• Self harm - information and coping mechanisms

TSR Wiki > Life > Health and Relationships > Mental Health > Self Harm


Things to do before the urge hits

  • Keeping a tally.

If you tend to have decent runs of not SI-ing, then fail and do it, do a tally. Write ``days I self injured in one column, and ``days I didn't in the other. At the end of every day, draw a line in either column, depending on if you self injured or not that day. Over time, those tallies in the ``didn't SI box will grow, making you feel better.

  • Try not to be alone

Visit a friend, go shopping, or go to a public place.

  • Simpler goal... choose one day of the week. For example, Wednesdays. And say- I will NOT cut on Wednesday's ever. Eventually you can add another day, such as Wednesday and... Sunday. And so forth.
  • Avoid temptation

Avoid the aisle in the supermarket where razors are kept, buy only small packs of over-the-counter medications etc. Keep dangerous things out of your home.

  • If you can't throw them away, make your SI tools inaccessible
  • Wrap lots of sellotape round them that you'll need to pull off before you can use them
  • Freeze them into a block of ice that you'll have to thaw to get at them
  • Put them in a locked box, and throw away the key to the box.
  • Wear a pipe cleaner or something that will fit on the places that you injure.

One person did this as a way to remind herself that she could call someone instead of hurting herself and that she had other ways to cope.

  • Make a rule:

I have a rule. that I'll never cut at work. I've been tempted many times... to run to the bathroom and take out my little boxcutter and do it... but i promised myself that i won't do anything there

  • Write out a list of all the reasons why you want to stop injuring yourself, and keep it with your tools.
  • Write out a list of friends whom you can call when you feel like SI-ing.
  • Make a list of crisis lines such as Samaritans, Bristol Crisis Service for Women, etc. with the phone numbers and times they are open.
  • Make a contract with someone else

Make it someone you care about and who cares about you. Don't have to ``know them in the real world - Internet friends etc. are fine. Make sure you try to get in touch with them when you feel like SI-ing (but of course don't get extra depressed, with internet friends, if they aren't around cos they aren't online - keep a list of phone numbers too.)

  • Talent: Write down one thing that you are good at on a piece of paper. Carry this paper with you and whenever you feel bad, add another talent to it. If you run out of talents, think of good features etc.
  • Compliments book: Carry a small notebook around with you. Whenever anyone pays you a compliment or thanks you or says something nice about you, write that down. Reread them all when you feel down or bad about yourself.
  • Calendar: Keep a calendar especially for your SI. Put a sticker on each day that you are SI free. At the end of each week look back at which days you hurt yourself. Try to beat that next week. If you get a month full of stickers, buy yourself a treat, like a new top or something.
  • Collecting: Collect something. Beanie babies, anything. when you feel really bad either buy a new one or admire your collection or plan your next addition (e.g. shop online and look at the newest ones)
  • Emergency box: Get a box and decorate it any way you like. Inside put things that make you happy, distractions, special photos or letters, and your lists of phone numbers and reasons not to SI. Only open it in an emergency, or it loses its specialness. About once every two or three months entirely change the contents. Have an SO or a friend, or your child pick something special to put into the box while you're not looking so that there will be a surprise for you when you do have to open it.
  • Emergency tape: Make a tape to listen to when you are particularly down or vulnerable. You might choose all happy songs to put on it, or you might find it helps to choose sad songs that might enable you to cry.
  • Carry safe objects in your pockets. These can include stones, crystals, small books, and stress relieving squishy things. Anything that feels right to you.
  • H.A.L.T. Avoid getting Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired
  • Work out what it the hardest time of the day for you, and plan regular activities to occupy you during that time.
  • Identify risky situations that may prove problematic for you. How can you avoid them, or prepare for them so as to be safe?
  • Make an urge card: This is a small card that fits in your wallet to carry everywhere. On it list healthy coping strategies, reasons not to SI, positive statements about yourself, whatever will help you most.
  • Award yourself tokens: When you reach a milestone like 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or whatever, award yourself a token that you put on your website, in your signature, or print out and carry around. There are several available on the web: shatteredinnocents, BUSBoard, and naked-dave.
  • System of rewards: Make a big deal of EVERY DAY that you make it. "What I did was go out and get lots of thin bracelets, and some really pretty ones and i put on a new thin one every day I'm SI free, then when i make it a week/2 weeks/a month (depends) I'm allowed to wear one of the really nice ones that I love, and then if i SI, i have to take them all off and start again. But i love the bracelets and don't want to start again so I'm less likely to do it. "

Learning Exercises

  • Journal.

