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Tips to alternatives in coping with emotions


We often hear about cutting on TV and in movies, but it isn’t the only kind of self-injury. Other types of self-injury include burning and scratching. When someone harms themselves in these ways, it’s usually because they’re trying to cope with a stressful event or strong emotions. It can seem like the only activity that will make them feel better. Reasons why self-injurers hurt themselves can vary. Sometimes, self-injurers are unable to experience and express their emotions. But self-injury rarely works as a stress-reliever. After self-injuring, people frequently feel worse, and the emotions don’t go away. Plus, there are also the devastating complications of embarrassment, regret and scars or other permanent damage.

Fortunately, there are many healthier ways to cope. If you or a friend are self-injuring, use the list of suggestions below to find better ways to deal with emotional issues.

See a counselor. The best way to find better ways to cope is to see a professional counselor. Therapy helps individuals to reduce self-injurious behavior, process and express emotions and feel better about themself. Many times, people who are self-injuring are also dealing with treatable conditions like depression or anxiety. If you do seek help, be sure to be honest with your counselor, attend all sessions and stick to your treatment plan.

Explore why you self-injure. Finding out why you self-injure and what purpose it serves for you can help you stop this behavior. Consider why you started self-injuring in the first place. What are the triggers? How do you feel right before you self-injure? Is it always the same emotion? What are you doing before you self-injure? This is important information to share with a counselor or mental health professional. Keeping a journal can help you answer these questions and serve as a positive emotional release.

Choose Healthy Coping Activities. Often, if people delay self-injuring behaviors, the feelings will pass. Pick a healthy activity that you like that makes you feel better. This could be exercise, calling a friend, going for a walk, listening to music or a hobby like painting or writing. When you feel the urge to self-injure, immediately start one of the healthy alternatives instead.

Create a coping skills box. In a box, put your list of coping options, a favorite movie, a few good books, an exercise DVD, soothing music, drawing supplies and your journal. Whenever you’re experiencing the urge to self-injure (or a negative emotion), get the box out and choose a healthy option.

Avoid anything that promotes self-injury. This might mean avoiding Internet sites or even friends who glorify intentionally injuring yourself.

Call a hotline. If you’re having an emergency or just want to talk to someone anonymously, call 1-800-DONT-CUT or the national suicide hotline at 800-784-2433.