The road to ‘recovery’ from self-harm can be full of twists and turns: you may feel that you are ready and want to look for alternative coping strategies – here are some things to consider:
Deciding the stop, or reduce your self-harming behaviour is a huge step forward: it shows a mindset desperately wanting to find a ‘new way’. Go gently on yourself.
Many people talk about reducing gradually before deciding to finally stop. This may be helpful for you or you may decide you need to separate yourself from it immediately. Either way is fine – don’t put too much pressure on yourself though.
Take a day at a time, or even half a day. This is will depend on what your pattern of harming is, the frequency of it, how long you have been engaged in it and what are the external things that might be causing you stress. Perhaps set yourself a timer, and add an hour/half day/day to it each time?
Plan when and how to reduce or stop. Think about what else is going on for you currently -how are you coping with school, exams, family stuff, friendship issues? If you have any major stress factors (like exams), consider waiting until they have been as resolved as they can be, before reducing or stopping. This way, if you are struggling, you won’t be putting yourself under impossible pressure.
Recognise it may take a while. Whatever form of harming behavior you have been using to cope, it will be an addiction and a habit. Retraining your brain to find a new way of coping will take time – allow yourself time to experiment with different coping strategies to find what works for you.
At the start, it’s important we are honest with you: none of the coping strategies will give you the same relief you have found in your harming. Wearing elastic bands, using ice cubes or exercise are alternatives; your brain will take a bit of time to rewire itself to recognize this as the new way of coping. The physical and emotional relief you might get from your harming, may not be fully relieved immediately by using alternatives.
The most important thing is, however long it takes; even if it’s two steps forward and one back; you move forward at your pace. Don’t go too hard on yourself. Be as kind to you, as you are to your friends.
Show yourself love, patience and gentleness.
We offer you some tried and tested alternative strategies here, but please, let us know others as the longer the list, the more we can all offer other young people who are seeking to looking for a new coping strategy.
We are with you in this, you aren’t alone. Literally thousands of others are with you in this journey through self-harm to recovery; let’s take small steps forward together.