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Tips and Techniques for Preventing Self Harm

When it comes to self-harm, everyone has their own coping strategies.

There are lots of things you can do to take your mind off the urge to harm yourself, as well as things that act as an alternative.

You need to work out the coping strategies that work for you, so have a go at trying three different distraction techniques each week.

Physical actions and distractions

This includes actions such as:

  • Placing an elastic band around your wrist and pinging it when you have the urge to self-harm
  • Chewing on ice cubes, squeezing ice cubes in your hands really hard until they melt or placing ice cubes on the skin where you would normally self-harm
  • Screaming as loud as you can
  • Going for a walk, run or bike ride to use some energy
  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Drawing on your skin with red pen where you would normally cut yourself

Distracting yourself

This includes:

  • Watching TV, a DVD, Netflix or playing computer games
  • Messaging or ringing a friend
  • Baking or helping to cook tea for your family
  • Making a paper chain with links for the number of days you haven’t self-harmed, and then continuing to add a new link every day you don’t hurt yourself
  • Talking to someone about how you’re feeling
  • Tidying your room and having a clear out of old clothes and other things you don’t use anymore

Comforting yourself

This could see you:

  • Have a nice warm bath or shower
  • Buy something special for yourself
  • Massage your hands, feet and arms, or any areas that you want to harm
  • Stroke a pet or cuddle a teddy
  • Paint your nails or attempt a new hair style
  • Try relaxation, calm breathing or yoga

Delaying techniques

These include:

  • Trying to put off for five minutes, then six minutes and then seven minutes etc when you feel the urge to self-harm
  • Putting any items that you would self-harm with in a difficult to access location or in a box with tape around it, giving you time to think about whether it’s something you really want to do

Working out how you are feeling

Taking the time to understand why you are feeling a certain way could help you work through it:

  • Ask yourself why you feel angry/anxious/worried and what it is that’s caused it
  • Talk to someone about why you’re feeling this way
  • If someone has hurt or upset you, write them a letter explaining what it is that has made you feel this way. You don’t need to send it, but writing your feelings down can help you understand them more clearly
  • Write a list of all of your achievements, things you are proud of and times where you have worked through difficult situations and come out the other side
  • Write a letter to yourself saying ‘I love me because…’ and list all the things that are great about you and your life

Calm Harm app

Calm Harm is an app which you can download to your smartphone for further tips around managing the urge to self-harm. 

For further information about the Calm Harm app, visit the NHS website’s app library.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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