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What do you do in times of stress or crisis? What do you do when you want to hurt yourself? The following techniques and strategies are suggestions of what to do when you feel like engaging in self-injury. Some may work better in certain circumstances than others.
It can be helpful to know how to relax and feel less stressed when you are feeling tense or anxious. Relaxation has psychological and physical components that can reduce stress. “Because of the high degree of tension and anxiety associated with [self-injury], knowing how to relax and using this knowledge at critical times is essential.” By learning how to relax and release your tension in a way that is healthy, you will find that your desire to hurt yourself will lessen.
Each of the following techniques are methods of relaxation. You will need to determine which works best for you. Some of these techniques (especially imagery) may produce adverse or unwanted effects, because dissociation, and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), are related to self-injury. If you suspect that one of the following techniques might possibly make you hurt yourself or feel worse, then it would be good to get more information. Talk to a friend, therapist, spouse, or other loved one. Read up on the subject. If you cannot do any of these, then try each relaxation technique carefully and minimally at first, “assessing its effects as you proceed.” It may take you a while to find the method that works the best to help you relax.
The first of the most common techniques used for relaxation involves altering your style of breathing. When you feel tense and anxious, you usually breathe differently than normal, more rapidly and shallowly than when you are relaxed. A way to trick your body into feeling more relaxed is to act as if you are relaxed. Altering your breathing to resemble that of a normal relaxed state will do this.
To do this method of relaxation, you first must get comfortable. You can sit or lie down, which ever you prefer. Then place your hand (or a box of tissues, if you want) on your stomache. You increase your awareness of your breathing by doing this; you can see and feel your hand rising and falling with each breath. Close your eyes and breath as slowly and deeply as you can. First letting your abdomen expand, then your chest. Feel your hand rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth (this helps slow your breathing). Practice breathing deeply and slowly for about five minutes.
When you first try out this technique, you will probably have to concentrate on your rate of breathing a lot. It is quite easy to fall back into a pattern of short and shallow breaths. But after you have practiced this technique, you will be able to change your breathing with little thought or effort. And you will find that taking long, deep breaths will make your body automatically relax and allows you to feel less tense and anxious.
Another relaxation technique involves the use of imagery. You can perform visualization techniques almost anywhere and under almost any circumstances, but it works better if you are able to find a quiet, comfortably place in which you feel safe and secure. You can either sit or lie down (whichever you like), and you may want to soften the lighting or turn off the lights. Once you feel comfortable, you are ready to begin.
Imagery can be used in two ways. First, it can be used to divert your attention. To use imagery to do this, you create and imaginary situation which you find pleasant. Make your imaginary setting as specific and detailed as you possibly can.
The second way of using imagery is more specific. “In this technique, you first identify the are in your body where you feel tension. Once you have found that place, you then try to imagine and describe what the tension looks like.” And once you have described the physical sensation as fully as possible, it can be changed. This use of imagery can change your physical sensations. “Using imagery makes it possible to relieve stress and tension and enhance relaxation.”
Another relaxation technique involves directing or focusing your attention on each area of your body in sucession. This method seems simple, but the amount of concentration required may make this method more difficult than expected.
As in the above techniques, it is important that you feel as comfortable as possible when you perform this method. “Then, starting at your toes and working your way up your body, ending at the top of your head, focus on each part of your body and simply notice the physical sensations that are present in each area. Be sure to stop at each area of your body and assess how it feels physically.
You will find that you feel more and more relaxed by selectively guiding your concentration and concentration. “Using this technique in combination with deep breathing and imagery will produce the best results.”
There are other techniques that you be used to change how you physically feel. Some of these methods are more extreme than others. It would be suggestible to try some of these to find out how they can help you.”
Changing Sensations. These techniques will change what you are feeling on a physical level.
- Splash water on your face. This will help alter you concentration, attention, and physical senstions.
- Take a bath or shower. “Immersing yourself in either warm or cold water will change your body’s temperature, thus changing your physical sensations.”
- Make you whole body as tense as you can. When you release this tension, your body will feel more relaxed.
- Change the temperature of your environment. It can be either really warm or really cold. Creating such a drastic change will alter how you feel on a physical level and can also help reduce or eliminate dissociation.
- SI substitutes These methods may be helpful to you if you are not ready to change your self-injurious behaviors and/or simply “need a break from hurting yourself.” These techniques seem to be effective in reducing self-injury, at least temporarily.
- Color you body to resemble what would have happened if you did hurt yourself. For example, draw red lines on yourself instead of cutting. But make sure to use nontoxic art supplies for this method.
