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
ANGER, FRUSTRATION OR RESTLESSNESS
TRY SOME INCOMPATIBLE EMOTIONS (explained more later)
DISCONNECTION (not feeling like you are ‘one’ with yourself)
WANTING FOCUS OR WANTING TO BE IN THE MOMENT
GENERAL CRAVINGS FOR SELF HARM
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: http://www.mindfulness.org.au/URGE%20SURFING.htm
Coping strategies for non-urgent use
1) POSITIVE SELF INSTRUCTION
Be kind to yourself. Praise yourself. You have come this far, and you have read this, and that’s a great thing. You’re learning more about ways you can stop, or hold off on, self-harm. Well done. Give yourself a hug. Do something you like doing. Tell yourself you’re doing a good job.
2) BEST FRIEND TECHNIQUE
I know this sounds a little odd, but be your own best friend. What would you tell a friend who is going through what you are going through now? What would you say, exactly? What would you do? Think about it, and then tell yourself the exact same thing. Listen to yourself.
3) INTERPRETATION OF EVENTS
Why are you feeling the way you are feeling now? What happened? Can you try to interpret this event in an alternate way? Is there an alternate explanation for these events?
4) AVOID TRIGGERS
Self-explanatory. If you know a certain situation is going to make you want to self-harm, stay away from it. For example, I can’t be around my family for very long or I get very frustrated and I often turn against myself. So I recognise my limit, and then I leave the situation. I avoid putting myself in the position where I have to choose between myself, and myself.
5) CHANGE THE CHAIN OF EVENTS
I’m thinking that there is a pattern in your self-harm. There are similar triggers from similar events, and you usually respond in the same way. Break that pattern. What’s going to happen if this ONE TIME, you don’t resort to self-harm? Try it out, and see. Write about it. Just this one time, give it a go.
6) BUILD IN PAUSE
Stop. Say to yourself, “STOP”. And stop. Think about this. Gain control over this situation right here, right now. You are in this moment. You don’t need to do anything else. Be here, right now, with me. That’s all you have to do. Just stop. Stop your thoughts, stop your actions, stop everything. Breathe. Then continue with another coping mechanism.
7) BREATHING/RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
There are so many of these that I will just share one with you now – the one that has been most effective for me.
Go and light some candles or some incense, or whatever else floats your boat. Go and get in a warm bath, or a shower, or lie down on your bed, or sit down on your floor… whatever helps you to feel grounded. Usually, I just on my floor as it helps me to feel connected. Now breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Breathe in for 6 seconds. Hold it. Hold it for 6 seconds. Now breathe out for 6 seconds. As you are doing this, imagine you are breathing in white light.
Imagine that this white light is circling around your body, picking up all the negative emotions along the way. As you breathe out, you are exhaling black smoke. Continue this breathing exercise, but notice that with each breath out, the black smoke becomes less intense. Soon, it turns grey. It slowly becomes lighter and lighter until you are breathing and AND out white light. Close your eyes while you are doing this.
Check out some more breathing techniques or meditation exercises (you can also create a safe place in your mind – it’s a long technique so if you want to learn more just send a PM my way and I’ll explain, or just Google it).
What would someone that you admire do? What would they say? Imagine they are with you. What are they telling you to do? Listen to them. You admire them for a reason.
9) COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF**
This is actually something that has been very useful for me. I will write more about it and show you an example in my last post on this thread.
10) SHARED REINFORCEMENT
Go and call a sibling. Go and call a friend. Go and call your therapist. Get on SAS and message someone. Email someone. Find SOMEONE and tell them what you are feeling and share the fact that you are not self harming at the moment. Just talk to them about it. Celebrate it. Stay on the phone, or keep writing to them, until the urge subsides. This ties in with urge-surfing as explained in the previous section.
11) INCOMPATIBLE BEHAVIOUR
This is something that all of my therapists have told me to do, but I never listened. Recently I tried this and it worked so I strongly encourage you to give it a go. I’m asking you to do the exact opposite of what you are feeling right now. Where do you want to self-harm? Nurture that area. Wash it gently, bandage it up (without self harming – note that you are bandaging up a clear area) and take care of it. Go and have a warm bath. Light some candles. Listen to happy music. Watch something funny. Do the opposite of what you are feeling.
