Even as a toddler, I hated anger. When someone around me grows frustrated, I long to run and hide. If a family member expresses annoyance with me, my self-confidence drains immediately. And when I grow angry, I feel so guilty, confused, and scared.
Often in the past, this has led me to hurt myself. Although this behavior helped in the moment, my self-destruction caused more anguish for my family and self-loathing in me. Thus, I have been working extremely hard to stop any SIB (self-injurious behaviors).
Unfortunately, ending self-harm, like other addictions, is not simple. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I have taught myself to cope with negative emotions through self-inflicted pain. The journey to caring for my body even when upset will be a long wearying trek.
However, it is not impossible. Even if you have struggled with SIB for years, there is hope for a healthy future. Many different skills can be used to cope with emotions, experiences, and thoughts. My own list of ten tips does not even begin to cover all of the alternatives. This is just a beginning to help you or someone you know with ideas for better self-care.
- Color with crayons. First, choose colors that express your anger – I tend to go for red or black. Then, push down on the paper as hard as you can. If you break the crayons in the process, that is fine. Splattering paint on paper or finger painting also work very well.
- Put on loud music and move to it. Choose music that distracts you by engulfing you in it or that expresses how you feel. I enjoy dancing to it but running, jumping, swaying, or other movement can work.
- Go swimming. You can relax, jump in numerous times, do laps, or just splash around. Engulfing your body in water can be extremely helpful. A shower or bath can work as well but be sure that is safe for you.
- Stroke your cat, dog, or other pet. If you need to cry into their fur, let yourself. They often sense your sorrow and are very sympathetic.
- Journal. Now, this does not work for everyone in the moment. However some people benefit from writing down all of their emotions, frustrations, hatred, or fear. Then you can choose to keep it or toss it.
- Hold an ice cube. Sounds funny but this really works for me! The strong sensation takes my mind off of hurting myself.
- Scream into a pillow. If you need to, scream out loud. However I tend to prefer muffling my yells.
- Put lotion on your arms or the part of the body you usually self-harm. A youth group leader gave me some Happy lotion which I like to use. The more fragrant, the better because it will district you more from SIB urges.
- Breathe in and out at least 30 times slowly. Close your eyes if that helps. Although this might not take away the urges, it will calm you down. Also, it will give you time to think through if you really want to self-harm.
- Talk to someone you trust. This is very difficult but can be extremely helpful. If need be, call a crisis number. I have not tried this myself but have heard how beneficial they can be.
So I hope that some of those tips will be helpful for you in the future. Each person is different so certain skills might work for you while others are awful fits. My challenge for all those who struggle with hurting themselves is to try at least one of these tips next time. Please remember too that you do not deserve pain anymore than those you love!
- To Write Love on Her Arms – a movement that advocates for those who struggle with SIB, depression, and other mental disorders
- USA National Suicide and Crisis Hotlines – numbers that you can call for help or to just speak with someone