55 things to do before you self-harm


Why bother inflicting enormous pain on yourself when sooner or later Life would certainly get around to doing it for you? Jeff Lindsay

This week marked R U OK? Day – a national day of action (12 September 2013), dedicated to reminding people to regularly check in with family and friends. It was founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009 after his father committed suicide. It also marked Work Suicide Prevention Day (10 September 2013), which BeyondBlue promoted, noting that 44 Australians take their lives each week.

To pay tribute to these two very important mental health days, Happiness Weekly looks at alternatives to self-harm. It is important to note that just because someone self-harms does not necessarily mean they are intending suicide. However, if you or someone you know is self-harming, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or go to a local hospital where you or the person who is hurting themselves can receive the appropriate care they need.

Sometimes, it can be difficult but the fact is, we just need to save ourselves from ourselves … but when you don’t know where to start, it can be nearly impossible. With the idea being to distract yourself, here are some ideas for things to do before you self-harm:

1. Write down why you want to self-harm and what you hope to achieve. Generally you won’t be rational at this time, but really think to yourself whether you will get what you want to achieve by hurting yourself. For example, if this is to win someone’s affections, will they honestly love you more if you do that to yourself? Do you really want other people to see the marks you made during the heat of the moment?

2. Write a bucket list. Before you start hurting yourself, consider everything you want to do, try and achieve in your lifetime. You don’t need to set goals – it could be the smallest of things … but just write them down.

3. Complete a full workout. If nothing else, your endorphins should give you a slight boost. Push yourself until you feel a bit better. It could take up to 45 minutes of solid activity until you feel it, so just keep going!

4. Write it out – keep a diary, write a poem, write the story … whatever it takes. Sometimes the best way to vent is just put it on paper.

5. Plan what you’re going to do on your next free day off work. How are you going to fill in the time for you? Do something nice for yourself. Make sure it’s something you will look forward to.

6. Catch up with a trusted friend and vent. Tell them exactly what you’re feeling and thinking. Explain why you feel that way. If you haven’t got someone you feel close enough to, then call Lifeline on 13 11 14 – they are qualified to hear this information.

7. Access your senses. Smell perfumes. Cuddle a soft toy. Eat something nice. Be mindful with whatever you are doing. Do it slowly and enjoy it completely.

8. Do some self-soothing activities. Paint your nails, get a massage, go and see a movie… whatever you feel like doing, go out and do it. The trick is to get out of the house and away from any self-harming temptation or triggers.

9. Try to find a support group that will specifically offer you the help you need, and the help people in your situation need. For example, if you’re suffering at the hands of bullying, try to find a support group for that.

10. Get back to nature. Go camping. Walk outside and look at the sky. If it’s night, look at the stars and try to find as many sequences as possible. If it’s during the day and it’s nice and sunny, sunbake for a while. If it’s raining, watch the rain fall.

11. Put your gloves on and punch a punching bag. This beats hurting yourself and it’s better than hitting someone else. No one honestly feels good after punching someone, and it’s best to avoid making yourself feel any worse than you already do in your situation.

12. Find some self-harm alternatives. Squeeze ice. Snap a rubber band on your wrist. Have a really hot shower. Do similar activities that hurt but will not permanently mark you. It doesn’t release instant frustration but it’s better than suffering from the consequences of self-injury.

13. If you’re a repeat offender, write what you really hated about self-harming the last time you did it. Was it the reaction people gave you? Was it the itchy feeling when it was healing? Was it hiding under long shirts and jumpers in summer heat?

14. Change your bedroom or house around until it looks different. There’s no reason you need to live in the same circumstances day in and day out. Move things around until you feel better about things or until things look different to what they have.

15. Find a new hobby – read a book, surf the net, write a blog, knit or sew something, paint, cry, draw, sleep, meditate, play a computer game … whatever it is, just try it for an hour and see how you go.

16. Try something new. We all feel good when we try something new. It’s a whole new experience. Why don’t you take yourself out and just try something you’ve never done before? What’s stopping you.

