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21 Things to Do Instead of Self-Harm

If you or someone you know is dealing with self-harm, know that you’re absolutely not alone. As dark and confusing as this place can be, there are other routes to take when you’re feeling the urge to take your hurt and confusion out on yourself. In fact, self-harm is usually a sign of someone trying to cope. It’s an indication that there is a buildup of pain deep within that needs to be expressed and worked through. Self-harm is the destructive way we deal with that need. So really the goal is to get on a path of healthier ways to cope, and to be gentle with yourself in the process.

Because you matter.

Your pain matters.

Your hurts matter.

You deserve to be heard.

And this won’t last forever.

Despite what your feelings may be telling you, the pain you’re experiencing may be a chapter in your life, but it will not be all there is to your life.

Don’t let your thoughts confuse a chapter with the whole book.

You have a future on the other side of this.

You can make it through.

Coming from someone who has rumbled out of this place and seen the other side, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start inviting those who love you into your struggle. I know how shameful that can feel, but letting others in is your key out. We’re truly as sick as our secrets and they’ll only continue to manifest in the shadows of our minds. So you may feel complete resistance at first because you’ve gotten comfortable with your secret place. However, once you’ve decided to care about yourself, have told the lies in your head to be quiet and open up to someone who can support you, it will begin to let the light into your life again.

Here are six reasons why getting therapy beats trying to go through this alone.

Also understand that this is a process. One day it may feel like you’ve got this recovery thing down and you’re on track, and then the next day your emotions may feel like a total war zone and you’re back to square one. This can make it feel like things will never get better or you’ve hit the same wall that you can’t get past. Truthfully, that’s not how recovery works (in anything). Recovery is lined with both setbacks and victories, but overall we progress. One step at a time, one realization at a time, one prayer at a time, one verse at a time, one session at a time, one breakdown and bounce-back at a time, we progress. So keep going.

You can start over each day. Every morning we get a new shot to put the sorrows of yesterday behind us and try again with new persistence. So you had a rough day and lost control. You can try again tomorrow.

In the meantime, when you feel stuck, here are 21 things to do instead of self-harm:

  1. Get some exercise. Pop in some earbuds, put on some good tunes and go for a run. A good workout gets endorphins flowing into the brain, which can help with your mental strength and clear your head.
  2. Draw a flower or butterfly with a felt-tip marker where you’d aim to hurt yourself instead. (Learn more about the Butterfly Project here to help prevent self-injury.)
  3. Pop a roll of bubble wrap.
  4. Practice talking to yourself as if you were talking to your best friend in this situation.
  5. Free-write all your thoughts in your journal (even if it doesn’t make sense) and give yourself permission to release the emotions you’re feeling without having guilt or shame about it.
  6. Grab some cubes and rub ice on your skin instead.
  7. Take a shower, relax, breathe and let the water washing over you resemble the cleansing away of your emotional buildup. Then massage a lavender lotion into your body.
  8. Reach out to someone who cares for you like a friend, therapist, family member or support group to help decompress and talk with you through an emotional crisis.
  9. Repeat the name of Jesus slowly when intrusive thoughts start taking over. There is power in His name and magnifying Him above our stressors.
  10. Listen to and meditate on a reading of Psalms through an audio Bible like the YouVersion app.
  11. Do something intricate with your hands that will cause you to slow down, like doodling, sketching, coloring, painting, knitting, crocheting or hand lettering.
  12. Play with your furry friend.
  13. Slow down with a breathing exercise: in and out for an eight-count to relax your body’s adrenaline.
  14. Paint your nails a daring new color.
  15. Rip some paper into pieces as small as you possibly can.
  16. Try one of these 100 ways to instantly boost your mood.
  17. Let yourself cry it out.
  18. Give yourself a face mask or apply the cream to the area you’d normally harm, let it dry and then rinse the area or your face with splashes of cold water.
  19. Temporarily put Band-Aids on the areas where you want to harm yourself, as a sign that you are choosing to love and protect yourself.
  20. Remind yourself that just because you’re thinking about self-harm doesn’t mean you have to do it. At any moment you can decide not to act on your thoughts.
  21. Call the self-injury hotline, where someone will always be available to talk with you: 1-800-273-TALK.


Know that here at Project Inspired, we are constantly covering you ladies in prayer and the battles you’re facing. We’d also love to invite you to our Project Inspired Community Group on Facebook, where you can connect with other young women who share in things like this.


Do you have any other ideas that could potentially help deal with self-harm? Be sure to share with the ladies in the comments below!

Image: Lightstock | Beth


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  1. sunbluie

    Posted by sunbluie on April 27, 2017 at 21:46

    These are great tips!

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by amandajoyhinds on April 26, 2017 at 10:44

    These are great alternatives to self-harm. This is a tough battle for many girls.
    Another tip, although difficult, is to say “I like myself” and to continue saying it even if you might not like yourself at that moment. God made you, He loves you, and He is a warrior who saves (Zephaniah 3:17). You can overcome this!