Resisting the urge to use self-destructive behaviors isn’t easy, but it is possible. When you get an urge to use a particular behavior, pause, breathe, and remind yourself that it is going to pass. Maybe not this minute or or an hour from now, but sometime soon, the urge and emotional pain you feel will pass.
Utilizing coping mechanisms may not make the urges go away or remedy how you feel, but they can help you distract, self-soothe, and postpone engaging in harmful behaviors.
Here are some ideas if you feel stuck:
Get out how you’re feeling. Write the thoughts circling in your head. Your words don’t have to be coherent, and they don’t even have to be sentences. The purpose of journaling is simply to shift the chaos in your head to a piece of paper, where you can look back on it when you are in a better place and understand what caused you to feel the way you do. It’s doesn’t matter if you write well. All that matters is that you write.
2. Listen to calming music.
3. Watch your favorite movie or tv show.
4. Light a candle and meditate.
5. Make a collage from old magazines and photographs.
6. Scream into a pillow.
7. Rip paper.
8. Throw ice
9. Call a friend to distract yourself or vent.
Make a 911 List of phone numbers that you can refer to when you need support or have an urge to use any kind of unhealthy behavior. Make a deal with yourself that you have to call every single person on the list before engaging in the behavior.
Even if the person doesn’t answer, you have to leave them a message and tell them what you have an urge to do. This way, you are accountable. Chances are that at least one person will answer and offer you the support you need to fight your urge.
You can also vent to the person in the message you leave. Just saying out loud how we feel, even if someone isn’t on the receiving end, can be extremely helpful.
10. Take a nap.
11. Color in a coloring book.
12. Make and read affirmation cards
You can go to Michaels or any craft store and buy a small wooden box. Paint and decorate it anyway you like. Once it dries, you can use it as a affirmation box.
Write down inspiring quotes, positive phrases, and affirmations on notecards or small pieces of paper. You can even decorate your affirmation cards. Fill your box with affirmations and read one before each meal, when you wake up each morning, and at night before you go to bed.
Replace your disordered rituals with a healthy, recovery-oriented one.
13. Watch a funny video on youtube
14. Cuddle with a pet.
If you don’t own an animal, you can go to an animal shelter and give lots of animals some love!
15. Take a bubble bath.
16. Paint your nails.
17. Get out of your house!
Or just get out of the environment giving you urges. Go to a public place—somewhere you won’t be able to use your behavior.
Book stores and coffee shops are great places to visit to get out of your head space. You can take a journal and write or a book to read. But just getting out of your environment can help stop the urge.
18. Sketch or draw.
19. Write a letter to someone you love and care about.
20. Do an internal dialogue
When your negative voice get’s loud, challenge it. If you have a difficult time coming up with positive counters for yourself, try to imagine what you would say to a friend who was having an urge to use a behavior.
Here is an example:
NEGATIVE VOICE (NV): You don’t deserve to eat dinner.
HEALTHY-SELF (HS): Why not? What about me is so bad that would make me undeserving of something that every human being does and needs to survive?
NV: Because you’re fat. You don’t get to eat if you’re fat.
HS: Even if I was fat, that wouldn’t make me undeserving of food. I don’t think that other people who are fat shouldn’t eat. Why should I be an exception?
NV: Because you need to be skinny.
HS: I NEED to be healthy and recover. I don’t exist to “be skinny”. I exist to be happy and do what I’m passionate about. The size of my body doesn’t define who I am. I deserve to eat and honor my body’s needs. And regardless of whether I want to or not, I’m going to eat dinner because I want to get better and get rid of you.
21. Knit or crochet.
22. Face paint!
23. Play an instrument/make music/sing.
24. Be with someone.
Destructive behaviors (especially eating disordered ones) thrive off of getting us to be alone. Call up a friend or reach out to a family member. Ask if they can be with you. Sometimes just not being alone can be enough to pull us out of a dark place.
25. Write a Relapse Prevention letter to yourself.
Make it out to yourself. If it helps, think of this as writing a letter to a friend or someone you love.
The purpose of the letter is to have something to look back at that is in YOUR writing, asserting all the reasons why it won’t benefit you to use the unhealthy behaviors, and why you deserve recovery.
Here is an example of one:
I know that you must be feeling really upset, lonely, unloved, and depressed in this moment. Know that turning to your eating disorder or self-harm will not solve the problem. It may make these uncomfortable feelings temporarily go away, but it will never get rid of them permanently.
This is just a way to start your letter. Since everyone is different, your letter needs to be unique and something that will be helpful to you.
26. Do a reality check with yourself.
Ask yourself and answer the following questions:
-What is going on?
-How do I feel? (List at least 3 feelings)
-Will doing this behavior help? (restricting, binging and purging, taking a drink, abusing drugs, cutting, etc.)
-In the short term, will doing the behavior make me feel better?
-Will it solve my problem in the long run?
-Is there something else, that is healthy and recovery-oriented, that I can do instead?
After answering all of these questions, see if you still feel like using your behavior.
***These are just a few out of so many coping mechanisms you can use to self-sooth.
Don’t give up.
And know you that you are NOT alone.