Self harm - information and coping mechanisms part 2

Keep a diary of situations words and triggers, how you reacted, what you did and how you felt afterwards. Look at it weekly perhaps with someone. See if here are patterns or a lead up when you are in control. Observe what the self harm did for you- it released energy and adrenaline. Think about how you could get that same feeling without the shame in a different way. Think whether you could avoid the triggers. Or think whether you could stop the situation before it escalates or could you leave and do something distracting before it escalates.

Do Something Physical==

  • Have a shower. Use shower gel which smells nice.
  • Scrub your back in the shower with a back brush, enjoy the clean back feeling.
  • Take a walk in the rain (be careful of lightning) and stomp around in the puddles.
  • Put wellies on and kick leaves around
  • Go for a run up a hill
  • Go swimming with a friend (out of your comfort zone and likely to cause you suffering)
  • Paint your nails
  • Wash your face.
  • Put on a face mask
  • Brush and floss your teeth.
  • Comb your hair, or plait it or style it differently
  • Dunk your arms in warm soapy water and do the washing up or wash some lingerie.
  • Rinse your mouth with a strong mouthwash - some of these kind of hurt!
  • Get a massage.
  • Dress up very glamorous and neat.
  • Stomp around in heavy shoes.
  • Break an egg in your hand.
  • Bake or cook: pastry is good eg biscuits.
  • Put on transparent nivea lip gloss.
  • Put on make-up.
  • Shave (legs or face depending!) - Mightn't be a good idea if you use your razor to SI with though.
  • Bark stripping - Find a thin stick/or thick twig, no more than 6 inches long... and pick up a small smoothish rock and scratch the stick with it to get off all the bark and imperfections... don't stop until the stick is perfect and perfectly smooth.
  • Get out a fine-toothed comb and vigorously brush the fur of a stuffed animal (but use gentle vigour).
  • Body Paint - Draw on your body with body paints or markers and felt tips (preferably ones that wash off!) Try writing good things about yourself on the bits of you that you don't like so much.
  • Dye your hair - Dyeing your hair red sometimes helps - the wonderful sight when you rinse it off of all this red liquid flowing down the plug hole is very cathartic.
  • Masturbation - Someone wrote "This is a tough one to write... if it's one of those times where I just want release, and exercise doesn't help... getting out my vibrator and bringing myself to orgasm can often provide the relief I need, and help decrease the urge to self injure. Somehow the impersonal nature of the vibrator makes it easier, and it is much more about build up of tension followed by release than anything sexual."
  • Haircut - "The combination of the snipping sensation and the slight pampering was a good 'halfway' measure, and not nearly as socially-harmful as slicing up a limb or two.


  • Self-massage - Try massaging the area you want to harm with massage oils or creams, reminding yourself that you are special and you deserve to treat yourself and your body with love and respect.
  • Bath - Take a long hot bath with bath oil or bubbles.
  • Hot drink - Hot chocolate, mmmm.
  • Curl up under a blanket.
  • Hug a soft toy or your pillow.
  • Read a good book. Perhaps a children's book.
  • Burn incense or scented candles - Not a good plan if you SI by burning though.
  • Eat a favourite food.
  • Go out for an ice-cream.
  • Hug someone - or hug yourself.
  • Chocolate!
  • Treat yourself to a present - Go to a dollar store if you're broke, or any store you can afford and buy yourself a little something. A new pair of earrings, a jar of bubbles to blow outside. a container of Ben and Jerry's, a bracelet, anything. Remind yourself that you are special and you deserve special things. I like to buy lip gloss. and CDs.
  • Buy yourself some fresh flowers.
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read.
  • Rewards - Give yourself rewards, even if they're stupid, mundane little things like watching a TV show you like or eating a food you like - and indulge yourself in these things when you feel bad. This makes you remember there are good things in life, however small.
  • Buy yourself a soft toy or some kind of present.
  • Wash your hands with nice soap specially kept for such occasions.
  • Put on your pyjamas and just veg.

