It is not uncommon for people who once used self-harm as an unhealthy coping skill to deal with urges and thoughts of relapse. It becomes especially hard to combat those urges when faced with a triggering situation. As someone who is two years clean from self-harming, I have a lot of coping skills that I use to combat thoughts of relapse. I would like to share four of my top coping skills:
1. Safe Sensory Alternatives
When I first started my journey of recovery, this was my go to way to combat urges. At first I would use a comb and brush it against my arm to help myself calm down. The comb provides a sensation that is similar to pain that does not harm one’s body nor leaves any permanent marks.
Farther into recovery I used a toothbrush or lotion, these give you a feeling but not pain. I now only use safe sensory alternatives when I have really bad urges. As I learned how to calm myself down without a physical sensation I used other coping skills.
2. Pros and Cons List
Pro and Cons aren’t just for trying to decide who gets a raise (The Office joke). They can also be helpful for when you are combatting thoughts of relapse. When making a Pro and Con list for this, it’s a little different. The Pros are the Pros of not relapsing and the Cons are the cons of relapsing. For example my pro list would look like: being able to shower comfortably, being proud of myself, not having to worry about infection. My cons would be: anxiety and regret afterwards, having to tell my parents, a chance of serious injury.
Making a Pros and Cons list can be helpful when rationalizing the situation and to help combat negative thoughts of relapse. The list reminds you of all the reasons you stopped hurting yourself in the first place. Pros and Cons lists also help you remind yourself it’s never worth it to hurt yourself and the rewards of staying clean are abundant and worth fighting for.
Sometimes my urges are triggered by anger either with myself or at a situation. My favorite way to combat urges brought on my anger is by exercising. I personally like to go on the elliptical for just thirty minutes , but any type of physical activity will do.
Exercising helps me to get my anger out and gives me time to think about the situation. Exercising in moderation is always a good idea, even if you aren’t combating urges. I regularly exercise three times a week for thirty minutes just to keep me healthy.
Having thoughts of relapsing can be scary, but remember you are never alone. When I am having urges, It helps me to know that there are a lot of people that I can turn to. I like to go hang out with friends and just going to get something to eat or watching a movie with them helps me.
When I am at home with my family and am having a bad day I like to spend time with time with them. I like to play board games with my sister, help my dad with the garden, or help my mom make dinner. Staying busy and remembering how much people care for you can really help.
These coping skills might not work for everyone or every time.They are just the top four coping skills that work for me to help combat thoughts of relapse and urges. Remember you are strong and you can do this. Thanks for reading.
Do you have any coping mechanisms or tips that you want to share to avoid negative coping mechanisms? Have you ever had negative coping mechanisms?