Write in your journal why you want to hurt yourself, what caused it to happen, the words leading up to it the time of day, any patterns and how you responded and how you felt afterwards. So in the future you can prevent it from happening by avoiding the triggers, or by spotting triggers during the lead up when you still have control and then responding in a different way; find out what your triggers were. Review your journal weekly

  • Letter-writing

Write a letter to the person or problem that is upsetting you, or even a letter to your SI. You don't need to post it: either keep it or destroy it by burning the paper or tearing it up. Or write yourself an "I love you because" letter.

  • Pozzies

Write out a list of all the positive things in your life at the moment, even really small things.

  • Real's Two Lists

For ONE, write EVERYTHING you have EVER (not just as an adult) enjoyed, found to be fun/adventurous/etc., or was uplifting for you, etc. Don't censor out anything. When I heard about this idea, I thought of lots of things I had never done but would love to do, so I created these things into list TWO. Go through ONE, circling, ticking or marking in some way the "positive" things you could do again. Then start introducing the things on lists ONE and TWO into your life. (Full version here)

  • Write out why you don't deserve to be hurt.
  • If you haven't already, write out all the reasons why you want to stop SI.
  • Talk to yourself in a language you don't know very well.

Sometimes it helps stop the urges when I talk to myself in French because I don't have enough words to talk about the bad things, so I'm forced to concentrate on things that are more simple.

  • Post on BUS (bodies under siege) about how you are feeling. Use moodscope and fill in a moodscope diary online and nominate buddies.
  • Listen to a song you like and try to write down all the lyrics without looking at the liner notes.
  • Talk to yourself out loud or into a tape-recorder.
  • Make affirmation tapes inside you that are good, kind, gentle (Sometimes you can do this by writing down the negative thoughts and then physically re-writing them into positive messages)
  • Ask yourself what you need, identify what is bothering you. Then tell other peoplel what you need.
  • Send yourself an encouraging email:

"If I know I'm gonna have a bad day and I don't think I can get through it I email myself the night before and say things like you can do, you're strong, and all that. It kinda helps."

  • Brainstorm all the options and choices you have right now.
  • Spill your thoughts by writing continuously for as long as you can. Then if you want, tear it up.
  • Read books or articles about SI.


  • Fading color
  • Writing words in the sand to be washed away.

The person suggesting this wrote ``When I was near a beach one thing that I found really helpful was to find a secluded spot and write the self-hate words that were haunting me in the sand, and watch as the waves washed them away. It felt cleansing... as if the waves were literally washing the words off of me.

  • Allow yourself to cry.
  • Visualize your troubles melting away. Or visualize bad memories being put in sealed airtight containers.
  • Make a containment box.

A containment box is something that can be done mentally or physically. What you're doing is creating a place where you can store uncomfortable memories until you are better able to deal with them. Some people like to visualize the box in their mind and see the memory go in there. Other people prefer to make an actual container out of a shoe-box or something and write their memories down on a piece of paper and put it away in the box. I don't think one way necessarily works better than the other. All you're really trying to do is set aside what is overwhelming until you are equipped to deal with it.

  • Ask yourself: Will I still feel this way in a minute? an hour? a day? a week? a month? a year? How long will this make me angry/sad for? Is it worth it?
  • Word repetition:

Write down a word best associated with what you are feeling (i.e. horrible, sad, lonely, angry) and continue to write it down, over and over. Sometimes when you do that, the words looks silly etc., and it puts humor or a smile in your life.

  • Don't be hard on yourself for feeling this way.

Try not to beat yourself up inside by calling yourself names or expecting yourself to just "not feel this way" or to "snap out of it." This internal name-calling and self-verbal abuse will only make you feel worse.

  • Make a list of all the good things in yourself - for example: kind, considerate to others, hard worker, etc.
  • Look at photos of happy times. This might make you feel sad, but sometimes it might help you to cry.
  • Tell yourself rational, encouraging things:
  • "This is a down day, but I know from experience that it will pass and I will feel good again."
  • "When I count up the good things, the reasons to hope, I know these feelings are irrational and therefore I will ignore them and do something to stop feeling them."
  • "Everyone has moods like this--it's part of being human; but I don't have to let a temporary thing cause me to ruin everything I have accomplished - I'll wait it out."
  • Remember that you have littles/inner children who may be very scared.