Calming and relaxing

  • Deep breathing:

Just sit down comfortably, eyes closed and take long, slow breaths- concentrating on the breath itself as it goes in and out and nothing else. After even eight or nine breaths, as long as you keep them slow, you can feel more relaxed.

  • Relaxation techniques:

You can buy a tape that tells you what to do, or read a book.

  • Go for a walk outside. Pay careful attention to plants and flowers and trees, the sky, how much wind there is, the exact amount of light and darkness, the texture of the sidewalk. Take deep breaths as you walk. Walk slow.
  • Watch a sunset or sunrise.
  • Lay back and watch the clouds drift. Try to find images.
  • Look at the stars and try to identify constellations.
  • Meditation (self-hypnosis if you like)

Sit down comfortably, eyes closed and repeat to yourself a word which indicates something you want to have that you don't (emotions wise) or a state you want to be in- like 'happiness. happiness, happiness' or 'confidence, confidence, confidence'. The idea is that in time, you 'fool yourself' that you HAVE these things, and in doing so you DO have them because it's YOU that gives them to you in the first place!!

  • Go to a wood or a garden and look at nature.
  • Try to remember a happier time. Transport yourself back to there in your mind. Try to do it actively, and remember everything you did as you did it. For instance if you're remembering a vacation at the beach, try to concentrate on the feeling of the sand, the waves, the sun, etc.
  • Go to a church or other place of worship.
  • Recite a poem, prayer or anything else familiar the comforts you, multiple times.
  • Yoga
  • Visualize a calm, safe place

Create an internal safe place where you can go. In a time when you feel safe and secure, create a room, garden, beach, mountain, cabin in the woods or any safe area inside yourself which you can retreat to and get away from external stresses. Add as many details as you can to make it real for you.

  • Watch a candle flame

Not if you SI by burning.

  • Fantasy

Have a vivid fantasy love affair with a celebrity.

  • Hyper-focus on something like a rock, hand, etc.
  • Watch fish.
  • Watch bees or butterflies.
  • Stroke a pet.
  • Watch a lava lamp.


  • Write poetry.

It'll be dark, but it'll be raw-emotional, and that's good - it's a less harmful way of releasing things.

  • Draw

Draw a picture of who or what is upsetting you, or of your feelings, or just a pattern.

  • Paint
  • Make a kite and see if you can fly it.
  • Work with clay, play-dough, etc.

(The person who suggested this mentioned that they would make a big sculpture and do whatever they wanted to it. They said it was helpful to calm the urge to self-injure, plus it gave them some idea of what might be underlying the pain.)

  • Cooking.

Especially if it involves lots of chopping or bashing dough. And besides, you get something yummy to eat out of it!

  • Needlework, cross-stitch etc.
  • Anything crafty, even if it's silly or simple.

Make a puppet out of a brown paper lunch bag... glue buttons, etc. on for the eyes and nose, draw a mouth, dress it up. make a construction paper chain to count down an event or a day you're looking forward to. draw a picture and color it with crayons and glue on glitter. i used to do this with kids i babysat, and it's great fun. you get engrossed in what you're doing.

  • Make someone a cute just because card.

For example: Joe, Happy Wednesday!!! Make some cute little jingle inside and decorate it and then you anticipate giving it to someone.

  • Play a musical instrument.
  • Sing

Sing a song, or just make one up as you go along. Sing a song on what you are feeling. It's another way to get it outside.

  • Knitting
  • Baking
  • Finger-painting
  • Draw on the walls
  • Colouring in

Use a colouring book, or find a colouring in website.

  • Make a compilation tape of your favourite songs.
  • Start collecting something
  • Write a song.
  • Decorate a box.
  • Decorate clothing

Get some old clothes and decorate them with markers and glitter.

  • Make bracelets or necklaces.

Make a SIAM (self-injury awareness movement) bracelet with orange and white beads.

  • Rock Painting

Paint rocks and fir cones and shells in bright colours. Either put them back in the "wild" for kids to find and wonder about, or in your garden or bedroom.

  • Collect wild flowers.

Go for a walk and pick some wild flowers. You could take them home to put in water, or you could press them between books, or in a flower press, and then stick them on letters and notebooks.