17. Do something you’re good at. We all have something that we know we’re really good at. It might be a particular dish that you know you cook well, or it could be creating something … whatever it is, go and do that one thing you know you do well and then spend some time reflecting on it.

18. Write a list of supportive friends and family that you can contact in a time of crisis and start going down the list. Contact anyone and everyone until you are feeling better about things.

19. Change your hair. Cut it. Colour it. Have an entire makeover. Whatever you choose – just changing the way you look can make you feel better about yourself.

20. Pay for a photoshoot. There are some REALLY good photographers out there that can show you your beauty without too much effort from either you or them. Why not get dressed up, make yourself look amazing and have your photo taken? You may not feel like it but when you see the results, you may just be glad you did!

21. Relax. Watch a candle burn, listen to soothing or tranquil music and just take some deep breaths to try to relax. Life really isn’t that bad.

22. Watch a movie that has nothing to do with your current situation. Want something funny? Try watching The Heat with Sandra Bullock. There’s no real love scenes and I promise it will have you laughing by the end!

23. Go for a walk. If you’re in Sydney try a nice walk through the Botanical Gardens or Centennial Park. Take yourself somewhere public where you can still be alone. Alternatively, get lost in a bookshop.

24. Buy yourself a dog. If you don’t like dogs (which you should), get another kind of pet. It holds you accountable at a time when you may not feel as though you can be.

25. Write someone a hand written letter and send it. The trick is to avoid talking about your current situation and feelings but to still write from the heart. It’s easier if you haven’t seen the person in a long time and you’re looking to break the ice and become friends again.

26. Revisit some of your favourite childhood activities: play with a pet, make a bead necklace, bake cookies, rip paper into itty-bitty bits, hug a pillow or soft toy, fly a kite, play jacks or pick-up-sticks, finger paint a picture, play with a slinky, dance, play on the swings at a park, pop bubble wrap, play with play-dough, build a cubby house etc.

27. Consider changing jobs. Generally if self-harm is on your mind, there may be a couple of areas in your life that are not working – whether it’s social and work, or work and relationship or relationship and social etc. Go online and look at groups you could join or job hunt for your dream job.

28. Flick through a magazine or photo album and consider what looks great about someone else’s life that you don’t have. Start making a list of ideas for how you could have that quality or outcome in your life.

29. Throw socks at the wall. I haven’t done this before but it sounds kind of fun! It’s also repeated on several suggestions lists for alternatives to self-harm so this one may be highly recommended.

30. Throw darts at a dartboard. Try to get the bullseye. Now try to get it three times in a row. If nothing else, you’ll become a very skilled dart player in the end!

31. Write an email or Facebook message to someone to make peace with them. I call it my “My name is Earl” moments – it’s actually pretty fun and it’s nice to be forgiven, especially when you’re having trouble forgiving yourself for something. In fact, sometimes I find it easier to forgive myself when the other person openly forgives me first.

32. Colour coordinate your wardrobe. This is a really handy activity, because you can then go to your wardrobe, see exactly what you want and take it from its place. When everything is mixed up, it takes a lot longer to select your clothing.

33. While you’re in your wardrobe – why not pick out all the old clothes you don’t wear so much anymore and put them in a clothing bin for the less fortunate? It’s also easier to find your clothes when they’re not mixed in with the clothes you rarely wear. Did you know women only tend to wear 20-30% of their wardrobe? And generally keep three different sizes of clothing. It’s time to chuck it, ladies!

34. Go to a gig or bigger concert, or join a boat party. Generally everyone is really nice and easy to mingle with and it could very well change your perspective. You can look both up on the internet at any time – book your ticket and have fun!

35. I like this one: Trace your hand on a piece of paper. Write something you like to look at on your thumb, write something you like to touch on your index finger, write your favourite scent on your middle finger, write something you like the taste of on your ring finger, write something you like to listen to on your pinky finger, and on your palm, write something nice about yourself.

