I look back on my journey, I see that the damage I am currently doing is not as severe as it used to be or that the “good times” are occurring more frequently. It’s important to stop and look back every now and then to see how far you’ve come. Your future self will be grateful that you didn’t give up and kept going.  

How about you? Do you take BFRB progress photos? What helps you better, the positive or the negative ones?