Alternatives for Self Harm

I stumbled across the lovely crystalskysadvice’s post on tumblr on the subject of alternatives for self harm. I find it not only helpful but different because the suggestions and ideas are listed in groups depending on what emotion or emotions you are dealing with and what you can do to cope besides harming yourself.

If you, or anybody you know would like some alternatives, here is the long list of them under the cut 🙂


Alternatives to Self Harm

Alternatives for when you’re feeling angry or restless:

Scribble on photos of people in magazines
Viciously stab an orange
Throw an apple/pair of socks against the wall
Have a pillow fight with the wall
Scream very loudly
Tear apart newspapers, photos, or magazines
Go to the gym, dance, exercise
Listen to music and sing along loudly
Draw a picture of what is making you angry
Beat up a stuffed bear
Pop bubble wrap
Pop balloons
Splatter paint
Scribble on a piece of paper until the whole page is black
Filling a piece of paper with drawing cross hatches
Throw darts at a dartboard
Go for a run
Write your feelings on paper then rip it up
Use stress relievers
Build a fort of pillows and then destroy it
Throw ice cubes at the bathtub wall, at a tree, etc
Get out a fine tooth comb and vigorously brush the fur of a stuffed animal (but use gentle vigor)
Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock
Make a soft cloth doll to represent the things you are angry at; cut and tear it instead of yourself
Flatten aluminium cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go
On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture
Break sticks
Cut up fruits
Make yourself as comfortable as possible
Stomp around in heavy shoes
Play handball or tennis
Yell at what you are breaking and tell it why you are angry, hurt, upset, etc.
Buy a cheap plate and decorate it with markers, stickers, cut outs from magazines, words, images, what ever that expresses your pain and sadness and when you’re done, smash it. (Please be careful when doing this)
The Calm Jar (Fill a mason jar or similar with colored water and glitter. When feeling upset or angry you can shake it to disturb the glitter and focus on that until the glitter settles.)
Blow up a balloon and pop it

Alternatives that will give you a sensation (other than pain) without harming yourself:

Hold ice in your hands, against your arm, or in your mouth
Run your hands under freezing cold water
Snap a rubber band or hair band against your wrist
Clap your hands until it stings
Wax your legs
Drink freezing cold water
Splash your face with cold water
Put PVA/Elmer’s glue on your hands then peel it off
Massage where you want to hurt yourself
Take a hot shower/bath
Jump up and down to get some sensation in your feet
Write or paint on yourself
Arm wrestle with a member of your family
Take a cold bath
Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root
Rub liniment under your nose
Put tiger balm on the places you want to cut. (Tiger balm is a muscle relaxant cream that induces a tingly sensation. You can find it in most health food stores and vitamin stores.)

Alternatives that will distract you or take up time:

