How I Work Through Self-Harm Urges

Editor’s Note: This blog post is sponsored by Tanya Kakon in memory of Shlomo Ben Liora. May his neshama have an aliya. If you would like to sponsor a blog post, please click here.

Self-harm urges can be very powerful and difficult to navigate. I would know. Particularly troubling is that 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-harm each year and 90 percent of those who self-harm begin during their teen or pre-adolescent years. With this in mind, I feel it important to share four techniques that work for me to fight off self-harm urges. Please bear in mind that these are just tactics that work for me, everyone will have their own experiences and specific ways to help themselves.  

Four Approaches

1. Talk It Out

Sometimes a good talk with someone I can trust will be so helpful. Speaking it out allows me to release what’s on my mind. Instead of handling it internally and hurting myself, I talk about it and get it out there in the open. Someone to talk to may be a therapist, family member, friend, teacher, or really anybody who can provide a supportive ear. I know that sometimes it’s hard to talk to someone because you don’t want to burden them, but I can guarantee you that they would rather be burdened and you not hurt yourself.

2. Write Over It

Another helpful trick I have done is writing positive messages on where I want to self-harm. These are messages of encouragement and statements of how strong I am. I’ll either change what scars I already have and make a nice picture out of them or write/draw where I want to self-harm and put something positive there. Some examples are “I am worthy” or “I can get through this” or “this too shall pass” or “I am stronger than I think”. Sometimes, I will just put some smiley faces. A sign or symbol that is meaningful to you, a semicolon, or anything else you can come up with could work great.

3. Procrastinate It

This one happens to be really helpful. Let’s say I’m in a crisis moment and feel like I need to self-harm right now; I will take a deep breath and say “Okay, I know I can’t do it now but what about 10 minutes? (You should say however long you think you can wait.) Once that time is up, I will assess whether I still feel the need to self-harm, and If I do, I will say another 10 minutes. Most times for me after the second or third procrastination attempt the urge has come down.

4. Use Ice Instead

If I’m feeling a really strong urge, sometimes, I will get some ice and squeeze it really hard (make sure it doesn’t get to the point of being hurtful). The ice squeezing takes my mind off the urge to self-harm, while also giving me some form of adrenaline. I also sometimes rub the ice where I would want to self-harm because it could give a similar sensation.

If You Beat The Crisis

After the crisis situation is over and I’ve passed it without engaging in self-harm, I will give myself a reward, and I find this to be the most important part. It will be something to tell myself, “Congrats, I made it through!” The reward can be an episode of TV, ice cream, playing with my dog, or anything else that reinforces the positives of resisting.

If You Self-Harm

If you can’t resist and you end up self-harming, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes; I’ve screwed up 7 or 8 month long streaks and felt so immensely guilty afterward. I just want you, whoever is reading this, to know that it is okay to mess up. I know some days are so hard and it feels like there is no other way to cope, but I also know that you can get through it.

Please click here to read other peer guidance


Latest posts by Sarah Last (see all)

Share your thoughts