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post #1 of (permalink) Old 05-27-2012, 01:55 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2012
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Self harm coping mechanisms (Trigger Warning)

Please feel free to share your own coping strategies!

Here are a few coping mechanisms that have helped me over the years. The first batch are for immediate use, so if you are in danger of self harming right now, have a look through them. I’d also suggest a quick call to the Samaritans.

The second batch is for more general use. They can also be used for other destructive behaviours, but it takes more time to implement. I suggest you look at these when you are not in a state of urgency.

After some rambling towards the end, I have included a 'No Self Harm Contract' example. This is one I have made for myself and one that I always keep with me. If you are interested in this, fill out the blanks and keep a copy with you at all times. I’d suggest printing 2 – one to carry around with you and the other to keep at home. This is so when you are in that moment; you know exactly what to do.

After reading through this thread, you might find that certain ideas or concepts pop out more to you than others do. I’d suggest writing these down and ignoring the rest, because when you are desperately trying to find something that works, the last thing you want to do is read through a huge ramble and try to find ones that you forgot about.

Coping mechanisms sorted by emotion for immediate use

  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Write down what you are feeling
  • Go to sleep
  • Listen to lively or sad music
  • Write a list of everything you want to do in your life, and make a plan to do one
  • Write to a friend (or call)
  • Go for a walk
  • Read a book
  • Watch something funny
  • Laugh (incompatible emotions – explained later)

  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Punch something (preferably soft, in other words, not a wall)
  • Go for a fast walk or a run
  • Listen to angry music
  • Scream
  • Vigorous exercise (sit ups, push ups, boxing etc.)
  • Throw ice cubes against a shower wall or bathtub
  • Squeeze an ice cube really tightly
  • Scrunch up some paper, unscrunch it and then rescrunch it over again
  • Destroy something (of little or no value, e.g. a book or a toy)
  • Throw things (not at people)
  • Slash an empty plastic bottle or a piece of cardboard or an old shirt or sock etc.
  • Make a cloth doll to represent yourself or the thing you are angry at. Cut and tear it.
  • Stomp on empty cans (with shoes).
  • Have a pillow fight with your wall.
  • Rip up an old newspaper or a phone book.
  • On a sketch or a photo of yourself, mark what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture.
  • Get your hands on some play-doh or plasticine. Throw it. Smash it.
  • Break sticks.
  • Find something you want to tear (for example, let’s say you go with the newspaper). Start off slowly and start ripping and saying why you are angry. Tell the newspaper why you are mad. Start ripping it faster. Increase your speed. You may end up swearing, yelling, crying… it helps to vent.
  • Clean your room
  • Stomp around in heavy shoes

  • Stretch/yoga
  • Laugh
  • Take a bath
  • Light some candles or incense
  • Meditate
  • Listen to Eckhart Tolle!
  • Cry
  • Watch something really intense or funny to take your mind off things

DISCONNECTION (not feeling like you are ‘one’ with yourself)
  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Write down what you are feeling so you can see your emotion
  • Squeeze an ice cube really hard
  • Eat a chili pepper
  • Listen to music that needs focus (a song that you haven’t heard before or one with complicated lyrics)
  • If you play an instrument, play it
  • If you have a pet, play with it
  • Laugh
  • Go for a walk (you can also do this barefoot and feel the ground on your feet – works for me!)
  • Cry
  • Snap a rubber band against your wrist
  • Rub Tiger Balm or something strong under your nose
  • Slap a table top really hard
  • Put your finger in a tub of ice cream or in frozen food (despite how weird this would look to anyone around you… you might want to eat it after instead of putting it back in the freezer).
  • Take a freezing cold shower or bath
  • Breathe. Notice your breaths. See breathing techniques for further info later on.
  • Notice everything around you. What do you see? Count the things you can see. What do you feel? What does it feel like? What can you hear? How many sounds can you hear? Count the sounds you can hear. What do you smell? Count the smells you can smell. What can you taste? What does it taste like? Is it a good or bad taste? You are connecting to your senses.

  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Do a task (such as playing Tetris (yeah) or Minesweeper, sewing, playing an instrument, doing a puzzle) that requires concentration.
  • Choose a random object in your room. Try to describe it, as you would to a blind alien that has never seen this object or even heard of this object before. What does it look like? What colour is it? What does that colour look like? What does it feel like? What does it taste like? What does it smell like? What does it remind you of? Describe it in as much detail as possible.
  • Do the above exercise with something edible. Then eat it. Pay attention to your salivation as you describe whatever it is you are about to eat.
  • Choose a random object, such as a paperclip, and list 30 uses for it (this is harder than it seems).

  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Cry! If you find it hard to cry, watch a sad movie. I suggest Marley & Me, which always makes me bawl like a baby.
  • Go for a bath
  • Light some candles or incense
  • Listen to sad music
  • Write to someone about what you are feeling (Samaritans or friend)
  • If you play an instrument, play it
  • If you have a pet, cuddle it
  • Meditate
  • Go to sleep
  • Hit stuff
  • Let yourself feel and be in the moment. It’s ok to be sad.

  • Write to or call the Samaritans
  • Sleep
  • Urge surf*
  • Watch TV or something that keeps your interest, intensely
  • Draw on the places you want to harm
  • Exercise vigorously
  • Check out ‘yin yoga’ – it genuinely hurts (or it hurts me, at least)
  • Throw ice cubes against a shower wall or bath tub, or squeeze them
  • Eat a chili pepper
  • Make something
  • Keep yourself busy


The general gist of urge surfing is where you tell yourself, “If I still want to self harm in 20 minutes, then I can.” In 20 minutes, re-evaluate your position and tell yourself, “If I still want to self harm in 30 minutes, then I can.” Keep doing this. Try to go to sleep – things seem less intense when there is morning sunlight.

More often than not, this technique will work. It’s worked for me countless times. We get lost in the moment so easily and we think that these feelings, these urges, these cravings are never going to go away. But they will. They will pass, just like every other emotion. We just need to give it some space and give it some time, and accept it for what it is. It is a craving. We don’t need to act on it just yet.

Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique – you can learn more about it or go into more depth here:
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