The urge to self harm feels impossible to control. Instead of controlling it, lean into it — in a safe way. You don’t have to hurt yourself to feel a release.
Feel better by swapping your usual self harming method with these 15 real alternatives to hurting yourself.
Draw, even if you’re not an artist. Make marks on the paper instead of your skin.
To get more physical release from this, stack up a few pieces and use a ballpoint pen to really dig into the sheet.
Zone out into tearing up the paper with your pen, and you’ll be very distracted from other dangerous urges.
If the urge to hurt yourself lasts a little longer than a few minutes, try cleaning a space.
Get deep into the nitty gritty if you have to, picking dust out of crevices or scrubbing grout with a toothbrush.
Not only will this occupy your mind and body, but you’ll feel accomplished after.
3. Chew gum
A flavorful stick of gum might be the satisfying distraction you need while your mind races through emotions.
The taste, the chewing action, the salivation… you’ve got distraction on mental, emotional, and physical levels.
Chewing gum especially protects you from grinding your teeth in frustration while you wait out self harm urges.
Easier said than done, we know. But waiting a few minutes for the urge to pass gets easier and easier each time you practice it. Kinda like a form of meditation…
5. Scream into a pillow
Sometimes the desire to self harm comes from bottling up emotions. Society has “rules” for the emotions we can express out loud. And in families or at school, these rules can be repressive — causing you to bottle up real, justified frustrations.
If you’re trapped in a situation where you can’t let out how you feel, excuse yourself to sneakily scream or yell into a pillow.
Your body will feel like it got to yell at the person or thing that’s actually frustrating you.
6. Occupy your hands
Hold anything, except a weapon to hurt yourself. Fiddle with a Rubix cube, a piece of plastic, or even pieces of grass. Notice the textures, notice the temperature of your hands and of the items.
You could even try knitting or weaving an easy friendship bracelet – so you have a trophy, something to show for the time you resisted really strong harmful urges.
Again, suppressing emotions can lead to harmful outbursts. On the other side of things, crying can actively make you feel better.
It’s okay to cry, crying is a valid reaction to strong emotions. Sometimes you might need to watch a sad movie to get the tears flowing.
8. Bursts of exercise
Tire yourself out by doing short, sudden exercises. Burpees, jumping jacks and sprinting in place are all good options.
9. Spicy food
Capsaicin, the spicy chemical in hot peppers, actually activates the same receptors in your brain for pain from heat.
Trick your mind by eating a bite of intensely spicy food, and you may feel just as much of a rush as from cutting yourself.
10. Dig your nails into putty
Slime, putty, or clay are all good ways to dig your nails through something physical. The tangible resistance of the putty is a good alternative to self harming.
11. Snap a rubber band instead
While this can still be dangerous and physically painful after a long period of time, snapping a rubber band on your wrist is less permanent than cutting.
The painful jolt may be just what you need to stop considering other types of self harm.
Sometimes you just need to bump it to the Black Eyed Peas, belt it out with Ariana Grande, or melt into the music with Tchaikovsky. Whatever the genre, let the music take control so your mind can drift away from the drive to self harm.
13. Peel off glue
Put a layer of Elmer’s glue on your hands, let it dry, and peel it off. A lot of people do this just for fun!
It’s harmless and both the action and the sensation can halt self harming urges.
14. Tear scratch paper
Shredding paper is a good way to satisfy a destructive desire. You can try crumbling your shreds to let out aggression, or carefully tearing the paper into strips to distract yourself.
To add an extra layer of release, you can use old papers that have emotional significance to you. Letters from your ex, year-old failed exams, or old to-do lists all work well.
15. Call a lifeline
There is no shame in knowing when you need help. Call or text a dedicated line like the Your Life Your Voice Hotline (call 1-800-448-3000) or the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741).
Or, reach out to a trusted friend to rant about these emotions — get evidence that you do not deserve the hurt you feel.
If you need to let it out but just can’t share these feelings and habits with anyone else, you can come anonymously on Supportiv to seek support.
Moderators and peers are there to understand you and show you that the world isn’t always a judgmental and threatening place. Get out your feelings in peace, by clicking ‘Chat Now‘ and venting away.