Just a heads up - this post talks openly about self harming behavior, and might be confronting for some people to read. If you feel upset by this topic, and need immediate support, you can call Lifeline (13 11 14) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800).

Dealing with chaos

Dog in rain

Life can be chaotic - sometimes we feel overwhelmed, sometimes we feel down, and sometimes we don't feel anything at all. We can't pick and choose what thoughts pop into our heads, or what emotions come up - they just sort of happen - and we can't always prepare for them. Dealing with intense thoughts and emotions can be a full time job. At times we can become desperate, with no where to turn. It is usually at those times, when acts of self harm happen. Things like cutting, scratching or burning can provide a temporary relief from the chaos or emptiness of life.

A young person once explained to me that self harm is

“a release from all the sadness and anger inside”

Self harm can start off as a coping strategy in a moment of desperation, and then become habit. The effects of self harm can be temporary, like bleeding, or more permanent, like scarring of the skin.

"I kind of want to stop, but I kind of don't"

Maybe you, or someone you know, wants to stop self harming, but is reluctant to give it up. On the one hand, you know self harming can lead to scars, cause problems with friends and family and can stop you living the kind of life you want to live. But on the other hand, it seems like the only way to deal with things.

Remind yourself - all thoughts and feelings, no matter how difficult they are,  come and go eventually.

If not cutting, then what?

The biggest question I get asked about stopping self harm is, "how else can I deal with strong emotions?". Here are some ideas

Physical stuff

  • Have a hot or cold shower
  • Punch a boxing bag or a pillow
  • Go for a run
  • Flick a rubber band against your wrist
  • Squeeze a stress ball

Soothing stuff

  • Have a warm bath
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Pat your dog or your cat
  • Light scented candles

Creative stuff

  • Scribble on a piece paper
  • Write your thoughts down in a journal
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Dance
  • Bake something

Social stuff

  • Chat to a friend
  • Use an online chat forum, like eheadspace (www.eheadspace.org.au)

"Ok, so I can distract myself, but the negative thoughts and feelings won't go away"

  • Find a way to let out your thoughts and feelings, like keeping a journal or talking to a friend.
  • See a counsellor or psychologist to get a new perspective on things, and to learn ideas for getting through tough times.

Cheer Up

Fostering Hope Psychology is somewhere you can go to get support, help and advice about self harm.

To find out Fostering Hope Psychology is a good fit for you, or for someone you know, please call 0420 320 322, or fill out the contact form below and someone will get back to you ASAP.

If you or someone you know is in immediate physical danger, please call 000. If you have concerns that you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact these crisis support services:
- Suicide Call Back Service (call 1300 659 467 or visit www.suicidalcallbackservice.org.au)
- Call Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Call Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

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