Alternatives To Self-Harm
Self-harm, also known as self-injury and self-mutilation, is when someone harms themselves in a way that is impulsive and purposeful, but not intended to be fatal. Most self-harm happens in the form of skin cutting, but there are other self-injurious behaviors, such as head banging, burning, scratching, and other actions that cause injury to the body. Self-injury can occur for multiple reasons: because a person is attempting to cope with their emotions, trying to reduce anxiety, because a person is feeling numb and wants to be brought back to reality, or even just dealing with boredom. Self-harm is fairly common, and shows itself mostly in adolescents.
If you think someone you know may be participating in self-mutilation, look for multiple unexplained cuts or burns, difficulty handling feelings and emotions as well as issues that arise in relationships with others. Typically, those who self-harm attempt to cover their injuries, and if they are noticed, there is usually an excuse such as, “I was scratched by my cat.”
Self-harm becomes something that you have to think about all of the time. The pain that people feel is real, but there are better ways to deal with pain.
There are multiple positive outlets, and provided below is a list of alternatives to self-harm.
First, identify why you feel like self-harming.
Do you self-harm because you’re trying to cope with overwhelming emotions (anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, etc.)? Let it out:
- Scream as loud as you can
- Rip up paper
- Punch a pillow
- Kick a ball against the wall
- Run as fast as you can
- Smash ice cubes
- Make a mess
- Play really loud music
- Talk to someone (or yourself)
Do you self-harm because you’re trying to calm yourself down? Practice Mindfulness:
- Take a bubble bath. Breathe deeply.
- Light an incense in a dark room, shine a light on the smoke and watch it. Notice the shapes it makes. Blow on it, how does it change shape?
- Use a mindfulness technique – A great one is the 5-4-3-2-1 strategy:
- Notice 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
- Pet an animal. Really notice what they feel like. Is their fur coarse or silky? If it’s a reptile, are they scaly or slimy?
- Listen to inspirational or calming music. Can you relate to the music? Write down lines that resonate with you.
- Go for a walk. Notice what’s around you. Think of what it was like before everything was there (If you’re in a city, imagine what it was like before everything was built. If you’re in nature, imagine what it looked like when everything was just sprouting)
- Turn on white noise and close your eyes
- Draw (or paint, or do a craft) to express your emotions
- Turn on water. Watch it. See how it changes while it flows.
Do you self-harm because you’re needing to feel pain, or you’re feeling numb? Find a safer way to feel something:
- Snap a rubber band where you typically self-harm
- Hold an ice cube
- Eat something spicy
- Bite into ice cream
- Walk on something uneven (mulch, rocks, brick, legos)
- Take a cold shower
- Eat something sour
- Get a tattoo or piercing
- Put a Band-Aid on. Rip it off.
Do you self-harm because you’re needing to see blood or wanting a new scar? Decorate your body in a more positive manner:
- Draw on yourself with a red marker, or paint on yourself with red paint
- Drip red food coloring into a cup of water
- Draw what you would like to have as a tattoo over where you want to harm
- Smash a strawberry
- Put stickers where you want to harm
- Give yourself a henna tattoo
- Scribble on a piece of paper (or yourself, or a wall, whatever you feel like)
- Fill a balloon with water and red food coloring. Pop it.
- Take your pulse
Be proactive. Lock away things you harm with. Tell someone that you want to harm yourself, then ask them to check in every so often (every hour, 10 minutes, 5 seconds, whatever you think will work best for you) to make sure you don’t harm yourself.
These feelings are terrifying, but you can make it through.
Feeling like you just can’t take it? Text Hello to 741-741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor through Crisis Text Line.