I’m surprised that I haven’t posted anything like this yet, but better late than never. I hope that you or a loved one might find this useful when you have the urge to self-harm. I’m going to go into the various reasons why people self-harm, and try to give you some alternatives and distraction techniques within them. As usual, this post may be triggering.
1.If you want to feel pain or need a physical outlet:
- Get some ice cubes or anything frozen and hold it to where you self harm. This will give you a numb-burning sensation. Hold it there as long as you can, or until it melts
- Snap a hair elastic or rubber band around your wrist.
- Take a hot/cold shower.
- Go to the gym, dance, exercise.
- Scream as loud as you can.
- Put a muscle relaxant cream on the places you want to cut. It induces a tingly sensation. You can find it in most health food stores and vitamin stores.
- Wax your legs/pluck your eyebrows.
- Hit a pillow or a punching bag.
- Throw a cushion against a wall.
- Squeeze a stress ball.
- Play loud music. Pick your favorite songs, or, see my “Playlist for when you need a pick me up” or my “Playlist that lets out anger“. All songs are linked to their YouTube videos, so you don’t have to hunt them down yourself!
- Pour some candle wax onto yourself, but make sure you hold it up high enough so that the wax cools a bit before touching your skin. If it starts to feel like you’re burning yourself, stop immediately.
- Put Elmer’s glue on the area you want to cut. Let it dry and peel it off. (this is good if your method of SI is picking at skin.)
2. If you want to see marks on your skin:
- Take a red marker or soft felt tipped pen and draw lines where you would self harm
- Put on henna, an Indian temporary tattoo-art found at most Indian stores.
- Put on some temporary tattoos. Either buy a package of them and apply as instructed, or draw on yourself with a permanent marker and use hairspray to seal it. You can also find suggestions for how to make temporary tattoos here.
- On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do.
3. If you want to see blood:
- Draw on yourself with a red pen or body paint.
- Cover yourself with plasters where you want to cut
- Make “wounds” with makeup, like lipstick
- Take a small bottle of liquid red food coloring and warm it slightly by dropping it into a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Uncap the bottle and press its tip against the place you want to cut. Draw the bottle in a cutting motion while squeezing it slightly to let the food color trickle out.
- Draw on the areas you want to cut using ice that you’ve made by dropping six or seven drops of red food color into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
- Paint yourself with red temporary paint.
- ‘Cut’ your skin with nail polish (it feels cold, but it’s hard to get off)
- Use red food coloring on your skin
- ** Use this website HERE. Fataltotheflesh.com allows you to “cut” the screen by clicking and dragging your mouse, and blood will appear. Use with caution if blood is triggering to you, or if the sight of it makes you nauseous.
4. If you want to let out your emotions:
- Pick a song that has meaning for you, and write the lyrics on yourself.
- Write a letter to someone or something you are angry with (you don’t have to send it)
- Start a grateful journal where everyday you write down three: good things that happened/ things that you accomplished/ are grateful for/ made you smile. Make sure the journal is strictly for positive things. Then when you feel down you can go back and look at it. (My mom made me do this, and it actually helped! Surrounding yourself with positivity– especially positivity about yourself– does wonders for your mood and state of well-being).
- Call a friend and talk.
- Throw an apple/pair of socks against the wall.
- Have a pillow fight with the wall.
- Viciously stab an orange.
- Scream very loudly.
- Tear apart newspapers, photos, or magazines.
- Write your feelings on paper then rip it up.
- Break sticks.
- The Calm Jar (Fill a mason jar or similar with colored water and glitter. When feeling upset or angry you can shake it to disturb the glitter and focus on that until the glitter settles.)
- Cut up fruits. Try using your hands if a knife is too tempting.
- Allow yourself to cry; crying is a healthy release of emotion.
- Stomp around in heavy shoes.
- Buy a cheap plate and decorate it with markers, stickers, cut outs from magazines, words, images, what ever that expresses your pain and sadness and when you’re done, smash it. (Please be careful when doing this).
- Blow up a balloon and pop it.
Distractions: Just getting your mind off the urge/keeping yourself busy.
- Clean out your room.
- Take a car ride (Please use your own discretion: if you not feel emotionally stable enough to operate a vehicle, you could not only be a danger to yourself, but to others.)
- Take a bath.
- Take a nap (everything is always better when you have time to sleep on it, TRUST ME.)
- Look at constellations
- Watch a feel good movie.
- Do puzzles/oragami/sew/play chess, etc. Anything that keeps your hands and mind occupied.
- Lay on your back in bed comfortably (eyes closed), and breathe in for 4, hold for 2, out for 4, hold for 2. Make sure to fill your belly up with air, not your chest. If your shoulders are going up, keep working on it. When you’re comfortable breathing, put your hand on your belly and rub up and down in time with your breathing. If your mind wanders to other things, move it back to focusing ONLY on the synchronized movement of your hand and breathing.
- Learn to swear in another language.
- Complete something you’ve been putting off.
- Play the A-Z game (Pick a category ie. Animals, and think of an animal for every letter of the alphabet.
- Build pillow/cushion forts.
- Create a story in your head, with your own characters and conflict. (This is great, because it gives you something to focus on long enough to stop the urge. Also, in your own world, YOU are the boss. You don’t have to deal with anyone’s rules, and anything can happen the way YOU want it to. Sometimes it’s okay to escape reality.)
- Funny pictures of animals
These were just a few that I could think of for distractions and alternatives. As usual, if there is anything that you or a loved one does as an alternative to self-harm, please feel free to let me know in the comments!