Alternatives To Self Harm: 6 Steps To Fight The Urge of it.

When a painful emotion overrides one’s senses, people with a history of self-harming tend to lose control, which might lead them to look for alternatives to self-harm.

Even if the intention is not to harm, one wrong move can still lead to a lifetime of guilt. Hence, it is best to find alternatives to self-harm and prepare beforehand.

Self-harm is usually done to distract oneself from emotional and mental pain. Anxiety, depression, and loneliness are some factors that induce self-harm tendencies. When a person is alone and going through anxiety or depression, their mind constantly shouts unwanted thoughts. To stop all those thoughts, they consider self-harm.

If you are having self-harm or suicidal thoughts, urgently get help from a professional. If you know someone who is having suicidal thoughts visit this helpline.

People Self Harm to:

  • Regain control
  • Break the loop of thought
  • Distract and trick the mind into physical hurt.

There is a severe risk involved when one is in a habit of self-harm or causing self-injury as it can lead to life-threatening injuries or cause lifelong pain. Guilt is the most prevalent feeling in a situation like this; one feels ashamed of themself, which leads them to hesitate when it comes to reaching out to friends and family when in need. 

If you are conscious enough and you feel the prickle of anxiety, try to reach out to friends, family, or to your other loved ones right when you start having such thoughts; still, if you can’t for some reason, then kill the urge of self-harm, you should be prepared with alternatives to self-harm. 

How To Deal With Self-harming Thoughts?

You might be wondering “What are some alternative ways to self-harm? What are some safe alternatives to self-harm? What are alternatives to cutting yourself? How can I stop myself from doing self-harm?” Well put your mind to rest, we are gonna answer all your questions.

Long story short, just talk! Suppose you’re facing difficulty communicating with your family and friends. In that case, there is plenty of help available in the form of counsellors. Talk to someone who is an expert in handling such situations. 

Call for help, talk to a health professional and seek advice from them. This will bring temporary relief, but you should first start identifying your emotions to prepare for such situations.

1. Get To Know Yourself, Peep Inside

Take a tab on your mental health. Identify the bad, overwhelming feelings boiling inside. Ask yourself what bothers you. Ask yourself what thoughts are leading to self-harm, what memories are triggering self-harm thoughts, what about it is bothering you, and at what time of the day these kinds of thoughts are the most prevalent.

The answer can help you arrive at alternatives to self-harm. Now that you know what bothers you, working on it will be easier.

  • If You Are Feeling Angry: Work Out

Take it out. Exercising and working out can be a great alternative to self-harm. Punch a pillow or a punching bag, and tire yourself out with strenuous exercise.

Exercise brings muscle pain, which will calm your mind. You just have to get the anger within you to shower on some nonliving thing. People have found breaking things helpful in this anger. So take something out of your storeroom which is not useful anymore.

Break it, beat it, crush it, and let your anger be unleashed on it. This really helps when you are angry and thinking of harming yourself, but do not break something that is useful as it might cost you a good amount of money. 

  • If You Are Engulfed With Loneliness: Talk and Watch

Call the person you are closest to. It could be your dad, mom, or a friend who understands you. As we talk up there, talking out your feelings and emotions will significantly help to break the chain of thoughts. 

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loneliness girl is sitting on the floor with a toy/bezikus via Depositphotos

Put on your favorite TV show, or watch something cheerful like Tom and Jerry. Watching colorful and cheerful content can help you with your loneliness but beware, do not watch movies and tv shows that are dark, horror, thriller, or disturbing as they can feed into your loneliness and anxiety.

Watching a comedy, cheerful shows, your favorite movie tv show, and child cartoon are healthy alternatives to self-harm that can help you escape loneliness. 

  • If You Are Feeling Numb: Music

It happens to us all that we feel numb, like unable to move just because our mind doesn’t want to move. This numbness is common among people with anxiety and depression.

If you feel numb, you can try some rock music, or some energetic music, and try to dance to that music. The best solution is to eat something spicy, like raw chilli. In a minute, your whole system will come back to life.

  • If You Feel Like Crying: Cry it out

Discover the origin of the problem, identify the type of emotion you are feeling, and opt for something opposite to it. For eg: Never put on a sad song; it will only intensify the feeling. Try something opposite such as dancing to the beats of a party song.

While you feel like crying over a problem, it’s better to cry out than hold in. This will make you feel better. Because if you try too hard to hold your tears and refuse to cry, you may think of harming yourself to overthrow the sadness with pain. 

2. Change Your Daily Routine

Start afresh, change your diet, and start working out. These are the ideal alternatives to self-harm.

  • Coordinate With Your System

If you are a night owl who sleeps till the afternoon, you need to reconsider. Discarding old bad habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle will open better alternatives to self-harm.

As the sun goes down, the darkness triggers melatonin secretion, stimulating the sleeping effect. This is when the body recharges. When you sleep, your brain triggers full-body detoxification and releases the day’s stress. 

