Coping Skills for Self-Harm: 5 Effective Strategies You Should Know

You may engage in self-harm to cope with challenging thoughts and feelings. However, self-harming behavior is often compulsive, which can make it challenging to stop. If you’re struggling, it’s important to learn how to express yourself in healthier ways. 

Let’s get into the top coping skills for self-harm.

Practice Mindfulness

People who self-harm often struggle with feeling stuck in their pasts or overly anxious about their futures. Mindfulness refers to the conscious intention of staying in the present moment. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help reduce urges associated with self-harm. It can also improve symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Some tips for mindfulness include: 

  • Taking deep breaths. Breathe in through your mouth and hold the air for five counts. Exhale using your stomach and hold the release for five counts. Repeat 5–10 times.
  • Stretching. Commit to 5–10 minutes of stretching your body each day. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” Instead, focus on how it feels to honor your body.
  • Grounding exercises. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, practice bringing yourself back into the present moment. You can do this by focusing on engaging your five senses. Grounding exercises can be particularly useful when feeling overwhelmed, as they allow you to bring your attention back to the present moment. Engaging your five senses is a great way to do this, whether it's focusing on the feel of the sun on your skin, the sound of birds chirping, or the smell of freshly baked cookies. 

Remember that mindfulness may not feel natural at first. That’s normal. Consistent practice will make it feel more intuitive over time.

Find a Creative Outlet

One effective coping skill for self-harm is finding a creative outlet. Engaging in creative activities can provide a sense of purpose, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

Engaging in creative activities can provide numerous benefits for individuals who struggle with self-harm. Creative outlets can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. By focusing on a creative project, you can distract yourself from negative thoughts and emotions and instead channel their energy into something positive and productive. Engaging in creative activities can also increase self-esteem and provide a sense of control and mastery over your life.

There are countless creative activities that individuals can try as a coping skill for self-harm. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Painting or drawing can be a great way to express emotions and release pent-up feelings. Even if you don't consider yourself an artist, you can still enjoy the therapeutic benefits of creating art. Start with simple materials such as paper and pencils and experiment with different techniques and styles.
  • Writing can be a powerful tool for self-expression and reflection. You can try writing in a journal, writing poetry, or writing a short story. By putting your thoughts and emotions into words, you can gain clarity and understanding of your experiences.
  • Music such as playing an instrument or singing can be a great way to channel emotions into something positive. You can try learning a new song or writing your own music. Listening to music can also be a powerful coping skill for self-harm, as it can provide a sense of comfort and calm.
  • Crafts such as knitting, crochet, or scrapbooking can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. By creating something with your hands, you can focus your energy on a productive and positive activity.
  • Photography can be a great way to appreciate and capture the beauty in the world around you. You can try taking pictures of nature, people, or everyday objects. By focusing on the present moment and finding beauty in the world, you can reduce stress and improve your mood.

Engaging in creative activities can provide a sense of purpose, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. By finding a creative outlet that works for you, you can channel your energy into something positive and productive. Whether it's painting, writing, music, crafts, or photography, there are countless creative activities to try as a coping skill for self-harm. Remember to be patient and gentle with yourself as you explore different activities and find what works best for you.


Practice Positive Affirmations

Self-harm often comes from a place of profoundly low self-esteem and self-worth. In your recovery, it’s essential to counteract those negative thoughts you hold about yourself.

 Some positive affirmations for self-harm include: 

  • My feelings are important, and I deserve to feel them.
  • These feelings won’t last forever.
  • I am a good person.
  • I have suffered enough, and I don’t deserve to suffer anymore.
  • I am good enough exactly as I am.
  • I am worthy of healing.

 Write down affirmations that resonate with you and remind yourself of them whenever you struggle with self-harm urges.

Get the Most from Professional Support

Self-help strategies can work, but sometimes people need additional support. A qualified therapist can help you understand your emotions and triggers. They can also teach you a variety of alternative coping skills for self-harm and other issues.

To get the most from your treatment, it’s important to be honest and engaged with the process. Remember that your therapist is there to listen, teach, and encourage you to heal. The more open you are, the more you will gain from the work.

Final Thoughts on Coping Skills for Self-Harm

No matter your circumstances, you deserve to heal. Learning and practicing new coping skills for self-harm is an essential part of your recovery.

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  1. Raypole, C. (2019, May 24). 30 Grounding Techniques to Quiet Distressing Thoughts. Healthline; Healthline Media.