NHS Lothian

Short-term solutions to self-harming

2 min read

A ‘safety list’ of solutions that might help you to stop self-harming

Try to make your own ‘safety list’ of solutions that work for you. These should be immediate, short-term solutions that help you stop self-harming when you get the urge to.

Here are a few suggestions you may want to try:

  • Try to delay self-harming. Go for a run, clean your home, go to the shops.
  • Find some company. Often, people self-harm when they’re alone so it may help to go to a public place, be with a friend or safe family member. This may help prevent you harming yourself.
  • Distract yourself. Read a book or magazine, try colouring, play a game on your phone, tidy up.
  • Try the 10-minute delay technique. Tell yourself you’ll wait 10-minutes before you self-harm. Try to keep busy, distracted during this time. When the time is up, think again. Can you wait another 10 minutes?
  • Do something for yourself. Eat something nice, pamper yourself, treat yourself.
  • Do something for someone else. This can be for a friend, a partner, a family member.
  • Try relaxation and breathing exercises. Sit back comfortably in a chair or lie out on a bed. Relax all the muscles in your body, beginning at the feet and work upwards. Focus on your breathing … breath in for 5 seconds, then breath out slowly. Repeat for as long as you need.
  • Use sensations to help distract you. You can listen to loud music, take a cold shower, squeeze something strongly, smell a strong perfume, eat spicy food.
  • Exercise. Jog, run swim, cycle, dance, run up and down stairs.
  • Call a friend or someone you trust.
  • Plan something. A walk, a holiday, weekly meals, join a club.
  • Try to keep away from things you use to harm yourself.
  • The urge to harm yourself may come in waves, so try to ‘surf the urge’. Remember the strength of the urge will reduce in time, try to accept it and let it pass.
  • Try to be clear about what you’re feeling. Are you feeling fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, rage, sadness, depression? Try to identify the emotion, label and accept it. Ask yourself why you’re feeling it. Remember that your emotions are giving you a message. You are not your emotions and you don’t have to act on them.

You can add to this list, or make your own, in your own words. It can help to have a written list of things you can try.

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