  • Scrapbook

Make a giant scrapbook for your favourite band or singer etc. Look up facts about them on the internet and print out or collect pictures of them to stick in it. Every time you feel like hurting yourself, add another page to the book.

  • Make a video

Get some paper and design, or write about a music video that you would like to make. Describe everything in as much detail as possible.

  • Write a children's story. They always have happy endings.
  • Make a collage:

It can be about your feelings, or a poster saying some message that you think is important.

  • Make a "happy picture":

Cut out pictures from magazines of lots of things that make you happy, arrange them on a big sheet of paper and glue them down.

  • Redecorate a room or rearrange furniture.
  • Think kids stuff like those get set kits you can buy, key ring makers, hair braids, funky pens, beads, glitter. Kids stuff rules and these kits can keep you occupied for ages.


  • Focus on the present

Think of what is real and around you right then. There is no such thing as the past or the future - only the now!

  • Be aware of the world:

Say to yourself what you see. "The couch is green. The light is on. I can feel my shoe pinching my foot. The sun is out. I am breathing. I am alive in this free world. The grass is growing. The stars shine at night." etc. This can sometimes be enough to ground you.

  • Stroke nice fabrics.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Try to find the pulse on your wrist and count the beats.
  • Do a body scan. Take inventory of your body, concentrating on the way each area feels. Once you have an idea of that, tense up all of your muscles. Then, starting with your forehead, gradually move down your body, relaxing each part in sequence. Notice the release you feel as you go from muscle to muscle, concentrating specifically on those problem areas. The places that were tense or rigid at first will hopefully begin to feel less stiff.
  • Make a list of the things you can and can't control. If this is difficult for you, start small. You can control when you brush your hair. You can't control the rain that messes up your freshly brushed hair. See how many things you come up with that you can do.
  • 54321 - Name 5 things you can see in the room with you. Name 4 things you can feel (chair on my back). Name 3 things you can hear right now. Name 2 things you can smell. Name 1 good thing about yourself.
  • Roll and squish Blu-Tac in your hands.
  • Repetitive reality checking

Say or write down or make a mental list of all the things you can think of about where you are now. "It is 4:50pm on Wednesday July 16th 2003, my feet are feeling carpet, the walls are yellow, there is a table in front of me, I am 28 years old..." and so on.

  • Touch something familiar and safe.
  • Put your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Stick your hand into icy water, or poke your finger into a frozen food like ice-cream or peas.
  • Bite into a pepper or a lemon, or chew a piece of ginger or an extra-strong mint.
  • Eat a raisin mindfully - Pick it up, noticing how it feels in your hand. Look at it carefully; see the asymmetries and think about the changes the grape went through. Roll the raisin in your fingers and notice the texture; try to describe it. Bring the raisin up to your mouth, paying attention to how it feels to move your hand that way. Smell the raisin; what does it remind you of? How does a raisin smell? Notice that you're beginning to salivate, and see how that feels. Open your mouth and put the raisin in, taking time to think about how the raisin feels to your tongue. Chew slowly, noticing how the texture and even the taste of the raisin change as you chew it. Are there little seeds or stems? How is the inside different from the outside? Finally, swallow.
  • List all the ways in which now is different from the time/memory that was triggery or you have flashbacks of. Someone wrote "I made a list like this when I had to go to the dentist for dental work. I avoided the dentist for over 10 years, because I didn't want anyone else putting stuff in my mouth. But by making a list of all the ways in which the situation was different and in which I was different, I was able to cope without needing to cut."
  • Strong smells. Aromatherapy oils are good for this.

Other People

  • Phone a friend - either to tell them how you are feeling and ask for help, or just to enjoy a chat.
  • Call your therapist if you have one.
  • Play with kids:

If you have a little cousin or niece or nephew or something do something w/them. like play a game or play dress-up or whatever. little kids can almost always make you happy - even better if it's a baby.