Watching someone self-harm is a very scary thing to witness and your lils maybe be aware of what you are doing. If you really feel you are going to self-harm, you may need to get them to a safe place. This also applies if you are a parent with external children; you probably should not have them there when you are self-harming.

  • Lose the "should-could-have to" words. Try... "What if"
  • Act as if you feel good

Smile, deliberately put a jauntiness into your step, put on an alert, interested expression, make yourself talk cheerfully to people, hum or whistle a cheerful tune--often, when we ACT like we feel good, we start FEELING good.

  • Make a list of your accomplishments.
  • Notice black & white thinking, catastrophising, irrational self-blame.
  • Identify distorted thoughts and turn them into positive ones.

E.g. If you're thinking, "I'm a bad person.", you could tell yourself, "I'm a good person and I deserve to be happy and loved".

  • Repeat positive thoughts to yourself while looking at your reflection in a mirror.

The theory behind this is that looking in your own eyes helps to aid in conveying the message to your brain. It is not a quick transformation. It takes time to reverse the years and years of negativity you've likely experienced but with practice and consistency it can change a lot.

  • Visualize a bright red "stop" sign. Symbolically disallow those thoughts to continue.
  • Choose a color that makes you feel safe or calm (preferably not black). Repeat the name of the color again and again either out loud or silently. Imagine the uncomfortable scene is being washed away and replaced with that color.

Imitating SI

  • Snap a rubber band around your wrist.
  • Draw on yourself with a red pen. Make it look like cuts or scratches, or write words. Only use non-toxic ink.
  • Squeeze ice cubes in your hands - the cold causes pain in your hands, but it is not dangerous or harmful. (Note: putting ice on a spot you want to burn gives you a strong painful sensation and leaves a red mark afterward, kind of like burning would.)
  • Use a toothbrush on your skin instead of a razor.
  • Squeezing tissues

I find it helpful if I take tissues and squeeze them HARD in my hands... I mean HARD. Act like you are in excruciating pain and cling to them for dear life. Then release and lay down and gasp like it finally stopped. Its actually quite satisfying.

  • Food colouring - take a small bottle of liquid red food colouring 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 colour 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 colour into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
  • Waxing your legs or bikini line - it's painful and has visible results.
  • Use a henna tattoo kit. You put the henna on as a paste and leave it overnight; the next day you can pick it off as you would a scab and it leaves an orange-red mark behind.
  • Wash and bandage the parts of your body that you want to SI.
  • Harm a teddy or doll, and then bandage it.
  • Press inwards with your fingers just under your ear. Really really really hurts but that's all.
  • Gluey Arm. Paint some non-toxic glue onto your arm, let it dry and then peel it off.
  • Paint on yourself with red tempera paint.
  • Sticky tape - Say you like to cut your arm... you could... I dunno.. take some masking tape and loosely tape up the location. I mean... only temporarily of course... and it doesn't hurt too much coming off... and if it does- that might be better... hmm?
  • Scribble with red chalk or crayon. You can do it on sheets of paper or on the pavement outside.
  • Draw a hand on paper then draw cuts on it.
  • Cardboard and ketchup - Cut an arm shape out of cardboard, and tape some little sachets of ketchup onto the underside. Then cut the arm as if you were SIing and watch the red stuff ooze out.