- Hold an ice cube in your hand. The pain from the ice will resemble the pain from self-injury. But the result will not be as harmful or dangerous to your body.
- Plunge your arm into a bucket of ice water. The shock of the cold and the pain from this will resemble the pain from SI.
- Play an audiotape or videotape of yourself that you have recorded previously. In this tape, state all the reasons why you like yourself and why you should not hurt yourself. This will raise your self-awareness and may make you feel loved.
- Call, write, or visit a friend, family member, significant other, or therapist.
These are only a few idea of what you can do. Further on, I have a list of ‘distractions.’ Or you can come up with some of your own. “The basic premise behind altering your physical sensations is that by doing so, you are changing your level of dissociation, your thoughts, feelings, and moods. By creating these changes, you also alter the strength of your desire to hurt yourself.”
When you are in emotional or physical pain, or even both, it is important that you reach out to other people. People rely on connection and human contact for survival. And this is what you need most when you feel like hurting yourself.
It is essential that while trying to end or reduce self-injurious behaviors, you reach out to other people. It is necessary to have a network of friends, family, and others who will be there to support you to do this. But be sure to arrange this support system before you decide to stop hurting yourself. It will be easier for you to know that your friend or loved one is ready to support you. “Also, if your friends know that they might be hearing from you and indicate that they will be there to support you, you will feel cared for, connected and supported.
- Write a poem.
- Listen to soothing or music.
- Talk with somebody close to you.
- Write a story.
- Call a friend.
- Go to the gym.
- Take a nap.
- Leave the room or the house.
- Read a good book.
- Work in the garden.
- Do arts and crafts.
- Watch television.
- Cook a meal.
- Call a hotline or support group, or post on a message board.
- Use washable, non-toxic markers to “cut” your skin.
- Let yourself cry.
- Excercise or work out in some way.
- Get a massage.
- Hug someone.
- Help someone.
- Paint something.
- Play a musical instrument.
- Write a letter to the person or problem that is upsetting you, but don’t mail it.
- Run around the block.
- Scream at the top of your lungs.
- See a friend.
- Do some sculpting.
- Go shopping.
- Go skating.
- Take a bath.
- Take a sauna.
- Throw things (such as icecubes or your pillow, NOT something like glass).
- Vent about what you are upset about.
- Take a walk.
- Watch a movie.
- Go window shopping.
- Do yoga.
- Hit a punching bag.
- Clean your room or the house.
- Cuddle with someone.
- Go cycling.
- Go for a drive.
- Play a game or color in a coloring book.
- Go swimming.
- Play the piano.
- Shred a phonebook or a newspaper or magazine into a thousand pieces.
- Write a song.
- Make or work on a website.
- Take a long shower.
- Splatter paint.
- Create a feelings box. This is a box where you put notes, letters, etc. detailing things you need to let go of. Once it goes in the box, you can’t take it out.
- Throw darts.
- Write your feelings down on paper and then rip it up.
- Splash your face with cold water.
- Take a cold bath.
- Massage where you want to hurt yourself (gently).
- Tell yourself “If I want to self-injure in 10 minutes, I have permission to do so” and see if you can do this every 15/whatever minutes until the urge goes away.
- Go online to safe sites.
- Write/read fanfiction or a short story.
- Count to 1000.
- Tell or hear a joke.
- Make tea.
- Sing karaoke.
- Dye your hair.
- Get lost on Wikipedia, look up interesting and non-triggering things.
- Paint your nails.
- Organize your books and/or CDs in alphabetical order.
- Organize your MP3s in iTunes or music program of your choice.
- Play with childhood toys.
- Go to the park and go down the slide or play on the swings.
- Contact an old friend on Facebook or call them.
- People watching at the mall or park.
- Look up the lyrics to songs you enjoy listening to.
- Do origami.
- Draw a manga or comic.
- Doodle on a piece of paper on in a painting program on your computer.
- Play a video game.
- Play a computer game.
- Play a game on your phone.
- Look up music videos that are not triggering.
- Use a paint program such as Photoshop to create or edit images.
- Try celebrity hairstyes through a virtual makeover (lookup virtual celebrity hair in Google).
- Do a crossword.
- Do a Sudoku.
- Do a puzzle.
- Buy a plant and take care of it.
- Do imaginary/fantasy shopping on eBay or Amazon.
- Create a blog on Tumblr but only reblog or look up tags for positive things or things that you love.
- Memorize a poem or a passage from your favorite novel.
- Go shopping.
- Go to a concert. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one.
