Some young people find it possible to utilise less harmful techniques to provide the function sought from self-injury. The following are examples that may be considered with a young person, particularly during the care planning process.

Alternatives to self-injury

  • physical activity eg: running, punching bag
  • relaxation eg: controlled breathing
  • stamping on empty cans, throwing rocks into water
  •  carrying a safe object eg: teddy bear, rock, item of clothing
  •  squeeze ice cubes between fingers until they go numb
  •  yell, scream, sing loudly
  •  write about or draw the thoughts, feelings
  •  eat a chilli, or something really hot
  •  snap wrist with a rubber band
  •  visualisation of self-injury or alternatively a ‘safe’ space
  •  apply Vapour Rub or Deep Heat under nose
  •  talk to someone

Many of these ideas are consistent with the DBT approach to distress tolerance


Distracting Techniques Comforting Techniques 
cleaning hold a safe object
playing games - cards / board games / computer  sit in a safe place
sports / exercise - walking / running / dance listen to soothing music
gardening / plants sing a favourite song
visiting or ringing a friend use perfume / hand cream
paint or draw pictures / posters / cards pick fresh flowers
write letters eat a favourite food
puzzles have a soothing drink
watch TV / video have a bubble bath
listen to music soak your feet
cinema change the sheets on your bed
hobbies - sewing, knitting, collecting stroke your pet
Positive Emotional Techniques wear comfortable clothes
read old letters hug someone / your teddy
look through old photos put lights on (to sleep)
listen to emotional music prayer
watch funny / heart warming films Mindfulness Techniques
read joke book guided visualisation
say positive statements to self focus solely on breathing / breath deeply
read your list of assets or strengths count your breaths
Emotional Focusing  focus on the position of your body
list emotional triggers relax each muscle individually
write poetry / prose regarding feelings listen to relaxation music
paint / draw emotions meditation
write a diary yoga
discuss feeling with another person