Delaying and distracting

  • Fifteen-minute rule - Hold off for 15 minutes. If you then still have the urge to harm yourself, you can. Before you do, try another 15 minutes. Again, at the end it's up to you. See how long you can go without giving in. You have the control.
  • Describe an object - Choose an object in the room. Examine it carefully and then write as detailed a description of it as you can. Include everything: size, weight, texture, shape, colour, possible uses, feel, etc.
  • Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses for it.
  • Research a randomly-chosen subject on the Web.
  • Sleep (if you feel tired enough or it's the right time to sleep).
  • Make a list. Make many lists. List as many different food items as you can think of. List all the user handles that you remember. List... you get the point. I use this a lot to help me fall asleep, but it works for urges also.
  • De-tangling wool or necklaces.
  • Re-organize your room: do at least one of: change sheets make bed plump up cushions lie on it compliment yourself; hang up clothes put dirty clothes in the laundry compliment yourself; handwash lingerie enjoy the warm soapy water and the nice clean smell; arrange files on shelves with printed or handwritten labels stuck on the spines enjoy how they look;empty make up bag clean up all make up tubes throw away out of date stuff wash make up bag in warm soapy water enjoy the cleanliness. File papers enjoy the organised feeling. Empty waste paper basket make the room smell nice enjoy the scent.
  • Spell your name using images that look like letters. Butterfly Alphabet is a good place to start.
  • Read a joke book or go to a joke site
  • Watch 'friends' on you tube or on a dvd.
  • Make up a funny chain letter scheme. (Has anyone here ever gotten the pretty panty exchange chain letter? That one was funny.) Ask for postcards, stickers, bookmarks, hair clips, whatever. Print up a bunch and send them to all your friends.
  • Start a dumb email forward. Warn your friends of the evils of BIC ballpoint pen ink or something. Just to be really evil and irritating, insert rows and rows of forward markings (>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.)
  • Alphabetize all your books or CDs.
  • Word game - Pick a word from the dictionary. Then think of a word that begins with the last letter of that word, and so on. see how long you can go for.
  • Rip up paper into tiny little pieces.
  • Colour in a piece of paper with a fine nibbed Biro until it is totally covered, TOTALLY.
  • Balancing objects - Play with balancing animals or just use objects in your room to build a precarious tower.
  • Pop bubble wrap!
  • Count to 100, or if that's too easy, try the following sequence:
  • Pick a whole number. If it's even, divide it by 2 repeatedly until you get an odd number. When you have an odd number, multiply it by 3 and add 1 to it. Then start dividing by 2 as before. Keep doing this. The sequence has interesting behaviour and can be tried with different starting values.
  • Say the alphabet backwards.
  • Build a pillow fort.
  • Memorise something - Things like poetry, Bible verses, or foreign-language vocabulary are good. Or the Greek or Hebrew alphabets, Periodic Table of chemical elements, list of monarchs or presidents, etc.
  • Think up baby names.

You don't have to be pregnant!

  • Name all your soft toys.
  • Plan your wedding or prom.
  • Hunt for stuff on EBay.

8Look up family and friends on the internet. "I've found both my parents, my step-dad, 2 uncles, and my brother. It was quite entertaining."

  • Look at property adverts to find your dream home.
  • Make as many words as possible out of your full name or a long word.
  • Make anagrams of people's names

"Clint Eastwood" is an anagram of "Old West action" for example.

  • Count things:

Anything you can see, like ceiling or floor tiles, bricks, or patterns on wallpaper.

  • Search ridiculous words or phrases on the Web.
  • Tidy your wardrobe. Put stuff you have grown out of in a black bag check with mum and go and give it to charity. Well done.
  • Sort out your photos. Stick the ones with happy memories them on a collage in one of those clip frames and hang it on your room wall,or in an album or a scrap book to look at in bad times.
  • Plan a dinner party.
  • Plan a protest or a debate
  • Play with a slinky or a puppet.
  • Go out and smile at at least five people - you usually end up really smiling yourself!
  • Word association game: can play with someone.

Pick a word and then think of a related word, then something that relates to that.... and so on.

  • Freewriting:

Write continuously for a fixed amount of time, say 5 minutes. Let the words flow, put down whatever comes into your head.

  • Play with a doll or teddy - Make it into a punk, style its hair; give it awful make up. Cover it in tattoos.
  • A to Z game - Pick a subject, like "animals" or "fruit" and then write down one thing beginning with each letter of the alphabet. A = antelope, B = bear, etc.
  • Use the Distractions forum on BUS.
  • Do a puzzle such as a crossword, wordsearch, or a sliding-tile puzzle.
  • Play a card game such as Patience. Or build a tower of cards.
  • search for 'inspirational quotes' in google then put your favourite ones on a piece of paper and stick on your wall.
  • Search for your name in google.com's image section. Or any word you like. Then collect together your favourite ones and post them somewhere - Place, word document...
  • Play solitaire or a board game with friends
  • Plan a holiday - A real one, or a dream holiday where time and money are no object!
  • Take a few minutes and act silly.

For example, keep a huge collection of wind up toys in your office, and when stuff gets out of control, play with them.

