Not all self harm alternatives are made equally.
Often when you search for self harm alternatives or you’re given advice to try something different from self harm, you are told to hold an ice cube or snap an elastic band on your wrist.
While these are definitely safer than the most common methods of self harm, it doesn’t really help in the long run and can actually make things worse.
In fact, many many years ago, my counsellor told me to snap an elastic band against my wrist, punch a pillow and draw on my wrists and arms instead of hurting myself.
Do you know what happened when I tried those things?
The feeling of wanting to hurt myself just continued and I ended up doing it anyway. I actually made it worse because doing those things made me want to self harm even MORE than I already did.
I don’t want to offer you any alternatives to self harm that are just going to end up amplifying the problem.
I think having safe distractions, that keep you active or bring you a moment of peace, is much better than engaging in an activity that will just continue the feeling of violence towards yourself.
Of course, you should always seek professional advice from your doctor or therapist if you’re engaging in self harm or having thoughts of self harm.
Hopefully these safer self harm alternatives will help you in the mean time.
Related: Let’s Talk About Self Harm
50 Self Harm Alternatives
- Take a long walk somewhere peaceful.
- Try a meditation app such as Headspace.
- Text someone you trust. If you can’t tell them how you’re feeling, then try and start a conversation that will distract you for a while.
- Pick out a new recipe and cook it from scratch.
- Write down how you feel and don’t hold back.
- Write down how you’d like to feel instead and try and think of small ways to get there.
- Have a refreshing shower.
- Listen to heavy metal and pretend your bedroom is the moshpit.
- Play an instrument, even if you can’t play it well.
- Learn the lyrics to a new song.
- Learn the dance moves to a new song.
- Hug something squishy.
- Get a puzzle book and try and complete the most difficult puzzle.
- Have a really good cry.
- Take pictures of something you really like.
- Write down all the reasons you are grateful to be alive.
- Pick a totally random subject and do some Google research on it.
- Learn 10 new words in another language and practice until you know them off by heart.
- Give yourself a hand or face massage with moisturiser.
- Watch some ASMR videos.
- Watch a film that is guaranteed to make you laugh.
- Rearrange a room in your house.
- Do something on your to-do list that you’ve been meaning to do for a while.
- Listen to rain sounds, close your eyes and pretend your in a log cabin wrapped up in a cosy blanket.
- Plan something fun to look forward to.
- Make a new online friend.
- Play games.
- Make up your own card game.
- Write a short story and make yourself the main character who overcomes a bunch of life’s obstacles.
- Do some messy painting.
- Try a new activity that gets you outdoors, such as Geocaching.
- Do some Yoga with Adriene for Anxiety.
- Grab a cup of tea and some biscuits and watch some shit daytime TV.
- Write and send some handwritten letters.
- Write a letter to somebody that you will never send.
- Do a good deed.
- Go for a run or use an exercise machine.
- Get rid of stuff you don’t need Marie Kondo style and cleanse your space.
- Have a relaxing bath.
- Imagine yourself as a child. What would you say to that child if they wanted to self harm?
- Try a sweary adult colouring book.
- Watch your favourite show tucked up in bed.
- Make yourself a hot drink and sit in the window with some fresh air coming in.
- Try a stress ball or sensory fidget toy.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Try a grounding technique such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method.
- Make some putty.
- Paint your nails.
- Stand outside in the wind/rain.
- Call a helpline such as The Samaritans.
These alternatives serve as safe distractions from self harm, instead of just replacements with another unhealthy coping mechanism.
You aren’t replacing the self harm, you’re giving yourself time for the urge to pass and to let yourself feel something different.
It’s not the cure believe me, I have been there, but it’s something in the mean time, until you can learn to live through your emotions/anxiety/depression without needing to self harm.
If you need a community to join and talk about your feelings, vent, read about other peoples experiences, then please join us in The Anxiety Lounge. We’re a closed group on Facebook, of like-minded souls who are supportive, kind and uplifting of each other.
If you’re affected by thoughts of self harm or suicide and need to talk to someone urgently, please give The Samaritians a call on 116 123
You might not know it in this moment in time, but you are worth so much more than you realise and it CAN get easier. It’s hard, one of the hardest battles to face but please don’t face it alone. We all need help sometimes, and this is one of those things that it’s best to have help with.
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What things help distract you when you’re having thoughts of self injury?