When I was a kid my parents were always trying to get me to stop biting my nails. Nothing worked, no matter how hard they tried or what punishments were doled out. I was a bundle of nervous tension as a kid and biting my nails always gave me some strange sort of comfort. I know that’s a lame excuse, but most stupid habits are underpinned by lame excuses, right?
Actually, I kept on biting them well into adulthood, possibly as some sort of subconscious act of rebellion, and then last week I suddenly stopped, and I now have a very conscious desire to never, ever, bite them again.
The thing that so decisively ended this long running habit was the exact same thing most of us are probably now thinking a lot more about about in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis: Hygiene. After reading some of the more responsible and informative articles about the Coronavirus epidemic the idea of sticking my fingers in my mouth suddenly seemed disgusting to me, so that’s that. No more nail biting.
The next step for me was to stop touching my own face. It makes so much sense: You touch a surface, then put your hands near your mouth, nose or eyes… Welcome to Virus Town! Population You!
The logical part of my brain immediately adapted to “let’s not touch ones own face then” mode, but there is a more automatic part of my brain that seems to want to do exactly that all the damn time. Once I became aware of it I was truly amazed at how often my hands found their way to various parts of my face. It’s like my hands have been fitted with some sort of magnetized homing device that sends them right up to my face whenever I’m not paying attention.
I know I’m not alone. I look around me and people are constantly sticking their fingers in their mouths, rubbing their eyes, and generally inviting all sort of germs inside to party. I had this conversation with a guy at my work yesterday and we both caught each other touching our own faces FIVE TIMES in a two minute conversation. How ironic is that? (…someone alert Alanis Morissette at once!) We were talking about the dangers of touching our own faces, and yet neither of us seemed to be able to leave our own faces alone!
I’m not panicking about this, nobody should, but I do have ageing parents, a sister with a respiratory condition, and a big European holiday coming up, so I have some skin in this game and a fervent desire to avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19 if at all possible. I can’t control the spread of the virus, but I can control my response to it, so that’s why I’m stepping up my hygiene game, which is not such a bad idea anyway.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to watch my hands.