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The Cool Calm

The Cool Calm is the Crisis Text Line blog. Insights, data, stories, and other looks at our work in crisis intervention and technology.

14 Activities to Try When You Feel Like Self Harming

 

Figuring how to manage our feelings is hard. That’s why some people turn to self harm (also known as self-injury). Mental Health America explains that self harm is an attempt to cope with painful or hard-to-express feelings. But the relief is temporary. That’s why our Crisis Counselors work hard to help texters create safety plans that include healthy coping mechanisms.

We all know that self-care is critical for maintaining mental wellness. But when you’re hurting, it can be hard to remember your self-care routine. We’ve compiled fourteen of our favorite techniques for coping when you feel like self-harming.

Remember, these are just suggestions. The best way to manage persistent self harm is with the help of a mental health professional. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

  1. Squeeze an ice cube until your fingers tingle.

    Replacing self-destructive behaviors with mildly uncomfortable physical sensations can be incredibly effective. Holding ice cubes is great because it becomes uncomfortable quickly and does minimal physical harm.

  2. Play with a pet.

    Pets are great for our mental health. Twenty percent of our texters mention a pet as a coping skill they want to use during a conversation. If you don’t have a pet of your own, head to your nearest pet store -- often times there will be scheduled play time that you can get involved in.

  3. Use a washable marker to doodle on the area you want to self harm.

    If the desire to do something to your body is hard to resist, find a safe way to engage. Draw on yourself with a washable marker instead of harming that area -- it fulfills the muscle memory without you having to go through the actual action.

  4. Make a playlist of upbeat songs.

    Our instinct is to listen to sad songs when we’re feeling down. Resist that urge, and make a playlist of fun upbeat songs to listen to the next time you feel like self harming. Plus, you can keep adding to it to curate the perfect collection of feel-good songs.

  5. Eat sour food that makes your mouth pucker.

    Just like squeezing an ice cube, eating sour food can provide a physical sensation that distracts you from the desire to self harm.

  6. Rip up a piece of paper into the smallest pieces you can.

    Let out those destructive tendencies on something that doesn’t have feelings. Other places to let out your frustration? On pieces of plastic wrap, sticky notes, and toilet paper.

  7. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while and catch up.

    You might not feel comfortable telling everyone about what’s going on. You can still lean on them for support. Simply ask what’s going on their lives and remember why you love them so much.

  8. Reorganize your space for a fresh perspective.

    Clean your space, re-arrange your books, take out that recycling that’s been building up. Creating a new space can help you feel a little bit more in control.

  9. Engage in some sort of physical activity.

    Find a way to get active, even if it’s just walking from one room to another. Physical activity releases neurotransmitters that help us feel happier.

  10. Color your feelings. Use as many colors as you can.

    Unleash your inner artist and color your feelings. Whether it’s free hand or in a coloring book, look for opportunities to creatively express yourself.

  11. Watch an episode of your favorite TV show.

    If your favorite show is a serious crime drama, then maybe this isn’t the best idea. But if you have a lighthearted comedy or cartoon that brings you joy, watch one episode. Or a whole season. We won’t judge.

  12. Take an online quiz. The more detailed, the better.

    There are thousands of quizzes online. Devote yourself to falling into a wormhole of online quizzes, and learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible.

  13. Scream into a pillow.

    Scream into the pillow. Cry into the pillow. Punch the pillow if you have to. You can be mean to a pillow, you shouldn’t be mean to yourself.

  14. Put on your coziest clothing and snuggle.

    Snuggle up in a blanket, put on those fuzzy socks, and try one of the activities above. Being cozy can amplify the feel-good effects of self care. Indulge. You deserve to feel good.

You are not weak for struggling with self harm. Find more ideas about how to cope with self harm by checking out this helpful handout from our referrals.

If you need to talk to someone, text a Crisis Counselor at 741741 or use the mobile text button below. You don’t have to deal with this pain alone.