The following is a list of things that might help you avoid self-harming. Even if it just delays the process for a few minutes it will be a success and you will have made a great achievement. However, after some time you might find that you can avoid harming yourself at all by using these less damaging coping mechanisms.
These ideas have been suggested by many different people – they will each work for some people and not others. But don’t give up! Work at finding something that helps you cope, and use it as much as possible.
This list isn’t exhaustive – there are lots of things that might not be here that work really well for you. If you have an idea that isn’t on this list, email us and let us know.
If you are angry, frustrated, restless…
Do something physical not directed at a living thing:
- Pray out loud. Rant and rave at God about how you feel and what you want to do. He can take it, He’s bigger than you! God would rather we talk to Him in our anger than not talk to Him at all.
- Put your favourite CD on and dance.
- Clean your room (or your whole house).
- Go for a walk/jog/run.
- Stomp around in heavy shoes.
- Use what you would normally use to cut on an empty plastic bottle, a piece of heavy cardboard, an old shirt or sock, or anything else you can think of that it’s okay to destroy.
- Flatten aluminium cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go.
- Hit a punching bag, or use a pillow to hit a wall.
- Rip up an old newspaper or phone book.
- On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture.
- Use Play Doh to make models of yourself or what you’re angry at, and cut or smash them.
- Break sticks.
These things can work even better if you rant at the thing you are cutting/ tearing/hitting. You can start out slowly, explaining why you are hurt and angry, but it’s okay to sometimes end up swearing and crying and yelling. It can help a lot just to vent what you are feeling.
If you are sad, melancholy, depressed, unhappy…
Do something slow and soothing, something that makes you feel taken care of and comforted:
- Curl up with a Bible and read a favourite psalm or passage that reminds you how much God loves you.
- Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles.
- Curl up under a duvet with hot cocoa and a good book.
- Light sweet-smelling incense.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Smooth body lotion into the parts or yourself you want to hurt.
- Call a friend and talk about things that you like.
- Find some comfort food and tuck yourself into bed with it to watch TV or read.
- Visit a friend.
If you are craving sensation or feeling unreal (depersonalisation or dissociation)…
Do something that creates a sharp physical sensation:
- Squeeze ice hard. Note: putting ice on a spot you want to burn gives you a strong painful sensation and leaves a red mark afterward, like burning would.
- Put a finger into a frozen food (like ice cream) for a minute.
- Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root.
- Rub Vicks or some other menthol liniment under your nose.
- Slap a tabletop hard.
- Wear a rubber band on your wrist and ping it.
- Take a cold bath.
- Stomp your feet on the ground.
- Focus on how it feels to breathe. Notice the way your chest and stomach move with each breath.
Some people report that being online while dissociating increases their sense of unreality; be cautious about logging on in a dissociative state until you know how it affects you.
If you are wanting focus…
Do something that is exacting and requires focus:
- Select a Bible passage and count the number of words, then the number of letters in each word.
- Do a task (a computer game like tetris or minesweeper, writing a computer program, needlework, etc)
- Choose an object in the room. Examine it carefully and then write as detailed a description of it as you can. Include everything: size, weight, texture, shape, colour, possible uses, feel, etc.
- Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses for it.
- Pick a subject and research it on the web.
If you are wanting to see blood or wounds…
Simulate blood in other ways:
- Draw on yourself with a red felt-tip pen.
- Take a small bottle of red food colouring and use it to draw lines on yourself using a cotton bud or the wrong end of a teaspoon. The thickness and colour is very similar to blood and forms in the same way.
- Draw on the areas you want to cut using ice that you’ve made by dropping six or seven drops of red food colour into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
- Freeze ice cubes with tomato ketchup in the middle, simulating both sensation and blood.
- Get a henna tattoo kit. You put the henna on as a paste and leave it overnight; the next day you can pick it off as you would a scab and it leaves an orange-red mark behind.