10 Things to Do When You’re Thinking About Hurting Yourself

When you’re recovering from self-harm, you might find that you need distractions or alternatives to keep negative thoughts at bay. Fortunately, there are several simple options that can keep you busy and productive. Here are 10 things you can do the next time you’re worried about your behavior.

Draw or Paint a Picture

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Channeling your creativity is a great distraction from self-harm, and it might even help you to work through your feelings. Pick up a pencil or paintbrush, and create images of how you want to feel or of things that inspire you.

Get Some Exercise

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Going for a run, playing basketball and other forms of exercise can be an excellent physical release and a distraction from thoughts of self-harm. As a bonus, it releases endorphins in your brain, which promote feelings of positivity and happiness. Spend at least half an hour exercising to bring your mood up.

Spend Time with Friends

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Relationships are helpful during times of stress because they make us feel supported and not alone. Try calling or visiting a friend when you’re thinking about injuring yourself. You can either talk through your feelings or plan a fun, distracting activity to get you through a difficult time.

Perform an Act of Physical Displacement

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Sometimes, either in the moment or when you can’t necessarily leave a situation, simple acts of physical displacement can be highly effective. For example, you can snap a rubber band on your wrist, take a hot/cold shower or apply a temporary or henna tattoo. These are physical actions that can be either shocking or soothing, but essentially they’re distracting for the mind and body.

Speak Positive Affirmations

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For some teens, physical actions can be effective in keeping them from self-harm. For others, it’s the mind that needs a distraction. Speaking positive affirmations aloud can be a great way to turn your mind toward the positive. For example, try repeating: “I love myself unconditionally—in good times and in bad.”

Find Comfort

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Finding comfort in the little things can soothe thoughts of self injury. This can include taking a warm bath, lighting a scented candle, enjoying a hot cup of tea or covering yourself in a cozy blanket. In other words, anything that makes you feel at ease and calm.

Visit an Animal

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Animals can be great sources of both comfort and distraction. If your family has a dog or cat, this one is easy for you! If not, see if you can “borrow” a friend or neighbor’s pet for the day, or visit the zoo. You can also volunteer at an animal shelter, which has the bonus effect of helping sick or debilitated creatures.

Practice a New Skill

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Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language, cook a meal or play a song on the guitar? Practicing a new skill can be a helpful distraction because it takes a lot of focus and in some cases, research to achieve.

Play a Video Game

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While video games are best played in moderation, they can also serve as a good distraction when you’re having negative thoughts. Round up a few friends to join in so you can enjoy the company of others.

Accomplish a Task

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Being productive can be a handy distraction that creates a sense of accomplishment. Have you been meaning to clean your room? Finish a class project? Talk to an old friend? Knocking something off your to-do list just might give you the distraction you need.

Speaking to a mental health professional can also help you whenever you’re experiencing negative feelings.

Feature Image: Jean-Pierre Brungs