These emotions are struggling and they are fighting each other. We want the positive emotions to win, so give it a little extra strength and encouragement. Ignore the negative emotions – we don’t want them here anymore. They aren’t welcome at the moment. We don’t want them to consume you, because right now I want you to take care of yourself.
4 things to consider before you harm yourself, and self-care
Do you still want to hurt yourself?
So you’ve tried everything above, or at least most of it. You’ve made a contract with yourself, you’ve slept it off but these feelings are still there and they are very distressing to you. You’ve called the Samaritans, you’ve called a friend, but there is still a massive craving in the back of your mind. It feels like self-harm is the only option, at the moment. I understand how this feels and you must be in a really bad place right now, and I’m sorry that you are feeling this way. I’d like you to consider 4 things right now.
1) Why do you need to hurt yourself? What has made you want to do this?
2) Have you been in this situation before? What did you do to deal with it then? How did you feel about it then?
3) What are the things you have done that have helped you to ease the discomfort? What coping mechanisms have you tried? Can you try any more? What else can you do that won’t hurt you?
4) Will you regret this decision later on? How will you feel about it tomorrow? Do you still really WANT to do it?
If you do self harm (which I hope you don’t)…
Warning - this might be triggering for some people.
If you have self-harmed, I want you to take care of yourself afterwards. I hope that you have used something that is safe– hopefully something that has been disinfected. I’m going to list very basic things you should do if your method of self-harm is cutting.
1) Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure (with a tissue or a cloth) to the cuts to slow it down. Keep holding it there until the bleeding has stopped completely.
2) Run your wounds under warm water. Do not use soap or any other products. Putting your wounds under warm water is going to hurt, by the way.
3) Dry up your wounds and let it air for a little while, applying pressure if the bleeding starts up again.
4) Bandage your wounds snugly.
5) The next day, take off the bandages and rinse it again in warm water. Still, do not use product or soap on it. Just warm water.
6) Air dry it, and then bandage it again.
7) Once you see it starting to heal slightly, you can use antiseptic cream to ward off any infection. I just use normal moisturiser, but that’s your call. Keep it bandaged, and if you don’t want it to scar then keep it out of the sunlight. Let it heal.
As a general rule – do not put anything on an open wound that you would not put on your eyeball.
Do not keep whatever instrument you have used within easy reach. Either throw it away now, or if you feel like you aren’t ready for that yet, then hide it in a really inconvenient place. Put it on top of a really high cupboard or on a shelf that you can’t reach without a chair, or something. This will work very well in conjunction with urge surfing. You need to create some space between the urge to self-harm and the act of self-harming. One CAN exist without the other, even if in the moment it seems like it can’t.
Take care of yourself. You are worth fighting for.
Here is a little reminder of what you deserve.
And if you need a distraction, check out Desiderata by Max Ehrmann.
The link below is primarily for suicidal feelings but you can also use it for self-harm.
As mentioned below, the Samaritans email is,
You can also Google "Samaritans in..." and wherever you live. There will be a phone number.
And lastly, live 24-hour chat with trained volunteers (primarily for suicidal feelings but you can also use it for self-harm)
They stress the fact that they are all Christian on there quite a lot. If you are not religious, please don't let that turn you off. I'm not religious but I occasionally use them, and they are totally fine with that. They have worked for me before and they are very direct (in a gentle way) and supportive. They are incredibly useful when you are feeling completely alone and need to connect with another human being. Sometimes it just helps to know that someone out there is reading your thoughts and responding to them with care.
**No Self-Harm Contract
I, ________________________ pledge to myself, that if I feel I might be in danger of harming myself, I will call my psychiatrist/therapist, _________________, at ________________or find a professional I can talk to either in ______________, or ________________.
If my counsellor or psychiatrist is not available I will call _________________ at _________________ .
