Category Archives: Coping skills

Don’t Just Say No.

It’s nearly 6 in the morning and I have been up all night as a result of the urges to self-harm which I think so many of us know so well.

If I am completely honest I hate these darned urges and I know all too well just how dangerous they can be.

I am also very familiar with different coping techniques that can be employed during such times and I thank the Lord that I am as they have helped greatly once again.  Many of these can be found here by the way and if you struggle with self-harm can I encourage you to check them out.

Of course the fact of the matter is that you truly have to want to fight those urges and sometimes that just isn’t easy.  But if you do want to fight them having the right approach is essential.

This is something that was recognized many years ago in respect of anti-drugs campaigns.  You may well be familiar with the old campaigns that were entitled (and indeed had the core message) ‘JUST SAY NO!’.

What was soon learned was that this message and indeed tha approach just didn’t work.  Why?  Well primarily because it didn’t do anything to fill the void.  In terms of abuse and addiction people didn’t do it just for the sheer heck of it they did it because of a need and because they perceived the drink or the drugs to be fulfilling that need or at very least to be providing something else in it’s place.

Those urges to self-harm are a sign of a need and whilst responding to the need by self-harming is a very unhealthy and unhelpful response in the long-term it gives the impression in the short-term that it works.  Of course it really isn’t and is just feeding that need and complicating matters more BUT the fact remains that we have to recognize the core need that is there.

So tonight I didn’t JUST SAY NO.  I said no and did something constructive in its place.  Actually I did some computer work which needed to be done and which I had scheduled for later today.  Afterall the fact that I have been up all night as a result of those urges would mean that I would have little concentration and energy later today and would need to rest.  So doing some of today’s work whilst up last night seemed very sensible.

Additionally I did a load of housework – cleaning and re-arranging etc.  This is an excellent thing  to do as not only does it mean that your brain is actively engaged in stuff but it also mans that your body and more importantly your hands are occupied.  Of course you have to be careful around certain objects and ever mindful of the temptations that are there but it really does help.  On went the positive and upbeat music ( it is important to have that kind of music rather than silence or downbeat and negative music playing) and on I got with some chores.

And there is another very real benefit from doing this.  You get to see the fruits of your labour and to take encouragement from the fact that it came about as a result of a victory.

By doing housework you have not only been productive and achieved something but you have turned a potentially harmful and negative thing into something very positive and beneficial.

This is a wonderful thing to do.  Of course the dog thinks I am crazy and is wondering just what it going on but hey, I am sure he will cope and I am really pleased that I have coped!

 

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Claiming and Keeping the Now.

There are without any doubt multiple reasons behind the decision to self-harm at any given moment.  Sometimes it is in response to some circumstance or stressor that has happened there and then and sometimes it is because our mind has wandered back to a painful or distressing or unhealthy memory.  Other times it can be less of a wandering and more of an instant jump back to a painful or distressing time.

For me personally there are a few ‘triggers’ that seem to instantly send me back to that memory and thus to a dangerous or unhealthy place.

When this instant situation happens dealing with it is much harder although not impossible and I intend to share about this later.  But for the purpose of this piece I thought it might be helpful if I shared what I do when my mind starts to wander towards dangerous or unhealthy memories or thoughts.  Times when I desperately need to claim and keep hold of the now and not to go back ‘there’.

Distraction.

Distraction from the memories back onto current things can be a very useful tool.  Whether this is done by calling and friend or by interacting with someone else or through focussing the mind on current tasks is entirely up to the person concerned and their personal circumstances at that time.  Factors such as;  the time of day, how many friends – especially understanding ones – you have, how much telephone credit you have left, where you are when the need arises, all can affect the choice you make in terms of what method you choose.

Very often I will play a game that I find absorbing. Sudoku or something that requires me to focus and concentrate.  Or I will do chores such as cleaning or tidying or something like that.  Responding to emails or writing a letter to a friend or family can also distract me from those past thoughts and memories.  Although I do of course have to be careful not to choose folk with whom there is some association with those memories.

Grounding.

Grounding is another technique that I use.  I make mental and verbal inventories of my surroundings which thus bring my attention to the now and not the past.  Imaging that I am on the phone to a friend and describing what is around me or pretending that they have never seen my home or room and have asked me what it looks like and thus I am describing it in detail can be a real help.

Sometimes I play a game I call Increasing Vowels.  In this game I go through my house finding different items beginning with each of the vowels.  I start by finding one item beginning with an ‘A’ then an ‘E’ then an ‘I’ and so forth and then try to find two and then three and so forth until I am feeling much stronger.

There is infact a whole number of different things that can be done to help us ‘claim and keep the now’ and some of them can be found on the ‘Coping Techniques‘ page.

Some may work for you and some may not.  Likewise some may work in some situations and others not work.  What is important, I feel, it’s that we firstly recognize what is happening when we do ‘wander’ or we do ‘trigger’ and that we have in our tool bag a number of tried and tested methods for safely and healthily dealing with these situations.

There is, I believe, a truth here that we need to hold onto in these situations.  Self-harm, whilst being a coping technique, is a very poor one, offering short-term relief at best and nearly always adding more problems than it relieves.

Going back to the ‘place’ which causes this type of response in us, is not a good thing unless done in therapy and a safe controlled environment where the related issues are being addressed.  So staying away from that place at all other times – claiming and keeping the now, if you will, can be a very real advantage and an essential coping tool.

 

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