For those who self-harm, the urge to hurt oneself can be irresistible. When the feeling hits, it becomes overwhelming and seemingly unstoppable. Sometimes, one feels that he or she deserves the harm and uses it as a way to alleviate any guilt he or she is experiencing. Whether it’s cutting or burning, the instant relief this pain brings seem irreplaceable.
I have struggled with self-harm since the age of nine. I have hurt myself in various ways, but over the years I have also learned several methods that can be used to substitute the feelings I get from self-harm without actually harming my body. And after several months of treatment to address my self-harm, I continue to practice these 6 methods to help me when the urge seems unmanageable.
1. Lock your weapons and throw away the key.
Number one is to lock away all of your objects that you use to self-harm and give a trusted friend or family member the key to where you’ve hid them. The sense to harm one’s body can be extreme and overwhelming that it is best to not even have access to these objects so you are forced to find an alternative method.
2. Place an ice cube on the area where you usually self-harm.
Instead of engaging in an activity that actually harms your body, place an ice cube on the area instead. The shock from the coolness of the ice cube induces the same effects as pain does because it still hurts. Ice does not do any permanent damage or harm to your body, but this practice can help distract from the desire of self-harm.
3. Use a stress ball.
Sometimes, you just need to keep your hands busy. Using a stress ball can really help feelings of self-harm because it keeps your hands busy. Stress balls are very durable and easily replaceable, so if you are feeling angry and frustrated at yourself and feel the need to self-harm, then take all those feelings out on a stress ball. Better to do harm to a stress ball than create a wound that will scar you.
4. Engage in activities like crocheting or knitting.
Like previously, sometimes the key to avoiding self-harm is to keep your hands busy. I would crochet all the time in therapy. It kept my hands busy. It also helped me in times of anxiety because I was constantly moving and keeping busy. It greatly reduced my self-harm because of this as well. This practice also makes you create items as well, which is an added bonus. I have a blanket to this day that I crocheted through group sessions during my own treatment.
5. Reach out for help.
When you feel the urge to self-harm, do not lock yourself inside a room to be away from everyone. Even if the room does not contain any objects with which you can harm yourself, it is still better to reach out and let someone know how you are feeling. You do not have to be alone. There is always someone to talk to and tell how you feel. Even if you have no friends or family, there are still emergency hotlines you can call. You never have to be alone.
6. Go to a public place.
If after trying all these methods, you still feel the need to hurt yourself, head over to a public place. Very few people who self-harm will self-harm in public, so surround yourself with people. This will boost your mood by being around your fellow human beings, and will decrease the urges to do hurt yourself. If you still feel the need to self-harm, then a higher level of care might be needed.
Some of my scars from self-harming will be with me for the rest of my life. If I had known this when I was younger, I could have stopped some of these scars from forming. Practicing these methods has helped me tremendously in stopping this maladaptive behavior. Now, I can stop future scars from happening and live a much healthier life without the wounds I used to form on myself. I can live my life free from the physical pain I used to inflict on myself, and it has made my life a happier and more positive one to live.