I may also email ____________________, at ______________________, or ___________________ at ____________________.
Other people I can talk to or contact are:
1) SOS Hotline at __________________________
2) SOS email (for non-emergencies or to vent) at [email protected]
3) New Hope online counselling at http://www.newhopenow.org/counseling/liveperson.html
4) (Include a hospital name and address)
5) _____ at _____________________
6) _____ at _____________________
7) _____ at _____________________
8 ) _____ at _____________________
Other things I may do or try include:
1) Go to sleep
2) Watch a funny movie
3) Cry and allow myself to feel
4) Check my coping mechanisms and try every one depending on the feeling at hand
5) Urge surf
6) Find support elsewhere
8 ) Read a book
9) Write down everything I am angry or upset about.
I am likely to feel better tomorrow, and if I don’t, I will contact someone immediately to gain advice and support. I know these people are here to support me and I promise to try these coping mechanisms before I hurt myself. If I break this contract, I will take action and tell someone about it.
Dated, __________________________________________________ _
Side note - Please keep in mind that you have to personalise your contract to make sure you stick to it. There's no point in including "write" if you don't write, or including a psychiatrist/therapist if you don't currently have one. Make it your own!
This is a great post. :) Thank you! :high5
Very interesting. Thanks. :)
I have used the technique (which my Therapist told me about) of drawing with a red marker on the places you want to self harm. It's great if you're a visual person like myself but it can also give you that feeling without actually hurting yourself. :)
I haven't tried it but she also suggested the ice cube method which is similar to the red marker method described above. :)
This post is very helpful :)
*nods* Very good. Very useful points there.
Just FYI- I got your message but I haven't found a good time to reply yet.
I agree with posters. Good post :)
This is a fantastic post. People like you give me hope for this forum. Thankyou.
Wow this has good advice..thankyou :)
I think those were some great posts. Thank you for writing those out for people. I had suffered with bad cutting for around 3 years. One day, during a hospital stay, I finally was fed up with being out of control with it and made the decision to try everything in my power to stop. I had a few slip-ups along the way, but I have it under control now. Even more than that - I have no urges whatsoever. I'm very proud of myself for fighting it. I feel very much for everyone who is currently struggling with self-harm, and I hope that you can find the strength to fight it and use the methods described here.
For me personally, I used red marker on my arms and just went to town with it. I also painted with red paint whenever I felt myself getting lost. It grounded me and made me pay attention to whatever it was I was painting. And it also satisfied my mind's need to see red. The red marker and red paint kinda did a "fake-out" to my mind, giving it that colour soothed me a bit.
My current coping mechanism, for whatever overwhelming emotion I have, is music. And I don't mean calmly listening to it. I mean, when I'm home, I turn it up loud, I stomp around the room if I need to and I just sing my heart out. I just let it all out as much as I can. If I focus on the music, I can get that energy out instead of it turning self-destructive.
Everyone is gonna have their own unique way of fighting it. Nobody give up if one thing doesn't help, there are so many techniques and ways to help.
Thank you so much, I'll try some of these next time I get an urge.
I was having a really bad day a few weeks ago and called the mental hospital crisis team and they came to my apt. with at least 10 cops when I told them I just needed to talk.
This was really a nice post! It's good to keep in mind (I've never self harmed but have considered it too many times)
If anyone on here wants to make a friend to talk about this though, and vent and such, feel free to inbox me or add me on facebook even! I know there are a lot of people who self harm and have a lot of things bottled up that they feel they can't share with friends or family but need an outside person.
Really good post :)
Also - less thinking, just, keep yourself busy as much as possible.Hell, it worked for me :)
Great threat thank you :hugs: http://cdn.sasstatic.com/forum/image...s/highfive.gif
i also find medication does help if there is that instant desire that overcomes you to self harm or do something drastic. I had an overwhelming urge yesterday with missing home and being surrounded by people with the exception of my lovely hubby who do not understand SA let alone mental illness or medication so i had to take lorazepam but it was a hard and very tempting emotion.
This is nice.
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