Say “I’ll self harm in fifteen minutes if I still want to” and keep going for periods of fifteen minutes until the urge fades
Color your hair
Count up to ten getting louder until you are screaming
Sing on the karaoke machine
Complete something you’ve been putting off
Take up a new hobby
Make a cup of tea
Tell and laugh at jokes
Play solitaire
Count up to 500 or 1000
Surf the net
Make as many words out of your full name as possible
Count ceiling tiles or lights
Search ridiculous things on the web
Colour coordinate your wardrobe
Play with toys, such as a slinky
Go to the park and play on the swings
Call up an old friend
Go “people watching”
Carry safe, rather than sharp, things in your pockets
Do school work
Play a musical instrument
Watch TV or a movie
Paint your nails
Alphabetize your CDs or books
Make origami to occupy your hands
Doodle on sheets of paper
Dress up or try on old clothes
Play computer games or painting programs, such as photoshop
Write out lyrics to your favorite song
Play a sport
Read a book/magazine
Do a crossword
Draw a comic strip
Make a chain link out of paper counting the hours or days you’ve been self harm free using pretty colored paper
Knit, sew, or make a necklace
Make ‘scoobies’ – braid pieces of plastic or lace, to keep your hands busy
Buy a plant and take care of it
Hunt for things on eBay or Amazon
Browse the forums
Go shopping
Memorize a poem with meaning
Learn to swear in another language
Look up words in a dictionary
Play hide-and-seek with your siblings
Go outside and watch the clouds roll by
Plan a party
Find out if any concerts will be in your area
Make your own dance routine
Trace your hand on a piece of paper; on your thumb, write something you like to look at; on your index finger, write something you like to touch; on your middle finger, write your favorite scent; on your ring finger, write something you like the taste of; on your pinky finger, write something you like to listen to; on your palm, write something you like about yourself
Plan regular activities for your most difficult time of day
Finish homework before it’s due
Take a break from mental processing
Notice black and white thinking
Get out on your own, get away from the stress
Go on YouTube
Make a scrapbook
Colour in a picture or colouring book.
Make a phone list of people you can call for support. Allow yourself to use it.
Pay attention to your breathing (breath slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth)
Pay attention to the rhythmic motions of your body (walking, stretching, etc.)
Learn HALT signals (hungry, angry, lonely, tired)
Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses for it
Pick a subject and research it on the web – alternatively, pick something to research and then keep clicking on links, trying to get as far away from the original topic as you can.
Take a small step towards a goal you have.
Re-organize your room
Name all of your soft toys
Play the A-Z game (Pick a category ie. Animals, and think of an animal for every letter of the alphabet
Have a lush warm bubble bath with candles!
Do some knitting
Do some house hold chores

Alternatives that are completely bizarre. At the least, you’ll have a laugh:

Crawl on all fours and bark like a dog or another animal
Run around outside screaming
Laugh for no reason whatsoever
Make funny faces in a mirror
Without turning orange, self tan
Pluck your eyebrows
Put faces on apples, oranges, or other sorts of food
Go to the zoo and name all of the animals
Color on the walls
Blow bubbles
Pull weeds in the garden

Alternatives for when you’re feeling guilty, sad, or lonely:

Congratulate yourself on each minute you go without self harming
Draw or paint
Look at the sky
Instead of punishing yourself by self harming, punish yourself by not self harming
Call a friend and ask for company
Buy a cuddly toy
Give someone a hug with a smile
Put a face mask on
Watch a favorite TV show or movie
Eat something ridiculously sweet
Remember a happy moment and relive it for a while in your head
Treat yourself to some chocolate
Try to imagine the future and plan things you want to do
Look at things that are special to you
Compliment someone else
Make sculptures
Watch fish
Youtube funny videos!
Let yourself cry
Play with a pet
Have or give a massage
Imagine yourself living in a perfect home and describe it in your mind
If you’re religious, read the bible or pray
Light a candle and watch the flame (but please be careful)
Go chat in the chat room
Allow yourself to cry; crying is a healthy release of emotion
Accept a gift from a friend
Carry tokens to remind you of peaceful comforting things/people
Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles
Curl up under a comforter with hot cocoa and a good book
Make affirmation tapes inside you that are good, kind, gentle (Sometimes you can do this by writing down the negative thoughts and then physically re-writing them into positive messages)
Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read
Write words in the sand for them to be washed away

Alternatives for when you’re feeling panicky or scared:

“See, hear and feel”-5 things, then 4, then 3 and countdown to one which will make you focus on your surroundings and will calm you down
Listen to soothing music; have a CD with motivational songs that you can listen to
Meditate or do yoga
Name all of your soft toys
Hug a pillow or soft toy
Hyper focus on something
Do a “reality check list” – write down all the things you can list about where you are now (e.g. It is the 9th November 2004, I’m a room and everything is going to be alright)
With permission, give someone a hug
Drink herbal tea
Crunch ice
Hug a tree
Go for a walk if it’s safe to do so
Feel your pulse to prove you’re alive
Go outside and attempt to catch butterflies or lizards
Put your feet firmly on the floor
Accept where you are in the process. Beating yourself up, only makes it worse
Touch something familiar/safeLeave the room
Lay on your back in bed comfortably (eyes closed), and breathe in for 4, hold for 2, out for 4, hold for 2. Make sure to fill your belly up with air, not your chest. If your shoulders are going up, keep working on it. When you’re comfortable breathing, put your hand on your belly and rub up and down in time with your breathing. If your mind wanders to other things, move it back to focusing ONLY on the synchronized movement of your hand and breathing.
Give yourself permission to…. (Keep it safe)
Create a safe place for yourself and take yourself there
Lay on the grass and watch the clouds. You can try to make pictures with them too.
Light a candle and watch the flame