When you stay up at night, you are not cooperating with your body functioning. So, if you are suffering from anxiety, or depression, or have self-harmed in the past, it’s highly advisable to have a good night’s sleep. 

  • Adopt A Healthy Activity

Yoga and meditation 1connect you spiritually and help induce peace and calmness. It also helps you to break the chain of thoughts and helps you in reducing anxiety.

Similar effects are observed in gym-goers. Having a goal motivates you to work for it, shifting your focus to a healthier diet and lifestyle. As your body starts to get better and healthy, your mind eventually starts to get healthy. 

When you take a walk to the park in the morning, engulfing the beauty of nature, breathing clean oxygen and see the rising sun shining upon you or a group of birds circling the sky, you realize this is a great way to welcome the day and bring physical wellness, inner pleasure, and a renewed interest in considering alternatives to self-harm.

  • Increase the frequency of Having Pleasant Thoughts

Not everything is permanent in life, not even the bad days. Keep this in mind each day to live a happy and content life.

Cherish the good days, remember the fun moments, and take a journey to your happiest moment. The human mind creates a memory while learning or remembering something repetitively.

We generally remember bad days and thereby create associated memories. Replace this with good memories and ponder over the best moments of your life, and the best people you have come across.

Over time, you will forget bad memories and learn to focus on the brighter side.

3. Try out things that you wanted to but couldn’t

Redirecting and channelizing emotions is very important while dealing with self-harming thoughts. Art is a form of expression that has an individualistic approach. It reflects the artist’s soul.

There must have been something you were interested in but never pursued due to certain situations. Give it a try now.

Discover your alternatives to self-harm or self-injury through activities of interest. As you pursue that something of yours, you are diverting your mind to something that makes you feel good.

As you pursue your artistic voyage, your mind gets distracted. You continue pursuing it; your mind forgets the self-harming thoughts. So use art and your interests to be a distraction from your depression, anxiety2, loneliness, and self-harm thoughts.

  • If you love painting, do it. Let your emotions out through your art, shape them and face them.
  • Try pottery if you’ve never done it before. Pottery requires a high level of concentration. The more concentrated you are, the better your pot would pan out. This distracts you from your self-harming tendencies.
  • Sculpting is an excellent form of art. It requires you to indulge completely, taking your mind off the loop of thoughts. Art is one of the greatest alternatives to self-harm or self-injury tendencies.

If pursuing any of these is not possible at the moment, write down your feelings. Journalling is a great way to let your emotions out, giving you the feeling of talking to another person. 

4. Coping Mechanisms

Professionals recommend minimization and grounding techniques as alternatives to self-harm to avoid significant episodes. If you have a history of self-harming, you should be trying this way.

You have to keep one thought in mind that you will do anything to not self-harm. People with minimal symptoms can avoid self-harming urges through these coping mechanisms:

  • Holding ice for too long
  • Punching a bag
  • Having a first aid ready

Holding ice and punching a bag is ok to calm your mind, but if it’s not working, you keep first aid in front of you. It may make you think about how much it will hurt you. Because of that, you may ditch the idea of self-harm.

5. Take the help of  a Professional

If pursuing any of these isn’t helping, you should consider professional help without a second thought. Unlike other alternatives to self-harm, seeking expert help is the best solution for long-term betterment. Seeking professional help will help you get rid of these kinds of thoughts from your mind for good.

Not taking action on your self-harming thoughts will only lead to a more disastrous future. Seeking psychological therapy tops the alternatives to self-harm as it will direct you to a better state of mind. 

These coping strategies are not permanent because ultimately, your perspective needs to be changed. So, getting help is of utmost importance. Life is the most beautiful thing one can ever ask for, so don’t shy away from seeking help to enjoy it to the fullest.

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that helps with many diseases. If no other treatment works for concern, there is no harm in trying it. Click here to know acupuncture’s benefits for anxiety.

6. Other alternatives to consider instead of harming yourself.

  • Scream into a pillow
  • Use a stress ball
  • Throw rocks on the wall or into a river/pond
  • Cook a meal
  • Ride a bicycle
  • Take deep breaths
  • Draw on your hand
  • Rearrange your cupboard
  • Take out an old album of photos
  • Paint your wall and decorate
  • Call your closest family member or friend
  • Trim your garden
  • Take out your old clothes or toys and hand them out
  • Listen to music, make a playlist of your favorite songs
  • Watch your favorite cartoons from childhood
  • Visit an orphanage or a nursing home
  • Volunteer for activities like cleaning or planting trees
  • Color your hair or change its look
  • Dress up and go for dinner
  • Make new friends, pen-pals, or go on a date
  • Snap a rubber band
  • Blow up balloons
  • Write letters and post them
  • Go for long walks
  • Adopt a Pet
  1. Farias, Miguel, et al. “Adverse events in meditation practices and meditation‐based therapies: a systematic review.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 142.5 (2020): 374-393. ↩︎
  2. Chellappa, Sarah L., and Daniel Aeschbach. “Sleep and anxiety: From mechanisms to interventions.” Sleep medicine reviews 61 (2022): 101583. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Suchi



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