The emotions and urges that lead to self-harm often feel like a wave that increases in intensity before it decreases and disappears altogether. In order to successfully ride the wave and control your urges, empower yourself by identifying coping strategies that replace self-harming behaviors.

  • Shock your system: eat spicy food, put hands in ice-cold water, snap wrist with a rubber band, suck on a lemon, squeeze an ice cube
  • Make a mark: put stickers where you want to injure, draw on yourself with a red felt-tip pen, scribble on paper
  • Get active: walk, run, exercise, dance
  • Distract yourself: do a creative activity, draw on yourself, clean, watch a movie, read
  • Change your surroundings: be around people, don't isolate, go to a store or coffee shop
  • Let out your feelings: cry, punch a pillow, rip up paper, yell, bang things together
  • Ground yourself: hold a worry stone, squeeze a stress ball, try aromatherapy (the scent of a candle, orange, etc.)
  • Journal: your feelings, your triggers, your urges, the times you didn't give in and how you resisted
  • Calm yourself: relaxation techniques, deep breathing, practice mindfulness, hug/hold comfort objects

Some people have had success fighting the urge to harm themselves by using focal points, or objects that have meaning or provide comfort. Looking at a photo of someone you care about, a pet, or of yourself as a baby might prompt you to stop before harming yourself. Focusing on a memento from a meaningful place, or a special gift you have received could also provide the strength you need to overcome the urges.

Be proactive. If you know something will trigger your thoughts of self-injury, do your best to avoid it. Remove sharp objects and other means. Try to use the 15-Minute Rule to calm your thoughts and regain control of your emotions.

The ultimate goal is to learn to surf through waves of emotion rather than giving into them. Identifying your feelings, and recognizing your triggers are the first steps in overcoming urges to self-harm. Find ways to distract your thoughts and cope with your feelings in order to provide relief when the triggers can't be avoided. And most importantly, know when to turn to others for support when you just can't cope on your own.

When you can't control what's happening, control the way you respond to what's happening…for that is where your power is!


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