36. Pick a random object, such as a paper clip and try to list 30 different uses for it. This is a great lesson in mindfulness and seeing the good in even the smallest of things.

37. While you have some time on your hands, which you’re not going to use to self-harm, write a mental health plan for yourself. It should include various things to do (consider your favourite things to do – like walking on the coastline of places etc), people to call, triggers to avoid etc.

38. Be mindful of the HALT signals your body could be giving you in order to make you feel like self-harming. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? Once you narrow it down, concentrate on finding a solution to this individual problem and/or emotion.

39. Get a fake tan, give yourself a facial, have your makeup done professionally, pamper yourself and then go on a shopping spree. You’ll probably spend a lot of money, so make sure you stick to some kind of budget, but it will make you feel better.

40. Find a supportive chat room and see if you can talk to someone different online about anything and everything. I even found trawling dating websites when I was single and feeling down could act as a nice ego boost.

41. If you think you know the major problem – and it could be love addiction, attachment or something that you’re going through, you could try hypnosis as a way of dealing with it and having your mind distracted from the problem.

42. Make a playlist of soothing music and listen to it.

43. Accept where you are in whatever process you’re going through. Accept everything that has happened and everything that may be ahead, and get set for whatever changes you need to take to be the best and happiest person you possibly can be.

44. Make a pact with someone who you truly love that you will not self-harm or even consider it openly because you don’t wish to bring all the ugliness that comes with it into your relationship.

45. Realise you’re actually hurting enough at the moment without hurting yourself more. And self-harm not only hurts you physically but it will deeply scar you emotionally. It’s a habit that can take quite some time to recover from – I’m talking several years – so if you don’t self-harm generally, do not start!

46. Empower yourself with your right to choice and choose not to harm yourself. When you make it through the recovery process and stop self-harming you are able to recognise the power of choice a lot more clearly.

47. Focus on your own beauty as much as you can. You may feel hideous at the moment – but focus on all the things you like about yourself and all the things you do well. I also find it helpful to watch Victorias Secret shows and model interviews or interviews with someone you admire. Picture that person in your situation or sitting with you now and what they would say to you.

48. Make a list of things you need to do in order to live safely for a while and make that happen. Treat it like an addiction and get rid of all temptation from the house for a while. Soon enough you’ll get frustrated with not having things which they were originally intended for. Before you introduce it back into the home you need to make a promise to yourself that you will not use it for anything other than it’s original intended purpose. For example, respecting a knife as something to cut food with. If you can’t do it, don’t let it back into the house.

49. Instead of blaming yourself or anyone else and saying “should have”, change it to “could have” and consider “what if”. It’s never too late to change the course of your life.

50. Remove yourself from your old life as much as possible. Choose to take a different direction and be happy rather than wallowing in pain. Change your number. Move house. Change jobs. Whatever change you make, make it a positive one.

51. Now is a great time to start a gratitude journal if you haven’t already. Decorate the first page with magazine clippings of various things that make you happy. And from then on write down everything you’re grateful for and why you appreciate it so much.

52. Watch a funny TV show. I really enjoy watching The Big Bang Theory. It totally takes my mind off things and generally it makes me laugh.

53. Plan to perform one act of kindness each day and add this into your gratitude journal. It could be for someone you know or a complete stranger. Each time you perform an act of kindness for someone, record the person’s reaction to it. Volunteer work may also help.

54. Write down the reasons you love yourself and your life and read it back to yourself whenever you’re feeling down.

55. Complete something you have been putting off or start something completely different that you have never done before. Challenge yourself.

Still not feeling any better? Book an appointment with a good psychologist or try one of these random activities:

– Google beautiful pictures

– Learn a new joke

– Go outside and take photos of things you think are beautiful

– Look for a four-leaf clover

– Make a wish on a dandelion

– Find a pond where you can feed the ducks

– Take yourself on a road trip

– Go people watching for a morning in a café, at the beach, where ever you want to be

– Watch the sunrise and sunset on the same day.


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