  • Spin coins, enjoying the sound. Or just sort out all your small change.
  • Read a ridiculously long list of SI alternatives

Violent, anger-releasing

  • Punch your bed or a pillow.
  • Scratch or jab a piece of wood with a screwdriver.
  • Scream - If you don't want people to hear, screaming into a pillow muffles it.
  • Make something and then destroy it.
  • Break the object that you use to self-injure as a way to show that you have control over it.
  • Shout out your feelings - It's useful to rave and rant while you are doing the other techniques on this list.
  • Scribble on paper. Clutch the pen in your fist. It's a way to diffuse it on to paper. (Get a few sheets so they don't tear.)
  • Take item you are self-injuring with and use it against something else.

For example, if you are using a razor blade, rip it across a towel. Sometimes seeing what "can" be done to an object can make a person think twice about using it on themselves. Can also give the feeling of "doing it"...the tangible aspect.

  • Hit a punchbag.
  • Squeeze a stress ball or a lump of Plasticine.
  • Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock
  • Make a soft cloth doll to represent the things you are angry at. Cut and tear it instead of yourself.
  • Flatten aluminium cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go.
  • Use a pillow to hit a wall, pillow-fight style.
  • Rip up an old newspaper or phone book.
  • On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture.
  • Throw ice into the bathtub or against a brick wall hard enough to shatter it.
  • Break sticks.
  • Slap a tabletop.
  • Clap hard.
  • Blow up balloons and pop them - You could sit on top of the balloon to pop it - find creative ways to pop the balloons.
  • Breaking plastic plates
  • Tearing up socks or old clothes.
  • Throwing socks against the wall.
  • Throw everything into the middle of the room - Don't throw glass things though!
  • Smash glass for recycling - Collect jars and bottles. When you are angry take them to the bottle bank and throw them into the recycle bins as hard as you can. (Please don't smash them at home, it can be dangerous)
  • Throw a ball - Throw a tennis ball at a wall as hard as you can and catch it again. Preferably outside or somewhere where it won't smash things.
  • Scribble all over pictures of people in magazines. Or scribble on a photo of someone who annoys you!
  • Shoot 'em up. Buy an old style, cheap computer game, preferably without much gore, and take out your pain and anger on the "baddies". You could also play a simulation game, build a town and then destroy it!
  • Stump bashing. Take a walk to a quiet wooded area where you won't be disturbed. Find a solid branch and smash it as hard as you can against a rock, or old tree stump, over and over again, releasing all of your feelings in the process.
  • Throw raw eggs at tree trunks and enjoy smashing them.
  • Make lots of noise with pots and pans.
  • Rant while you are doing all of the above!


  • Dance. Put some loud music on and dance and sing until you are totally exhausted.
  • Go for a walk. Pay attention to the rhythm of your steps.
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Sex
  • Stretching - Can you touch your toes? then do it 30 times then swing arms round 30 times then band to each side 30 times each.
  • Tai Chi
  • Gymnastics - Do stuff you used to do as a kid, like cartwheels and handstands. See if you can still stand on your head.
  • Running - Go for a run, in your track suit with a mobile phone. run as fast as you can. If you can't go out, run up and down stairs or from one end of a room to the other or on the spot.
  • Paper Tennis - Write down your feelings on a piece of paper, then screw it into a tight ball and whack it round the room "tennis style", until you're exhausted.
  • Skating - Someone wrote "I always carry my skates (blades) with me. I imagine as though I'm cutting my self with my blades as I push myself to my limits."
  • Karate
  • Some aggressive type of sport, such as galloping horses, driving fast on go-karts.
  • Ten-pin bowling.
  • Put on some psycho loud classical music, or even John Williams or marching music. Pretend you're a crazy conductor.
  • Jump around in circles until you fall (preferably on carpet) and then lay there and feel nauseous and watch the world sway back and forth rapidly. Or try to walk.. LOL. It is always worth a giggle.
  • Bounce a ball
  • This may sound obvious but it is useful to join a regular exercise activity eg aerobics, swimming, ballet, streetdance, whatever - this will take you away from the situations which bring on self harm but also help bring up your base line mental health so when a trigger does occur you are stronger.
  • Any kind of exercise - even if it's just press-ups and sit-ups in your own room it still burns away the energy to harm and puts the energy in a safer place.

Also See

Try Learn together, TSR's study area

revision notes




a study planner

of discussions

Would you rather be able to

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