Maximizing Self-Care: Avoiding Ways To Hurt Yourself

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 17, 2020

Reviewer Lori Jones, LMHC

When Thoughts Get Dark

We all have periods of our life where the days aren't as colorful as they used to be. While we all develop different ways of dealing with these emotions, some people experience deeper valleys than others. Self-harm is when an individual hurts themselves both intentionally and inadvertently. While what comes to mind for most people is the thought of someone deliberately cutting themselves, this behavior can manifest itself in many forms.

Hurting yourself, or thinking about doing so, is an indicator of underlying emotional distress. Whether it be through drug or alcohol use, risk-taking, physical defamation, or even through the relationships we choose to engage in, the underlying characteristic is that it is harmful to your health or well-being. While there are many ways to hurt yourself, there are also many ways that we can take care of ourselves.


Not Always Obvious

Another common manifestation of self-harm is seen in eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. People also cause themselves harm inadvertently by overindulging in their substance of choice, be it alcohol, cigarettes, food, shopping, marijuana, you get the picture. In reality, it is a coping mechanism, developed in response to some sort of trauma or stress. Those engaging in these types of behaviors do so in order to tap into and help dissipate the emotional tension that they may be feeling.

Self-harm can be hard to fully understand, even for those who participate in it. There are many outlets for self-care that are easy to implement into your routine that can make a huge difference in your mental and physical health. Additionally, the more that you take the time to invest in holistically caring for yourself, the more room there seems to be for other things in your life.

Getting Insight

Understanding self-harm can be a difficult thing to do when looking from the outside. As with many forms of mental dysfunction, when one hasn't experienced the sensation, they have a hard time appreciating or wrapping their head around what it's like.

After hurting oneself, it isn't uncommon to be flooded with feelings of shame or guilt, which can become a toxic cycle of ritualistic engagement in negative behavior. Many take great care to hide their actions from others, especially people that they think may stop them from engaging in the behavior.


When Thinking of Ways to Hurt Yourself

There is a wide range of options to consider when dealing with self-harming behavior. Sometimes identifying the triggers such as situations, circumstances, or moods can be helpful in recognizing when to implement coping skills to decrease the behaviors. Mindfulness also is helpful as a coping skill to deal with the emotions surrounding self-harming. Finding someone who can trust to talk to about the feelings and desires to self-harm can be helpful to decrease the desire and possibly encourage you to make the necessary decisions to make changes.

If you are ever feeling as if you truly want to cause physical harm to yourself or others, it can be hard to reach out for the help that you desperately need. Professionals at BetterHelp are uniquely trained to approach problems and mindsets with tact and nurturance in mind. Many people are resistant to the idea of talking to a therapist whether it be due to stigma, cost, or accessibility.

This resource makes it possible to get care without insurance and allows for flexibility in scheduling and location, as it's designed to deliver sessions through an online interface. Even if you don't pursue care right away, beginning to plant the thoughts of self-development can lead to you taking better care of yourself.


Negative experiences are apart of life and how you handle it is either positive or negative. Coping mechanisms are either positive or negative. A popular negative coping skill is alcohol as it is an easy way to drown out negative feelings and create feelings of peace however temporary. Other ways to manage moods can be positive such as making music to help you recover from depression or anxiety. Coping skills can be learned, unlearned and replaced.

Unhealthy coping skills can be stigmatizing, causing people to turn away from seeking help. These negative coping skills can lead to harassment, poor self-esteem, and discrimination. With physical disabilities, the individual's condition is more acceptable and easier to understand unlike an emotional disability or mental health condition. Stigmas and self-harm can be passed from one person to another such as in families.

If you are self-harming, you do not have to continue to live this way. You can learn how to take the lemons that life gives you and turn it into lemonade. Healthy coping skills can help empower you to transform negative and fearful emotions into ones that are more manageable and confidence boosting. There's nothing wrong with seeking mental health services. If you yourself have a negative coping skill you are not alone. Stopping behaviors that make you feel worse is one way you can take action right away.

Some other ways to cope with self-harm is a distraction, meditation, thought stopping, challenging negative thoughts, and social support. Distraction is refocusing yourself on safe activities when feeling distressed such as making art or music. Individuals have benefited from distracting by using simple games such as Sudoku. Focusing on a game such as Sudoku keeps yourself from ruminating on negative thoughts that can contribute to self-harm.

Meditation is looking inward to gain reflection and a different perspective on issues. In meditation, we become the observer and can gain valuable patience instead of acting impulsively to negative stimuli. Through your new role as the observer, meditation becomes an example of how we can take our negative thoughts seriously but not literally. Meditation can also be considered a distraction coping mechanism. Through meditation, you will experience a wide range of emotions to help balance out emotions that may have been blocked during the self-harm.

Thought stopping is noticing distressing thoughts and extinguishing them by saying "STOP" when triggering thoughts that motivate self-harm to arise. Challenging negative thoughts is identifying negative thoughts and utilizing reality-based events to shape them into more positive thoughts. Social support is reaching out to peers and other supportive people to establish and stay on track with treatment goals.

When it comes to understanding and treating self-harm we can learn a lot by looking at cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is analyzing triggers as stated earlier in the article and processing them in terms of how they impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By looking at your thoughts and feelings it gives us clues into how certain behaviors develop including negative and positive ones. Thought stopping and challenging negative thoughts are both concepts based on cognitive behavioral therapy.

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