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23 Things to Do If You're Fighting Self-Harm Urges Right Now

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

If you’ve ever struggled with self-harm, you probably know it’s not as simple as “just stopping” — as some people might suggest. Self-harm recovery takes time, and relapses can happen.

In tough moments when self-harm urges arise, oftentimes you just need some go-to distractions to get you through. To find out some of people’s go-to distractions, we turned to our community. We asked our Mighty community to share the ways they distract themselves from self-harming, and we’ve listed their suggestions below. Keep in mind everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. We hope you can use these suggestions as a starting point, and find what works best for you.

If you’re struggling with self-harm urges right now, you’re not alone. If you need immediate support, you can call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. Stay strong, we’re rooting for you.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Writing or Drawing on Skin

“I remember when I used to self-harm, I would take a marker and write positive words on my wrist.” — Vicki C.

“I write or draw on the areas of skin instead — be it song lyrics, positive words or just doodles. Keeps my hands busy and keeps my mind focused on something.” — Leigh H.

“Drawing and painting on myself! I bought body paints, and felt tip markers so that I don’t hurt my skin. It gives me something to do, and usually it’s easier to pick up a paintbrush or a marker.” — Sierra B.

2. Watch Funny Videos or Look Up Memes

I find something funny to distract myself, like meme pages or fail videos. Often I look up one of my favorite YouTubers… their funny videos cheer me up and help me unwind.” — Jacinta M.

3. Ask a Loved One for Help

“I call up a friend, and just ask them to stay on the line while I sleep. Not do or say anything, so that I don’t bother them much. Just the thought that someone is there, even if on the phone, makes it go away for some time.” — Akshi G.

“I have made a commitment to stay in bed without anything but my phone and wait for my husband to get home. It keeps me from hurting myself. Then when he gets home, he can calm me down. So thankful for him.” — Amanda M.

“I call my partner and my best friend. It helps me to talk through things and they always manage to make me feel better.” — Caitlin T.

4. Spending Time With a Furry Friend

“Right now it’s either distract myself with memes on Facebook, play with my puppy or talk to friends. I won’t mention I’m struggling, but they know at times. My puppy has been a huge help since I got him.” — Katie C.

5. Working Out

Go to the gym and work out to get the anxious energy out and get the endorphins goings but through a positive means.” — Sarah W.

6. Eating Something Spicy

“Eating hot peppers.” — Raven L.

7. Holding Ice Cubes or a Frozen Orange

“When they get really bad, using an ice pack or a frozen orange helps overpower the urges to self-harm.” — Rebecca G.

“I use ice. I hold ice on my arms and wrists where I feel like cutting. I hold it till I feel pain and then go numb. It helps me surpass the craving. I have been able to stop self-harming due to this coping skill for three years now.” — Heather F.

“I grab onto ice cubes and melt them in my hands.” — Katie Y.

8. Getting a Tattoo

“I start looking at tattoo ideas on the internet and focus on finding one I like. This helps distract me initially. Once I’ve found one, I get booked in. The pain from having a tattoo reattaches me to reality and I have a permanent reminder that I can do this! I’m stronger than I think! I am in control!” — Jacquie S.

“Went out and got tattooed when I got the urges. About to hit my three-year mark at the end of this year.” — Cheyenne C.

9. Allowing Yourself to Cry

“I never used to be a crier, but I’ve learned to cry over the past year and it’s helped immensely. When I have an urge to self-harm it’s usually because of all this pent up emotion inside of me, so I cry. I let myself release all of that through tears. It’s been helping a lot the past couple of months.” — Jackie S.

10. Singing

I sing, or listen to music or I write in my journal. Usually by the time I’m done, the self-harm urges are gone.” — Chantal L.

“My music. I play my music and sing along and before long, the urge is gone.” — Brittany S.

11. Crocheting or Knitting

“Crocheting, reading, hugging and petting my dogs and kittens.” — Nikki M.

I play video games, color, play my favorite childhood song or knit. My cat always seems to know and will come purr next to me.” — Laura S.

12. Cleaning

Sweeping is really cathartic for me, so I like to break things to get my anger and frustration out, then I calmly sweep my feelings away after they aren’t inside anymore.” — C. I.

13. Using the Calm Harm App

“Calm Harm app! It reeeeeaaaallllyyyy helps!” — Nyssa W.

14. Snapping Hair Tie or Rubber Band

“Elastic band on my wrist, I flick it whenever I have urges. If that doesn’t help, I’ll text a friend.” — Leanne J.

“I always have extra hair ties/rubber bands on my wrists to mimic the sensation I get from self-harming.” — Caitlin M.

15. Playing 2048

“There’s a game called 2048… It’s a pattern game on mobile and on Google Chrome… I will play a round until I can’t anymore… and I get so caught up in patterns that the urge usually subsides before I realize.” — Gyna R.

16. Expressing Your Creative Side

Take an art class. Find your inner creativity. I have a bunch of mental health issues I deal with and music has become my go-to when I dislike myself.” — Sara E.

17. Making a Pro/Con List

The most helpful coping mechanism I’ve been taught by my psychiatrist is making a ‘Pros and Cons’ list. What are the pros to harming myself? And what are the cons? The cons always outweigh the pros. And it always helps me realize I have lots of reasons to keep fighting my urges. I haven’t been without setbacks, but it has been my most tried and true method to help me through those really tough times.” — Kathryn T.

18. Using a Coloring Book

“I color. I have and adult coloring book and it easily take away stress. It also creates something beautiful.” — Alyssa B.

19. Going on a Walk

“I take the dog for a walk until the urge isn’t there anymore. Before I got him, I’d just aimlessly walk to try and clear my head.” — Sarah S.

20. Getting Piercings

“I get piercings and it really helps me.” — Chloe L.

21. Writing

“Write. Writing what I feel on a piece of paper often distracts me. The urge is still there but it works. If not, then I’ll just go back into sleeping.” — Aleana D.

22. Looking at Old Letters From Friends

“Reading through letters I got from very good friends where they told me how much I mean to them and all the great characteristics I have.” — Julie W.

23. Doing a Puzzle or Playing With Legos

“Puzzles and Lego sets are my favorites. They get my hands busy doing something productive and my mind distracted.” — Rebecca J.

What coping strategies to you use to distract yourself from self-harm urges?

Originally published: December 4, 2018
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