I have battled with self harm for seven years now. I know how difficult it is to pull yourself out of it once you’ve already started to give in. I am by no means a professional and can not guarantee that these ways will help you the same way they did for me. Some day I would like to go in to a little more detail about these practices, but for now here is a simple list of things that have helped me when I am tempted to give in to self harm.
#1 Intense Body Movement
Without physically damaging my body, I’m able to push it in a positive way to give me the same release that I would be getting from self harm. This could mean stretching so hard that your muscles hurt and holding it until you’ve felt the release. Or it could mean running as fast as you can until you feel the release. When I’m in a very high state of wanting to give in, this is normally what I turn to first if I’m able to. This has always been very effective for me.
#2 Expose Trigger Points, Remove the Ones You Can
There’s almost always some sort of trigger that made you start thinking you needed to self harm. My trigger points include school, relationships, social media, and work. Now, things like school and work I can’t necessarily remove from my life but I can give myself a break from them. If you’re being triggered from school then set your homework aside and go for a drive, or some kind of activity that will reset your mind. I find that placing myself in a different environment than the one I began to get stressed in can really help as well. If I’m getting stressed with homework in my room then maybe going outside or to a local coffee shop will help ease things.
You could even be triggered by feelings such as loneliness, fear or anger. It’s so important to get to know yourself and understand your trigger points. Be brutally honest with yourself and really dive deep into the problem. It took me quite a while to learn that I was triggered by loneliness and it has been a battle to overcome that trigger point. But now that I’m aware of it, I can be prepared when I know that I will have a night alone.
#3 Practice Grounding Techniques
There are a lot of different techniques I like to practice, but here are my three favorites.
- Deep Breathing. This can pull me out of a panic attack fairly quickly. In a panic attack, I put my hands on my heart and focus on the beating and breathe deep to feel it slow down to a normal speed. I focus on different breathing patterns as well to get my mind in line with my body.
- Focus on Sounds. I learned this with a counselor I was seeing in college. He had me close my eyes and focus on everything I could hear at one moment. I realized just how much was going at once, I could hear the hum of the air conditioning, birds chirping outside, a low hum of conversation outside of the door, and cars driving by outside of his office. It was a simple technique that helps me remember that I don’t need to be anywhere but here in this moment right now.
- Guided Meditation. When I was first introduced to guided meditation I hated it. I could never clear my head enough to feel a relief from this activity. But as I worked with my counselor more and more on it, it got a lot easier. It’s a technique that allows me to be happier in the end as well as more at peace with myself. It’s hard for me to show how guided meditation works, but I encourage you to not give up if it’s a little hard at first.
#4 Talk it Out
I know. This is the hard part. It’s so hard to tell someone how you are truly feeling. I promise you, this is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you open up to the right person. I’ve participated in therapy for five years now, seeing at least four different therapists, they all helped me in different ways. I’m very fortunate to have such a strong relationship with my mom, so I’m able to talk to her at any time about anything. I also opened up to a couple of people from church and close friends of mine. I didn’t need or want the world to know, but this small group of people became an army for me. They were all fighting with me and that was very powerful when combating the urge to self harm.
#5 Create Accessible Encouragment
This is one of my favorite tips. What I mean when I say “accessible encouragement” could mean anything that you have fast and easy access to remember why you are alive. I have a couple of things I do, so that I have this access. I made a note in my phone full of goals and ideas I have, so that I’m reminded why I want to be here. I also have a pinterest board full of inspirational photos that remind me how beautiful life is and a playlist on spotify that reminds me of my purpose. I also like to keep notecards with scripture written on them everywhere. On my wall, in my car, in my wallet, and even as bookmarks. This could look different for everyone, but these are examples that I use and have made a difference in my mental health.
#6 Acts of Kindness
I don’t know what it is about acts of kindness that can clear my depressive thoughts so quickly and effectively but it does! For me, this can be as simple as sending a text message to someone on my mind, or sending a card to someone. These acts of kindness link us together as God’s people. No matter what season you are going through, never let yourself get disconnected from your loved ones. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Send a text message to someone on your mind
- Bring a treat to someone
- Smile and say hello to strangers
- Make them a playlist
- Give compliments
#7 Remind Yourself of Gods Promise
Reading and studying the Bible helps tremendously with my self harm. When I remind myself of God’s love, it gives me enough strength to keep fighting to see how his plans for me are going to pan out. God will not let any of our pain go to waste. Everything that we go through is to strengthen us according to his purpose, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time being. Spend time in prayer about what you are feeling. To help me in times of wanting to self harm, I keep verses to help me with these feelings highlighted and bookmarked when I open my Bible. I also like to keep a prayer journal, so I can watch God’s plans for me unfold as I walk the journey with him.