10 Alternatives To Self-Harm

Self-harm, also referred to as self-injurious behavior, refers to actions people take to injure themselves through a variety of methods including but not limited to cutting, punching, biting, or burning themselves. The motivation for self-harm varies, but the goal of these behaviors is typically to cope with negative emotions. Self-harm is not limited to specific genders or age groups. Many adults, teens, and children engage in self-harm instead of using healthy strategies to deal with difficult emotions. It is important to note that many people who self-harm have no desire to kill themselves. However, if emotional problems are left untreated, the risk for suicide grows substantially. When self-harm or any injury occurs, the body releases endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that relieve pain and can produce euphoric feelings. The experience of being flooded with endorphins can actually be addictive, which makes it difficult for the individual to quit harming themselves. The pain also can serve as a distraction from emotional pain or as a form of self-punishment. Some people self-harm as a way to alert other people that they are hurting and need emotional support. Self-harm is

risky because of the possibility of infection, scarring, and cutting deeper than intended. After the intense emotional moment passes, the individual is often left with guilt and remorse over self-harming. There are many alternatives to self-harm. Here are 10 healthy strategies to use when experiencing negative emotions and/or urges to self-harm. I STRONGLY recommend seeking counseling in addition to using these methods. Self-harm is a behavior that stems from deeper mental health concerns. Working with a counselor allows the processing of negative emotions within a safe relationship.

1. Create a positive playlist of songs or videos that are inspiring, uplifting, or funny.

2. Use your 5 senses to get out of your head and into the present moment (which probably isn’t as bad as what is going on in your mind). For example, put on your favorite lotion or essential oil, snuggle up in a cozy hoodie, listen to relaxing sounds (i.e., ocean waves, birds, etc.), take a warm bath, light a scented candle, or mindfully eat a piece of chocolate.

3. Reach out to someone you trust. Even if you do not tell the person exactly what you are feeling, simply talking to someone who cares about you and telling them you are having a difficult time can reduce unpleasant emotions.

4. Change your environment. If you typically self-harm alone in your bedroom, go spend time in a different room around other people. You don’t have to interact with them if you don’t want to. Put in some headphones, watch tv, or read a book.

5. Wait 20 minutes. People often find that if they can put off whatever they are having urges to do for at least 20 minutes, the urge subsides. Watch an episode of your favorite show, go for a walk, play with the dog, take a shower, etc. to distract yourself for at least 20 minutes.

6. Create a coping kit. Put several items in a box to help you manage your emotions in a healthy manner. Any box will do. You can purchase a box from the store or make one yourself. You can decorate the box with magazine clippings or memes. You could also buy a wooden box and paint it yourself. Have fun and get creative! Fill the box with the things you love. Pictures, crafts, quotes, puzzles, journals, books, etc. can be kept in this box for easy access when you are experiencing an emotional crisis.

7. Exercise. Anxiety and anger are emotions that are composed of a lot of energy. Getting this energy out in a healthy manner by exercising can relieve urges to self-harm. Dance, run, jump rope, play with pets, walk, hike, lift weights, etc. to improve your mood.

8. Hug. Hug a pet, stuffed animal, or a person you care about. Physical contact can be comforting.

9. Care for you skin vs. harming it. Wash and lotion the area you typically self-injure.

10. Journal. It sounds cliché, but journaling can effectively relieve negative emotions. Try making a list of all the emotions you’re experiencing. Journals do not need to be written in full sentences. Journals don’t even need to be written with words. Drawing in a journal is beneficial when you don’t have the words to describe your emotions.

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