10 Self Harm Alternatives that Actually Work

Self harm is when someone harms themselves deliberately. They could do this for a variety of reasons including feeling angry, depressed, alone, anxious, unreal, etc. If you or someone you know is suffering from self harm I want you to know that there is hope for recovery. Self harm is an addiction and it takes time to retrain the brain to not rely on it. Instead of harming yourself, here are 10 alternatives you can try to help you with the urges.

Feeling angry, frustrated, or anxious?

Some alternatives that have helped me when I get frustrated or angry are punching a pillow, cutting a stuffed animal with scissors, jumping up and down, or screaming as loud as I can into a pillow. I would also love to throw oranges or other types of fruit against walls. Anything that gets out those overwhelming emotions in a healthier way than hurting yourself is key!

If you want more positive alternatives, you can always try doing something productive like cleaning your room, dancing like no one is watching, or singing your favorite song as loud as you can in your car! Use all that anger and frustration into doing productive and positive things instead of taking it out on your body.

Feeling depressed, down, sad, or generally not happy?

Instead of hurting yourself for something that you think you did wrong, treat yourself with love and kindness. When you start feeling sad, depressed, or just not happy, do something that you enjoy. I always like to watch my favorite television show, read a good book, or cook something tasty when you start feeling bad.

Remind yourself that you are stronger than you think you are. I know how hard it can be to start recovery from self-harm and not believe in yourself. When you start to feel down about your progress in recovery remind yourself how far you have come. You have survived 100% of your darkest times. You made it through them and you have learned because of it.

Want to see blood?

This alternative has gotten me through some of my hardest times in my life. Have you ever seen those beauty gurus on Youtube do swatch videos? Basically, they take makeup products and create lines on their arms showing off the colors. My idea was to take a red lipstick or eyeshadow and rub it in the area that you want to harm yourself. It will show you the red color that you want to see without actually harming yourself.

Another great alternative that I found was to create red ice! Fill an ice tray up with water and red food coloring and put it in the freezer. When you feel the urge to hurt yourself, go to your freezer and pull out the ice. When you put it on the area you want to self harm it will melt red. It will give you the feeling and sight that you want but you are not putting lasting marks on yourself.

Feeling unreal, inhuman, alone?

Feeling alone? Reach out to someone in your support system. I always like to call my mom when I am upset or sad. She listens and just lets me vent out everything that I am feeling. Find someone in your support system that you can talk to. This could be a therapist, teacher, best friend, or a family member. It’s better to let your emotions out in a healthy way rather than hurting yourself.

Taking a warm shower or bath is a great alternative to self injury. It surrounds you with warm or cold water that helps soothe you. Whenever I am overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions I love to take a shower and just focus on the way the water feels. It helps calm me and think clearly.

Do you need to focus?

There are many different mindfulness techniques that you can try but one of my favorites is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. When you start to feel overwhelmed, sit down somewhere safe and do the following.

  • Find 5 things that you can see. Acknowledge them in your head. A cup. A lamp. A candle. A tree. A picture. What do they look like? Color? Size?
  • Find 4 things that you can touch around you. Maybe this is hair, grass, gravel, blanket, or a pillow. Touch them. What do they feel like?
  • Find 3 things that you can hear. This needs to be external which means you cannot focus on your thoughts. Maybe you hear people talking in the other room or the sound of cars going down the road. Listen to the sounds that they make. How do they make you feel?
  • Find 2 things that you can smell. This might be difficult if there is nothing you can smell in your environment. If that is the case walk somewhere where there is something to smell. Maybe walk outside and smell the freshly cut grass or walk to the kitchen and find something yummy!
  • Find 1 thing that you can taste. I always carry a piece of gum for this one because I like the strong taste of peppermint. What does the inside of your mouth taste like?

Another thing you can do if you need to focus is find a nice game on your phone or task you need to complete. Focus for a certain amount of time on something that requires your concentration. It helps because you focus all your attention on a game or a task and you are giving no attention to those negative thoughts inside of your head.

Let me know what alternatives that have helped you when you start feeling the urge to self harm! What helps you could help someone else 🙂



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