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49 Tips for Dealing With Self-Destructive Tendencies in Self-Isolation

Self-destruction… it’s not great, but you know this. You also probably know that any unhealthy coping mechanisms you may have developed are, kind of like, your best attempt at trying to handle some deep distress and emotional pain that might feel too big to hold onto. What you might be seeking is an expression of these emotions that maybe you can’t quite find an appropriate, safe outlet for, the words for, or maybe even a firm cerebral grasp of.

And now this — a global pandemic … so many unknowns. Ugh! It’s OK and would make sense if you are feeling especially keyed up, confused, or extra triggered, right now. You’ve probably experienced a lot of upheavals, demanding you to completely shift and change your routines. You may have lost your feelings of stability and security. You might be feeling extra lonely since we’ve been asked to isolate from each other or like you can’t find a moment, or any space, for yourself. These challenges are very real.

What I am here to remind you is that when, and if, these feelings begin to arise — you have options!

I want to share with you a list of possibilities that might help you delay your intended harmful action in real-time and protect you, your beautiful body, and your sweet heart from any self-destructive activities you may be tempted to engage with. If you can delay engagement and buy yourself some time, even if only for a few minutes, often the urge will begin to lessen and fade away. That is what we are going for! I’m asking you to do your best to bravely ride the wave and try to find your way back to shore by using alternative methods of self-soothing and distraction. We want to keep in mind that feelings ebb and flow like the waves, so try not to judge, over-identify, or beat yourself up when in reality you’ve probably experienced hundreds, or thousands, of times before that: “This too shall pass.”

So here are some options. I highly recommend taking the time to digest the list when you aren’t feeling particularly upset or overwhelmed. Jot down any of the options that sound like they might be comforting for you, and keep the list handy for hard moments.

49 Alternatives to Hurting Me

  1. Write down your “bad” feelings. Then tear them up!
  2. Sit outside and breathe fresh air — if that’s not possible, open a window.
  3. Aromatherapy: try to enjoy inhaling a scent you find soothing.
  4. Foam roll as a means of self-massage/relaxing your muscles.
  5. Bake or cook something. Slow down and experience chopping and prepping everything.
  6. Write your answer to this question down on paper: If someone asked your best friend about your five greatest qualities, what would they be?
  7. Do the dishes. See if you can find pleasure in the feeling of the warm water, soapy sponge, and satisfaction of completing a task.
  8. Put on your favorite album and dance to get some of the energy out!
  9. Cry.
  10. Exercise. (When last I counted there were roughly… a billion workout videos online). Look for bodyweight exercises that don’t require equipment, jump rope, etc.
  11. Go for a walk and see if you can sync the rhythm of your breath and steps.
  12. Watch a movie…or five!
  13. Call/FaceTime someone you care about. (If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your hard feelings, ask how they are doing and lean into learning more about them or what is going on in their life. If you do feel comfortable, tell someone how you’re feeling honestly.)
  14. Go online and find a message board or group you can communicate with.
  15. Take a bath or hot shower and try to really feel and enjoy the warm water on your skin.
  16. Alternatively, take a cold shower.
  17. Try to learn a new word in the dictionary.
  18. Snap a rubber band on your wrist when you’re thinking of hurting yourself.
  19. Put on a favorite album, sit or lie down, and see if you can listen to what the different instruments are doing.
  20. Make music: sing, play an instrument, mess around with a music app.
  21. Play a video game.
  22. Cut up a soda bottle, cardboard, an old pair of jeans, etc.
  23. Massage your hands or feet.
  24. Draw, color, paint.
  25. Pop bubble wrap.
  26. Deep clean one area in your space.
  27. Journal about how you are feeling. (Give your feelings room to express themselves.)
  28. Write a poem, story, or song.
  29. Experience chewing things like gum, crunchy celery, raisins, pretzels…
  30. Taste strong flavors like peppers or peppermint.
  31. Do something kind for your body like lathering yourself up in lotion, painting your nails, flossing your teeth, doing a face mask.
  32. Call a hotline for support from someone who won’t have a personal stake in your story.
  33. Read a book.
  34. Scream into or punch a pillow.
  35. Hold your own hand.
  36. Try to laugh: watch something funny (a comedy special, YouTube videos, a sitcom).
  37. Go to bed — sometimes it really does feel better in the morning.
  38. Listen to nature sounds and breathe.
  39. Track down a guided meditation or guided body scan to relax.
  40. Eat something sour like a lemon.
  41. Rip paper.
  42. Draw in a sketchbook that you want to do to yourself instead of doing it.
  43. Draw on your skin or run ice over the area you may be tempted to hurt.
  44. Hug or snuggle a stuffed animal, a real animal, a loved one, a blanket or pillow.
  45. Write about that last thing you thought was really funny or beautiful!
  46. Make a fancy plate of your favorite snacks.
  47. Squeeze ice or a stress ball.
  48. Make a list of everything you can see in the space you’re in that is one specific color.
  49. Pick a subject you’re curious about and do a deep dive on the internet to learn more about it.

Resources and related articles about the coronavirus (COVID-19)

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new-in-humans coronavirus that causes respiratory infection. The virus’s most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Other symptoms may include a loss of smell and taste or digestive issues. The coronavirus is highly contagious and is believed to spread to at least two people for every one person infected. Because it can take days for symptoms to appear, people can spread COVID-19 before they know they’re contagious.

Getty image by Maria Voronovich.