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Coping with self-harm is not always simple. However, finding a toolkit of things you can do instead of causing yourself physical pain can be your first step towards healing and keeping yourself safe. Emotional pain is overwhelming and often needs to be suppressed until you feel ready to overcome them. Escape is a temporary fix but not a long lasting measure.

“Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard, I’ll take you back to the stars…” – Coldplay

Human minds are capable of beautiful things like thinking and feeling while also finding ways of suppressing pain in any way possible. However, the process of self-harm comes in the way and acts as a mask for the emotional pain and distress felt due to a situation or experience. When emotional pain or negative feelings like shame, guilt, disgust, low self-esteem, stress, escalate, physical pain seems to become lesser of two evils.

When people are in that moment and ready to harm/injure themselves, rational thinking and behaving is difficult to achieve. However, making a list of different activities which can be done instead of self-harm can be helpful. It’s also important to remember that not all acts of self-harm are suicidal attempts. Some are non-suicidal attempts in order to cause external pain or escape emotional distress.

Here are some things to do to distract, release, express yourself during a moment of urge to self-harm. Whether you have five minutes of fifteen, find your preferred choice of an alternative and go with it.

Things you can do in five minutes

1. How many singers can you name?

2. Say the 19 table

3. Count all the odd numbers from 511 to 627

4. Think of an animal for ever alternate letter of the alphabet

5. Count everything that is green around you

6. Look at a book which has pictures or words you enjoy

7. Wrap yourself in a warm, cosy blanket or sheet

8. Organize photos on your phone/laptop

9. Keep some playing dough / clay with you and make things from it

10. Burst bubble wrap

11. Put on your headphones and listen to loud music

12. Run on the spot and see how long you can do it for

13. Scribble on a piece of paper with a red marker or pen and then trash it

14. Put a rubber band around your wrist or leg and flick it

15. Mark the part of your body which you are trying to hurt with a red marker

16. Apply ice cube on the part of the body which you are trying to harm

17. Comb your hair slowly and gently

18. Eat something sweet like chocolate, sugar, banana, etc

19. Wait for five minutes before harming yourself, then another five minutes and so forth until your urge passes

Things you can do in fifteen minutes

20. Bake something

21. Go for a walk, if you can

22. Write down names of films you have seen in alphabetical order

23. Organize your closet/wardrobe

24. Rearrange things in your room

25. Take a bath

26. Find and write down positive quotes said by other people

27. Count your hair strands one by one

28. Dance or move your body for at least five whole songs

29. Send long distance friends a letter or postcard

30. Post something positive on social media

31. If you can get helium balloons, tie your negative thoughts to them and let the balloons go

32. Write five things that you are grateful for

33. Download the ThinkUp application and record positive messages on it and listen to them

34. Stand with your feet grounded firmly on that floor, look up and breathe very slowly for as long as you can

35. Call a trusted person and ask them to share some jokes with you

36. If you have a ball, throw it on the wall and catch it

37. Go outside and run really fast if you can

38. Write a letter to yourself about how grateful you are to be alive and safe

39. Play a musical instrument really loudly if you can

40. Ground yourself by finding 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing that you can taste around you. 

Self-harm is not the way out of a difficult situation but a way to cope with them when everything else seems futile. Remember, this doesn’t make anybody weak or desperate. It’s okay to feel hurdled and crippled by harsh times and experiences. Having said that, like air, remember to keep rising and breathing. Don’t become a victim, become a survivor. Stay safe, Stay strong.