Self-injury: Positive coping strategies

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The urge to self-injure can be very strong, but there are things you can do to cope. If you’re self-injuring and are not ready to stop, here are some positive alternatives you can try.

When people purposefully hurt their bodies without trying to kill themselves, it is known as self-injury. Self-injury is a negative coping strategy — some people do it to get relief when they’re dealing with intense emotions (or feel like they don’t have a lot of control in their lives).

The urge to self-injure can be strong, especially if you’ve done it in the past and it’s made you feel better. It’s good to know there are less harmful ways to cope with difficult feelings, like:

  • go for a walk
  • yell into a pillow
  • rip a piece of paper into tiny pieces
  • play sports
  • draw or paint
  • lie down in a safe place
  • take deep breaths or try a breathing exercise
  • tell yourself, “I won’t hurt myself. This is something I can control, not something that will control me.”
  • watch TV or play video games
  • listen to music, dance or sing
  • write something positive about yourself on the body part you usually injure
  • call a friend and talk about something else

If you’re struggling with self-injuring and want to stop, you can try talking to a safe adult (friend, counsellor, teacher, etc.). If you’re not sure how to get help, you can always call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.

If you are hurt badly or bleeding a lot, call emergency services.

It can be difficult to find ways to deal with intense emotions. These positive coping strategies can help you feel better.

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