Self-harm is more common than many people realise. It’s often used as a coping method for people who need a way of dealing with intense emotions. It can be a way of feeling in control or as a way of punishing yourself for guilt or shame. But if you want to stop self-harming, it can be difficult to get out of the cycle alone. Here are some tips that others have found helpful to stop self-harming.
Get Professional Help
Self-harm may require professional help. You can visit your doctor or school nurse for advice. They can put you in contact with a counsellor or therapist who can help you. Working with a professional can help you and offer advice on how to manage your emotions in a safer way.
There are several organisations that work with young people who are self-harming. You can contact the Samaritans or YoungMinds. Or you can use the NHS distrACT app which gives you advice about self-harming and ways to stop it. Your doctor can provide you with some contacts if you don’t know which one to call.
Talk to Someone You Trust
A lot of people who self-harm do so in secret. They often hide what they are doing. But keeping a secret like that can be exhausting and make you feel worse. So, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust and let them know what’s going on. Admitting that you self-harm can be the first step to recovery, and it will get some of these feelings off your chest.
You can talk to anyone that you feel safe with. It might be a friend, your parents, or a sibling. Or maybe there is a teacher that you trust who you can tell. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to face to face, there are charities or helplines you can call for advice and support. When we feel sad or angry, we often want to be by ourselves. But chatting to other people and connecting with people who care about you can be really helpful. It can help you feel less lonely.
Identify the Triggers
A trigger is something that happens that makes you feel like hurting yourself. It might be seeing a certain person or a thought that pops into your head. Or it might be a place that reminds you of negative emotions. If you can spot these triggers, you can try to avoid them in the future to stop the risk of these feelings coming up.
Pay Attention to Your Emotions
Do you know how you feel before or after you hurt yourself? Do you feel sad or anxious? Maybe you feel lonely or misunderstood. Understanding your emotions can help you identify why you hurt yourself. This can help you find safer ways of dealing with those emotions. It’s also a good idea to try and spot how long these feelings last before you feel the need to hurt yourself again. Keeping a diary of how you feel can help you keep track of these feelings, so you don’t forget.
Find Less Severe Methods
For most people, self-harm is a form of emotional release. But there are ways to soothe your emotions in a safer way that won’t hurt you. A professional like a doctor or nurse can offer advice on the best ways to do this. But some ideas might include snapping a rubber band against your skin or holding an ice cube in your hand until it melts.
It can also help to find ways to release the physical tension in a different way. Some examples include ripping up paper, squeezing a stress ball, hitting a pillow or scribbling on a piece of paper. Some people find drawing on their skin in a red pen where they would normally hurt themselves helps. Others find clapping their hands together hard can be a useful release of tension. You can then move on to less physical ways of coping, like journaling, exercising or painting.
Mindfulness is a way of staying present and avoiding thinking too much about the past or future. For people who self-harm because of worries or bad experiences, this can be helpful. When you find your mind wandering, using mindfulness techniques will bring you back to the current moment.
You can do this by focusing on what you are experiencing right in the moment that you’re feeling low. Focus on what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Each time you think about something that makes you want to hurt yourself, bring yourself back to the present by focusing hard on these things. Mindfulness can sometimes include exercise too, like yoga or Tai Chi.
Delay the Urge to Self-Harm
Sometimes, if you can put off the urge to self-harm, the feelings go away completely. Over time, you can replace these urges with a different method of coping. One way to do this is to try and count to 100 when you feel the urge to hurt yourself to see if the feeling goes away. Another option is to go for a walk, watch a film or give a friend a call for a chat to take your mind off what you’re thinking about. Try different ways of putting off these urges until you find works best for you.
Recovering from self-harm is difficult and it can be a long journey. But even though it might be hard, you will be happier and stronger at the end of it. Keep yourself motivated by reading other people’s success stories and remember why you’re working hard to stop self-harming. If one technique doesn’t work for you, try a different one until you find what helps. But don’t give up.