About 17% of all people have used self-harm as a coping mechanism at least once in their lifetime. While some can stop this really dangerous behavior, many struggle with it for years.
I started cutting myself when I was around 13 and couldn’t stop until last year when I turned 21. I got so used to it that it took me a while to realize that this habit is extremely unhealthy, both physical and psychological.
But why do people cut, burn, or harm themselves in general?
Many try to use self-injury as a way to calm down and release tension in a really emotional moment. Still, it’s usually followed by guilt and shame. But since they see no other options in these particular moments, they can’t help themselves and do it again.
But self-injury is really dangerous. It can lead to blood poisoning, and in moments of extreme emotional overload, there’s even a chance of cutting too deep, which obviously can be life-threatening.
So what else to do in such a moment, when emotional pain, frustration, or anger simply get too much?
In therapy, I learned that self-harm is used to shift your focus away from emotions or thoughts to physical pain as a way of distraction or to punish yourself. Both reasons can be handled in a much easier and less dangerous way.: by using a so-called skills case.
The skills case is literally a case, bag, or small suitcase with things inside that serve the same purpose. They should be used to distract yourself from whatever makes you want to hurt yourself. Those things should have one thing in common, they need to be highly stimulating.
Let me explain this with some examples. Cutting yourself hurts a lot, and therefore your feelings get pushed away, and your body and mind focus on the fresh wound. To achieve an equally intense stimulation, the things in your skills case should be chosen thoughtfully. A good starter is always something hot and spicy. Many people can’t handle heat very well, so eating something that’s above your heat tolerance will have the same effect as cutting. The first thing in your skills case should thus be dried chilis, spicy gummy bears, or other spicy food that can be kept in there for a while.
A second option is the fascia roll. While these rolls are not normally meant to hurt, some models tend to have really uncomfortable surfaces. So instead of harming yourself, lay down and use your fascia roll on as many body parts as possible. This way, your whole body gets stimulated, and you can concentrate on this feeling.
Many other options can be used in such a moment. Some people don’t even need such a strong sensory overload, but maybe just a reminder about the good things in their lives. A letter to your future self can be beneficial. Write down what you’re happy about, write about your friends, your pets, your hobbies – whatever makes you smile and put it in that skills case. And even if you’re using another skill to deal with your emotions, put the letter in there and read it after you calmed down. I promise it will make you feel better right away.
In case you struggle with self-harm, please get professional help. The skills case can be helpful, but it’s no solution to the root of your problems.
That’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this article! Some of you might not need a skills case, but maybe your friends do – so share it with those who could use it.
Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks!