What do you do when you’re feeling miserable?
Raid the fridge? Reach for a bottle or can of alcohol? Beat yourself up mentally? These are all forms of self-harm although compared to cutting or head banging, appear minor. Self-harm has to start somewhere. It’s how far we take it that makes the difference as to whether we stay mentally healthy, or not.
How about when you’re feeling worried or stressed?
Do you reach for a cigarette? Bite your nails to the quick? Chew the inside of your lip until it bleeds? In fact, anyone can self-sabotage the best opportunity that will ever come along in a lifetime because we can, and we know we can. We shy away from things we don’t know, so that great opportunity becomes scary and we frighten ourselves into thinking it will turn out badly, so it does.
This article was prompted by the Children’s Society survey* that 25% of teenage girls self-harm. That is, taking an action that will cause them physical pain. Self-harmers can choose when to administer the pain. It is their decision and this gives them control over an area of their life; they feel better about their life and can ignore the root cause of their misery which is usually bullying.
Self-harm creeps up on vulnerable people.
You may not even consider yourself as being vulnerable, but if you’re miserable and/or stressed for whatever reason, you reduce your capacity to look after yourself. Subconsciously you learn that if you administer pain or deny yourself what you feel is good for you, you have control. Control is good. You want to feel better, so you self-harm more often or increase the pain. If you’re encouraged to do this by your peers, then it is very difficult to put the brakes on and get out of the cycle.
We are community animals and caring improves community spirit and our wellbeing.
Now, on to self-care. We are being brought up to look after others. For example, I hear parents saying, “Look after your little sister/brother at school”. Rarely do I hear them saying, “Look after yourself today at school.” Looking out for others, taking care of them, putting others before ourselves is a good way to live. We are community animals and caring improves community spirit and our wellbeing. HOWEVER! If you find yourself at the end of the care chain or if the care chain gets broken – who is taking care of you?
We have to take some of the responsibility for caring for ourselves. We should not rely solely on others. With years, maybe decades, of perceiving self-care as being self-ish, we don’t know or have forgotten how to do it. To quote Heather Petherick, "Self-care is not selfish. It is the foundation for serving all others."
Some simple actions to show you care about yourself
- Never go out of the house without brushing your hair, checking your make up (if you wear any) or making sure your trouser zips are done up.
- Treat your lungs to three deep breaths every hour.
- Give your heart a good pump by doing a power walk through the house/up the stairs/round the block/down the corridor.
- Take your shoes off and give your toes a wiggle regularly.
- No matter how busy you get, treat yourself to a wee! If you’ve drunk as much water as you know you should, then the best way to relieve the discomfort is to visit the smallest room. You can always go the extra mile and take your own soft toilet tissue.
- Practise smiling at yourself in a mirror or window and tell yourself “You’re worth it!”
- Download the FREE assessment tool of my Wellness Wheel: http://ivyworklifebalancecoaching.co.uk/blog-display/81
- Hugs are amazing! Get or give as many in a day as you can. These don’t have to come from people (although they are preferable). You can hug trees, teddy bears, yourself etc.
Learn to replace self-harm with self-care.
Instead of reaching for the thing that will lead you to harm yourself (the whole block of chocolate, the entire bottle of wine, the knife), reach for something that will lead you to care of yourself (one square of dark chocolate, a non-alcoholic drink, a friend). It’s all about balance and moderation. The learning process isn’t quick or easy, especially if you are relying on being self-taught. Look for help and you will find it.
If you or someone you know is on the self-harm route, please feel free to contact me. I can help through my coaching programme and with NLP (neuro linguistic programming) session. Ask for details.