If you’re struggling with self-harm here are some useful alternatives for you to use to fight the urge.
For many, self-harm is a reaction and a way to alleviate difficult emotions. The need to self-harm can be severely overwhelming, especially in the wake of a traumatic and emotional event. When we feel ready to burst with anger or frustration or emotional pain, it can seem like an easy solution. The pain caused by self-harm releases much-needed endorphins to help chase those feelings that we simply don’t want to deal with. But at what cost?
Although it’s all too easy to give in to the urge, here are some safer alternatives that can eventually grow into healthy coping mechanisms.
Top 8 Alternatives to Self-Harm.
One thing that I find the majority of people don’t understand about self-harm is just how addictive it can be. If you’re on the outside looking in, you’re probably wondering how that can even make sense. How can someone be addicted to physically harming themselves? Just like it’s difficult for some people to understand the attractiveness of starving yourself or getting drunk. While cutting yourself isn’t the only form of self-harm, it’s the first example that any of us can think of. Therefore I’m going to be using cutting to help describe how exactly our mind works when we deliberately harm ourselves.
You feel overwhelmed. Emotionally, you’re frayed! And you harm yourself. The dopamine is released and you feel instant relief, followed by shame and even guilt. But then it becomes a need, a strong craving each and every time you’re feeling emotionally distraught. Soon, even the smallest of inconveniences have you reaching for a sharp object.
Self-harming for me was an addiction that I needed to quell along with my eating disorder. It, along with smoking, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to break free from. Even now I find myself craving it!
But there’s good news. You can stop! And while these alternatives may not be the answer you need, they can certainly help you on your journey to recovery.
Creative Alternatives To Self-Harm.
There are various ways to steer away from self-harming. Some might be mindful techniques, while others can be creative. I personally find that distraction works best, specifically if it gets your hands moving. You can paint, sew, draw, work with clay or even play an instrument. Some people even cook as a means of distracting themselves.
I remember reading about and taking part in this project as a young teenager. The concept is simple; if you feel like self-harming draw a butterfly on your skin and name it after someone you love. Let the image rest on your skin and allow it to fade naturally (this also includes letting it fade from washing etc). But if you harm yourself, specifically in that spot, it’s seen as harming the butterfly. It’s a cute way of distracting ourselves from the immediate need to self-harm and enables us to stop and think. While quite primitive, it’s helped me on several occasions.
This project has become so well known among the community that the butterfly has become a symbol of rebirth and active recovery.
While this has worked for me in the past, I am also aware that it can make you feel guilted into not self-harming by adding the name of a loved one. So, on several occasions, I just chose to leave it nameless. It still works because who wants to hurt a butterfly, right?
Distraction is one of the most common ways that people stop themselves from self-harming and there is a variety to choose from. Different things work for different people and different situations! Have a look, think about what might work for you, and even add your own!
If you’re feeling angry or frustrated try these.
- Take some light exercise. If that doesn’t work, hit the gym, lift weights or even kick a ball against a fence. You could even go for a run.
- Hit cushions, pillows or soft surfaces.
- Shout at the top of your lungs or sing.
- Move,shake and dance!
- Tear up pieces of paper or card.
- Listen to angry, loud music.
If you’re feeling sad or anxious, try these.
- Wrap yourself up in a blanket.
- Spend time with your pet.
- Go for a light walk, bonus points if it’s out in nature.
- Simply let yourself cry.
- Listen to slow, soothing music.
- Speak to a loved one.
- Practice self massage. Massage your temples, wrists, arms etc.
- Take slow, deliberate breaths. This is part of grounding and can be extremilly helpful when it comes to self-harm.
If you’re simply needing to regain control, try these.
- Write yourself some lists.
- Tidy your space.
- Do some gardening.
There are so many other methods out there! Let me know some of yours in the comments.
Sometimes we simply need to feel something. But instead of self-harming, there are various alternatives to help release various chemicals in the brain. Here are just a few.
- Hold ice cubes in your hands, or move them across your skin. The cold is a shock to the system but can help calm down the senses where needed.
- Draw lines on your skin where you would self-harm. This can be done with a pen or a marker. While some may choose red for obvious reasons, they can be drawn in any colour. You might even go as far as to create a master piece!
- Snap rubber bands on your wrist. It’s possibly the least helpful as it still leaves a welt and could be classed as a non-intrusive method. But it was something that really helped me in the early stages of recovery, and can be helpful on the go.
- If you’re at home why not go for a shower? It can be cold or warm, and acts as a way to dull your senses. Showering has been espeically helpful to me when I’m feeling overwhlemed and simply need it all to shut down for a bit. In the shower no one can contact me, there are no means to self-harm and the only noise is that of the water and the fan.
Recovery isn’t linear.
Not everyone recovers in the same way or in the same time frame. We’re all different and how we react to recovery is a very different experience. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you fall down a few times because there’s always tomorrow.
If you’re recovering or have recovered from self-harm, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! What methods have you tried? What’s worked and what hasn’t?