Beyond Keen's "Hug": 4 tips on how to overcome after "Keen" awareness

Beyond Keen's "Hug": 4 tips on how to overcome after "Keen" awareness

For those of you who are new to our Keen family, welcome home 🏠.

This is a safe place, no judging. Here, at the HabitAware blog, you can just be you and hopefully find some fuel for your soul. 

And ,if you have been part of the Keen family for a while, I’m delighted you're back!

Before I talk about the actionable steps 👣 to take to control of your body focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) & retrain your brain, I do want to take a moment and talk about what it’s like to have a BFRB before finding awareness and taking control.  

Ellen’s BFRB 101: What are Body-focused Repetitive Behaviors? What is hair pulling? What is skin picking?

Body focused repetitive behaviors include hair pulling (trichotillomania), skin picking (dermatillomania), nail biting and other unwanted behaviors. BFRBs are a self-soothing, coping mechanism for anxiety, stress, excitement and even boredom.

Hair pulling and skin picking are beyond our control & while we may want to stop, we can’t just stop and we don’t know why. Shame, Isolation, Self-Stigma and Negative Self-Speak are our constant companions.    

Uncovering Solutions with the Power of Awareness

But they don’t have to be. Looking back on my journey, here’s what I uncovered and continue to PRACTICE each day -- because practice makes it permanent in time.

👣 Step 1:  Acknowledge that having a BFRB is NOT your fault.   

In our weekly newsletters, Aneela often likens BFRBs to diabetes. My mom was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 65, which is a story in itself. It wasn’t her fault and she certainly couldn’t just tell her pancreas to “just stop it and and process my sugar correctly!”

Same with my BFRB.  While others might say “can’t you just stop?” The answer is NO. You can’t just magically stop pulling or picking, just like my Mom couldn’t magically make her body stop giving her diabetes.

We need to let go of that guilt that is both self-imposed and imposed on us by others. They don't get it & we don't have to waste our energy trying to make them understand (though it will go along way in helping them develop compassion & awareness!)

👣 Step 2:  You can make change - but you need to work at it!

Keen helps you work smarter - by building your awareness of unwanted trance-like behaviors.BFRBs do serve a purpose, maybe not the best but albeit an attempt to help us cope and soothe in response to anxiety, stress, boredom, overactivity or inactivity. Others might binge eat, gamble or chronically shop. I pull, you may pick or nail bite.
Deciding that it’s time to change how we let our body and mind process the overactivity or inactivity we encounter daily is hard. But making this decision is the most important part of the process. If you're not ready for change, it's just not going to happen.

👣 Step 3:  Be kind to yourself, starting with a HUG

The best treatment for trichotillomania or dermatillomania is treating yourself right! What I mean by this, is you need to learn to replace negative self-speak with self-love.

Keen bracelet is a hug on your wrist, helping you take control of trichotillomania or dermatillomania.This can start with the "HUG" right there on your wrist: your Keen bracelet. When I’m wearing Keen, and it gently vibrates, I associate the vibration with a gentle hug on my wrist, saying “hey Ellen, you don’t have to do this, hands down and, breathe.”  Whether you catch yourself before you pull or pick or while engaging in your behavior, THANK YOURSELF for your awareness, "hey, good job, I noticed!"

Step 3 is not a Step that you master and cross off your list, but rather one that nourishes you everyday, like water, food and fresh air.  I like to consider Step 3 a practice. We can’t always be good to ourselves but we can choose to practice being kind to ourselves. Give it a try. 

👣 Step 4:  I got a HUG, now I’m going to ________________

Keen is your self care alarm - letting you know you need to take care of your self!When I first started wearing Keen &  I felt the hug, I changed my internal dialogue:
From: “what’s wrong with you Ellen, why can’t you stop” coupled with the slap of negative self speak and shame.
To:  “hey Ellen, you don’t have to do this, hands down, breathe and look around, look within -- “what’s happening right now? how am I feeling right now? What's bothering me right now?”

I began to create a new process and here’s what I learned about how I'm feeling in certain situations:




Passive or frustrated/anxious especially if I’m lost

In my closet choosing what to wear


Reading - anywhere but especially at in bed

Relaxing, resting

At my desk/computer


While talking on the phone

Relaxed, anxious, mad, frustrated -- depending on the person & situation

Waiting in line

Bored, frustrated


True confessions:

I tend to pull BOTH automatically, as well as purposefully/focused.  Before Step 2, I would go to bed with a book knowing I would pull and look forward to the pulling, loving it until my scalp started to ache and hair was all over the floor.  

My ritual included:  running the hair through my teeth, biting off the root, biting the hair into little pieces and dropping the hair on the ground.  I like the sound of the pluck, the feel in my hands, between my teeth, on my lips, and the final sprinkle of hair on the floor.

As I began to uncover these patterns, I moved to Step 4, experimenting with other actions to take after my hug. Here’s what I do now that I have the power of "Keen" awareness & it's hug:




Strategy - what I do once I get the Hug

Hug = awareness, and I pat myself on the back for being aware, then I….


Bored, passive, frustrated/anxious if I’m lost

  • Hold a coffee mug or water bottle in one hand and the wheel with the other

  • I rub a pencil eraser on my lips as I like the feeling

In my closet choosing what to wear


Take deep breaths in and out and then choose what to wear

Reading - anywhere but especially at in bed

Relaxing, resting

I keep a pencils with erasers on my nightstand.  I grab my book & the pencil which prevents me from pulling in bed

At my desk/computer


  • Pencils (like above)
  • Get up and take a short walk
  • Stop working and eat lunch or a healthy snack

While talking on the phone

Relaxing or could be frustrated (depending on whom I’m taking with

  • Grab a pencil
  • Grab a mug, water to put in one hand while the phone is in the other

Waiting in any long line (grocery, store, carpool)

Bored, frustrated

Take several deep breaths in and out

In front of the mirror

Dim the lights before walking in

Set a timer and try to beat it


I like the sensory feeling of the pencil erasers and the cups in my hand & I can’t pull if one hand is on the wheel or a book and the other is holding something else.  

I also like the feeling of deep, slow breaths in and out.  I uncovered that I tend to pull when I’m feeling stressed about not having enough time.  So I’ve added a mantra “I have plenty of time and I know just what to do”. Just saying those words, even if they are not true, calms me down and gives me a reset.  

Today’s Takeaways:  

  1. Having a BFRB is not your fault
  2. You need to be ready - decide you want to change
  3. Replace negative self speak with self love
  4. Notice what’s happening when you get Keen's "Hug" - without judgement
  5. Experiment with replacement activities that feel good to you
  6. Practice 1 - 5 - because "practice makes permanent"!

As always, let me know what you think.  What works for you? Need a little extra help with Keen, we are here for you! 

Ellen - HabitAware Team - TrichotillomaniaEnergetically,
Recovering trichster & HabitAware Director of "Keen" Awareness

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