- Go to wildlife refuge.
- Go to the zoo.
- Go to your local farmer’s market.
- Plan a party.
- Play hide-n-seek with your friends.
- Look up words in a dictionary or thesaurus.
- If it’s summer go to the county fair.
- Go to a renaissance fair.
- Go to a play.
- Go to a poetry reading or poetry slam.
- Go to your local college and go to one of their events (such as music, a play, etc.)
- Learn ballet.
- Go outside and cloud watch.
- Make a scrapbook.
- Go on Youtube.
- Make a list of people you can call for support. Call one of them. Call more than one.
- Let yourself take a mental break from worrying.
- Pay attention to your breathing.
- Pay attention to the rhythm of your body.
- Try to work on a goal you have, it doesn’t have to be major.
- Pick a subject and research it. Read newspaper/journal articles and Wikipedia.
- Make yourself laugh.
- Pull weeds.
- Blow bubbles.
- Pop bubble wrap.
- Keep track of each minute you don’t self-harm and congratulate yourself, reward yourself (in a positive way) after 15 minutes.
- Cuddle a teddy bear or childhood stuffed animal.
- Put on a face mask.
- Wax your legs.
- Compliment someone else.
- Compliment yourself.
- Let yourself accept a compliment.
- If you’re religious, read your religion’s holy book.
- Play with a pet.
- Go to a petting zoo.
- Go to a dairy farm.
- Go to a field.
- Go on a nature walk.
- Have or give yourself a massage.
- Try to imagine the future and create a bucket list.
- Eat something sweet or sour (or both!).
- Go to the aquarium.
- Go to a duck pond and watch the ducks.
- Look at things that are happifiers.
- Design your dream home in your mind.
- Remember a happy memory and relive it mentally.
- Get a tray of snacks and watch TV or read.
- Be aware of black and white thinking.
- Rewrite your negative thoughts. Think of your negative thoughts and physically write them into positive thoughts.
- Focus on your senses if you’re feeling out of touch and out loud describe what you’re sensing.
- Hold onto your desk if you’re dissociating.
- Look up pictures/gifs of your favorite movie.
- Do a reality check for yourself. List all the things you can remember about where you are now (location, date, etc.)
- Suck on ice.
- Feel your pulse.
- Feel your heartbeat.
- Brush your hair.
- Put your feet firmly on the ground.
- Go outside and take in nature.
- Listen to birds singing.
- Hyper focus on something.
- Say the alphabet backwards.
- Hug a pillow or teddy bear.
- Leave the room.
- Touch an object that is safe.
- Accept that you’re working on helping yourself and don’t beat yourself up over struggling.
- Think about how you don’t want scars.
- Remember that you don’t have to hurt yourself just because you’re thinking of self-injury.
- Create a safe place in your mind to go.
- Listen to a relaxation tape.
- Repeat to yourself “I don’t deserve to be hurt” even if you don’t believe it.
- Think about how upset you’ll feel for giving in.
- Reorganize your room.
- Play a word game.
- Acknowledge that what you’re doing is harmful. Say “I want to hurt myself” instead of “I want to cut”
- Make a list of things you can do instead of self-injuring.
- Remind yourself that urges to self-injure are impuslive, you’ll only feel this way for a short time.
- Avoid triggers as best you can.
- Put a band-aid where you want to self-injure.
- Do the Butterfly Project.
- Read a comic book or comic strip.
- Read a joke book or go to a joke site.
- Give yourself henna or a fake tattoo.
- Make “cuts” with lipstick.
- Make a collage of your thoughts and feelings.
- Call a hotline.
- Color a paper with marker or a pen until it’s filled.
- Make a notebook of lyrics and quotes.
- Free write.
- Write down the things you’re grateful for in a journal. Read past entries to yourself when you have the urge and write down new things.
- Make something with Play-Doh or clay and smash it.
- Hit a pillow agains the wall.
- Have a pillow fight.
- Make a soft cloth doll and “injure” it instead of yourself.
- Eat candy or chocolate (but be careful of the comedown from the sugar rush).
- Spend time with a child or baby that is in a good mood.
- Play with a stress ball.
- Visit a farm.
- Volunteer at an organization or the library.
- Go to sleep.
- Look up pictures of your celebrity crush.
- Do random quizzes.
- Describe an object in the room. Be as specific as possible. What it looks, feels, etc. like.
- Make lists, such as your favorite songs and/or movies.
- Make a calm down jar.
Have any suggestions for distractions? Comment or contact me.
Information from ‘Scarred Souls’ by Tracy Alderman.
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