Last week, I shared a bit about my own experience with self-harm. I wouldn’t feel right sharing that without also offering some advice.
I’ve seen a lot of lists online and many of them have things I would not recommend because they put you in proximity to something potentially dangerous (like cutting fruit) or they still hurt (like snapping a rubber band against your wrist).
The idea here is NOT to cause pain, because self-harm is not just cutting, it’s causing intentional pain. The idea is also to keep you away from items you could use to injure yourself, for obvious reasons.
So, if you self-harm, have thought about it, or know someone that does, here’s some things that can help prevent the desire to self-harm. Some of these are things I’ve used, others are things that worked for friends of mine.
1. Get away from the place you usually self-harm
Personally, I sat on top of my desk. If I had the desire to cut, I needed to get away from that desk. Far away. Go to another part of your house, go outside, go to the grocery store. Just go. Fast.
2. Surround yourself with other people
I don’t care what time it is. Find someone. You don’t even have to talk to them, but it’s highly unlikely
you’ll hurt yourself around someone else.
3. Draw on yourself with red marker
MARKER, not pen or anything that can break skin. By using the same motion as cutting and having the same color appear, you can trick your brain and can provide the same relief without hurting yourself
4. Draw lines on a piece of paper
This time you can use a pen if you want. Draw them hard, rip through the paper if that helps. Again, it can trick your brain if you’re using the same motion. Ripping paper can also help
5. Throw rocks
Obviously somewhere secluded, like a pond. Throwing rocks (or throwing anything, really) can help release strong emotions in a way that doesn’t cause damage. Plus, it gets you outside.
This will sound terrible in the moment. However, running and exercise do cause pain. Good pain, but pain. Sometimes that’s enough. Don’t over-exercise though, because that’s a whole different issue.
7. Find a hobby you enjoy
Read, write, draw, knit, dance, whatever. The only catch is you need to be doing something. Watching TV does not count. You need to be focused on the activity and using your hands if possible. I personally like drawing or some other kind of craft, because I’m using my hands to create instead of destroy.
8. If it’s nighttime, go to bed
I always self-harmed at night, because it was less likely someone would walk in. If that’s the case, go to bed. You’ll feel better when you wake up.
If it’s daytime, you can try taking a nap. Sleeping is a great way to kill time.
9. Take a shower
Take care of your body. Take a shower, put clean clothes on. Remind yourself that your body is something you take care of, not something you hurt. You are worth way too much to hurt.
10. Make a list of things you love about yourself
My therapist in high school had me do this. She asked me if I’d hurt my family, friends, or dog the same way I hurt myself. I told her of course I wouldn’t, I love them.
She looked me in the eye and asked, “Why don’t you love yourself the same way?” Dang. That stuck.
This is hard at first, but it’ll help you realize that you’re a person with value. The first three things I wrote were my eye color, I’m a writer, and I can bake good brownies.
Literally nothing is too small and nothing is stupid. If you like it, write it down.
Most of these boil down to one idea: stall.
Often, the desire to self-harm comes with high emotion and if you give it a few hours, the desire can go away on its own. Anything safe you can do to (safely) keep yourself distracted for a few hours is fair game.
Finally, remember you are loved and valuable. You WILL get through this.