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Healthy Alternatives to Self Harm

Healthy Alternatives to Self Harm

Really think about and identify the emotion which is creating the urge to self harm. 

Understanding the emotions linked to your self harm behaviour will help you find a healthy, safer alternative which can produce a similar effect on you.  Use the safe kit to list the ones which work for you (you can add an additional list to the kit if you need more space). 

The ideas on here are ones which have been suggested by people who self harm to help you delay or avoid self-harm. Some ideas might seem ridiculous, or not be practical at certain times or in certain places, but others might work.

Different people find that different things help. 

Remember, stopping isn’t easy and it’s not a failure if something you try doesn’t help. 

Tell yourself you will try at least one alternative, before you self harm, that way you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself to stop the one thing which helps you cope before you have some healthy alternatives to replace it.

Keep trying and you will find some which help, and you may be able to add things which you discover yourself too.


When you feel angry/restless/tense

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha.  Remember, anger doesn’t ever hurt anyone as much as it hurts yourself.

         Write a letter (or email or text) to someone you’re angry with saying how you feel, but don’t send it, destroy/delete it (It’s difficult to be objective when you’re angry-If you feel you still need to say something, do it when you are calm)

          Scream as loud as you can (this won’t help if there are people around who you wouldn’t want to hear you)

          HIT a cushion / punch bag / throw a cushion against a wall

          make models using blue-tack, pay-doh, or clay and smash them up

          Pop bubble wrap, balloons or bags

          Put on loud music and sing, scream and dance along

          Throw darts at a dartboard

          Break sticks; yell at them and tell it why you are angry

          Use a Calm Jar (Fill a jam jar or similar with coloured water and glitter. When feeling upset or angry you can shake it to disturb the glitter and focus on that until the glitter settles. Make sure the lid is on tight!)

          Get physical or active; A great outlet to reduce anger is physical activity.  Test various workouts and figure out which are most effective at calming your anger. Some people prefer aggressive exercise, such as kickboxing or running, while others find quieter activities more beneficial, such as walking or even gardening or cleaning!

          If you’re in a situation where dealing with your anger immediately isn’t an option, use breathing to help.  Inhale deeply and as you exhale, count to ten or repeat a phrase that helps you relax (you can do this in your head if you can’t do it aloud. Keep doing so until you feel calmer.

          When you’re having a frustrating day or going through something that’s causing ongoing stress in your life, find someone trustworthy to talk to. Even if they can’t offer specific advice, the act of sharing what’s bothering you might help you find a solution.

          Understand your triggers; if there are certain situations or people which get your anger going, think about how to avoid them (not always possible) or tackle them differently.

          Have a hot bubbly bath (try turning off the lights and use tea lights (be safe) and have soft music playing too.

          If all else fails...laugh...laughter soothes tension, encourages muscle relaxation, and reduces stress and anger.  Go on, give it a go.


 When you feel anxious or scared

         “See, hear and feel”-5 things, then 4, then 3 and countdown to one which will make you focus on your surroundings and will calm you down

         Listen to soothing music; have a CD with motivational songs that you can listen to there is a link on our download page to some relaxing music downloads

         Meditate or do yoga

         Hug a pillow or soft toy

         Do a “reality check list” write down all the things you can list about where you are now (e.g. It is the 9th November 2004, I’m a room and everything is going to be alright)

         With permission, give someone a hug or hug a tree (if you feel safe and comfortable doing so)

         Drink herbal tea, ingredients promote rest and ease anxiety

         Go for a walk if it's safe to do so

         Feel your pulse to prove you're alive

         Accept where you are in the process. Beating yourself up, only makes it worse

         Touch something familiar/safe

         Lay on your back in bed comfortably (eyes closed), and breathe in for 4, hold for 2, out for 4, hold for 2. Make sure to fill your belly up with air, not your chest. If your shoulders are going up, keep working on it. When you're comfortable breathing, put your hand on your belly and rub up and down in time with your breathing. If your mind wanders to other things, move it back to focusing ONLY on the synchronized movement of your hand and breathing.

         Create a safe place for yourself in your head and take yourself there imagine yourself feeling, seeing, smelling and touching elements of the environment.  For example, lying on a beach in the sun, feeling the sand run through your fingers, hearing the waves lapping the shore, smelling the salt of the sea in the air.  Really focus, feel yourself there.

         Lie on the grass and watch the clouds. You can try to make pictures with them too.

         Light a candle and watch the flame


When you feel guilty

         Forgive yourself...forgiving yourself is one of the most important things that we can do to preserve our mental health and emotional wellbeing. Nobody is perfect, even friends or family members who appear to lead perfect, guilt-free lives. Striving for perfection in any part of our lives is a recipe for failure, since it can never be attained. It’s important to give yourself a break and remember that we all make mistakes.

         Instead of punishing yourself by self harming, punish yourself by not self harming

         Congratulate yourself for every second, minute, hour or day you go without harming yourself.  It’s not easy to stop, so don’t beat yourself up if you relapse.

         If your guilt is for a specific and rational purpose – e.g., it’s healthy guilt – take action to fix the problem behavior.  If you did something wrong or hurtful, you have to accept that you cannot change the past, but you can make amends for your behavior, if and when it’s appropriate.

         Don’t blame yourself for a mistake or incident that was in your control, or even partially in your control.  If you didn’t have full control over a situation, then you couldn’t change the outcome.

         Remember, you are not to blame for things you regret not doing, since you could not possibly have known thenwhat you know now. You likely made the best judgment available to you at the time.

         Remind yourself that you’re not to blame for surviving a tragedy that someone else, even someone close to you did not.

         Remind yourself that you are not ultimately responsible for other people. Even if you have a great deal of love and concern for those in your life, they are responsible for their own well-being (as you are with yours).

         Check out the level of expectation you have for yourself.  Are you setting your standards too high?  You can check these out with people close to you that you trust, see if they think your expectations are reasonable. 


When you feel sad or lonely

         Write a letter to yourself...”I love you because...”

         Wrap yourself in a comfy quilt or blanket and read, listen to music or watch tv

         Contact someone on your support list and just talk

         Treat yourself with something nice; doesn’t have to be big and expensive, maybe just a piece of chocolate or an ice cream

         Do whatever makes you feel comforted and taken care of

         Look at photos of a happy time

         Read the positive notes from others in your kit

         Hug a pillow or soft toy


When you need to feel something

  • Hold ice in your hands, against your arm, or in your mouth
  • Run your hands under freezing cold water
  • Snap a rubber band or hair band against your wrist
  • Slap a table top hard with you hand
  • Clap your hands until it stings
  • Wax your legs
  • Drink freezing cold water
  • Splash your face with cold water
  • Put PVA glue on your hands then peel it off
  • Massage firmly where you want to hurt yourself
  • Take a hot shower/bath
  • Jump up and down to get some sensation in your feet
  • Write or paint on yourself
  • Arm wrestle with a member of your family
  • Take a cold bath
  • Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root
  • Put tiger balm on the places you want to cut. (Tiger balm is a muscle relaxant cream that induces a tingly sensation. You can find it in most health

When you need to see blood or a wound

  • Draw on yourself with a red pen or body paint
  • Cover yourself with plasters where you want to cut
  • Give yourself a henna or fake tattoo
  • Make “wounds” with makeup, like lipstick
  • 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.
  • Paint yourself with red (washable) paint.
  • 'Cut' your skin with nail polish (it feels cold, but it's hard to get off)
  • Use red food colouring to draw wounds on your skin
  • Get 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.


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