Alternatives that will hopefully make you think twice about harming yourself:

Think about how you don’t want scars
Treat yourself nicely
Remember that you don’t have to hurt yourself just because you’re thinking about self harm
Create a safe place to go
Acknowledge that self harm is harmful behavior: say “I want to hurt myself” rather than “I want to cut”
Repeat to yourself “I don’t deserve to be hurt” even if you don’t believe it
Remember that you always have the choice not to cut: it’s up to you what you do
Think about how you may feel guilty after self harming
Remind yourself that the urge to self harm is impulsive: you will only feel like cutting for short bursts of time
Avoid temptation
Get your friends to make you friendship bracelets: wear them around your wrists to remind you of them when you want to cut
Be with other people
Make your own list of things to do instead of self harm
Make a list of your positive character traits
Be nice to your family, who in return, will hopefully be nice to you
Put a band-aid on the area where you’d like to self harm
Recognize and acknowledge the choices you have NOW
Pay attention to the changes needed to make you feel safe
Notice “choices” versus “dilemmas”
Lose the “should-could-have to” words. Try… “What if”
Kiss the places you want toSHor kiss the places you have healing wounds. It can be a reminder that you care about myself and that you don’t want this
Choose your way of thinking, try to resist following old thinking patterns
The Butterfly project- draw a butterfly on the place(s) that you would self harm and if the butterfly fades without self-harming, it means it has lived and flown away, giving a sense of achievement. Whereas if you do self-harm with the butterfly there; you will have to wash it off. If that does happen, you can start again by drawing a new one on. You can name the butterfly after someone you love.
Write the name of a loved one [a friend, family member, or anyone else who cares about you] and write their name where you want to self harm. When you go to self harm remember how much they care and wouldn’t want you to harm yourself.
think about what you would say to a friend who was struggling with the same things you are and try to be a good friend to yourself.
Make a bracelet out duct tape, and put a line on it every day (Or any period of time) you go without self harm. When it’s full of lines, take it off and make a chain out of all the bracelets and hang it up somewhere where you can be reminded of your great progress.

Alternatives that give the illusion of seeing something similar to blood:

Draw on yourself with a red pen or body paint, or go to a site such as this, where you ‘cut’ the screen (be aware that some users may find this triggering, so view with caution)
Cover yourself with plasters where you want to cut
Give yourself a henna or fake tattoo
Make “wounds” with makeup, like lipstick
Take a small bottle of liquid red food coloring and warm it slightly by dropping it into a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Uncap the bottle and press its tip against the place you want to cut. Draw the bottle in a cutting motion while squeezing it slightly to let the food color trickle out.
Draw on the areas you want to cut using ice that you’ve made by dropping six or seven drops of red food color into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
Paint yourself with red tempera paint.
‘Cut’ your skin with nail polish (it feels cold, but it’s hard to get off)
Use red food colouring on your skin

Alternatives to help you sort through your feelings:

Phone a friend and talk to them
Make a collage of how you feel
Negotiate with yourself
Identify what is hurting so bad that you need to express it in this way
Write your feelings in a diary
Free write (Write down whatever you’re thinking at that moment, even if it doesn’t make sense)
Make lists of everything such as blessings in your life
Make a notebook of song lyrics that you relate to
Call ahotline
Write a letter to someone telling them how you feel (but you don’t have to send it if you decide not to)
Start a grateful journal where everyday you write down three: good things that happened/ things that you accomplished/ are grateful for/ made you smile. Make sure the journal is strictly for positive things. Then when you feel down you can go back and look at it.


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