  • Ring a crisis line.
  • Visit a friend.
  • Smiling at kids - go to the grocery store or the mall or another public place. Observe a (quiet and calm, non-crying) infant or small child. wave. smile at them. make faces. try to get them to smile back at you. watch their eyes and their sense of wonder. it is very calming and peaceful. remember what it felt like to see the world with new eyes, taking everything in and learning about everything around you.
  • Confront the person who made you feel this way (if appropriate), making your feelings known instead of keeping them inside.
  • Tell someone else about how you are feeling.
  • Invite some folk round for dinner, or out for coffee or lunch.
  • Read or watch TV in the same room as someone else.
  • Go to a public place and people-watch.

Self-punishment/really useful stuff

  • Tidy your desk. Put a collage up of photos postcards tickets of events (cinema.plays,concerts etc) you have been to. Add in a post card or drawing of a large 5cm by 5 cm red or blue spot to look at when needing to focus. Sit at the desk and enjoy the way it looks. Post a photo of it up on the 'post my desk' thread in TSR
  • Get a nice lamp or light for your desk.
  • Clear up the floor of your room and hoover it. Scrub stains off the carpet with vanish etc. Put a cushion/bean bag on the carpet and enjoy it.
  • Hang up clothes. Put a laundry on. Throw out stuff you have outgrown into a black bin liner and take it to the charity shop. Enjoy the good feeling.
  • Studying, school work. Specifically projects that aren't due for a really long time. no stress there.
  • If you cant focus then do some filing. Label your subject folders and put them neatly on the shelves. Compliment yourself
  • Do some school work which is due. Start with the easy stuff. Hug yourself.
  • If you havent got proper shelving or book cases or storage in your bedroom go out of your comfort zone and mention it to dad or mum and pester them till they go to a DIY store to get brackets and wood. Or look around for a second hand bookcase which fits. You can paint the bookcase to match your colour scheme. Help with the DIY. SHelves can be expensive so you need to be canny here.
  • Paint your room with calming colours;get a colour card.
  • Something you have been putting off.
  • Catch up on letter-writing and emails.
  • Wash and wax your car.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Get a part time job and go even when you dont feel like it
  • Practice your musical instrument if you have one- this can be really painful but releases stress and energy
  • Join an ensemble or group and go to it even when you dont feel like it.
  • Clean your email inbox
  • Organize your bills and bank statements.
  • Polish silver or jewellery. Or stained mugs or teapot.
  • Gardening, watering house plants.
  • Go out and pick up litter in the street or a park.
  • Find someone you can help. Go outside if you can and give a bit of money to a homeless person. Do something nice for someone. It makes you feel good.
  • Help someone on BUS by replying to posts.
  • Do voluntary work in your community group.
  • Sort through your old junk.
  • Take stuff to a charity shop or for recycling.

Other Things

  • Shopping - buy something nice, but don't overspend! Or go window-shopping.
  • Sing along to the radio or a CD - pick a hairbrush up and pretend to be in a band. Even if you "know" you can't sing. do it as loudly as possible when no one's around.
  • Watch a happy movie. Watch a funny movie especially Disney movies. Pop some popcorn and sit around in your PJ's.

Or a sad one if it will help you to have a good cry.

  • Play a computer game
  • Go to the cinema
  • Surf the Net

8Play with a pet. If you don't have a furry pet of your own for whatever reason, go to a pet store and play with the animals.. Have the people take out one of the dogs and go into one of the little rooms and play with it. It's good for a smile, and it'll make the dog super happy to get the attention!!

  • Go for a walk.
  • Go to McDonald's. Buy a happy meal. Buy an extra toy too and then you'll have two.
  • Read a book.
  • Work on your website. Tripod has a site builder that is easy to use even if you don't know html.
  • Go for a long drive - make sure you are safe to drive though: don't do it if you are dissociating or feeling reckless.
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Go to a museum or gallery.
  • Read the Bible, or Shakespeare or anything you've been wanting to read.
  • Feed ducks.
  • Go to a concert.
  • Go to the library.
  • Find a sandbox and build yourself a sandcastle.
  • Go clubbing.
  • Play at a swing park.
  • Go to a zoo; rename all the animals.
  • Learn diabolo
  • Putting little dots all over a piece of paper.