Posted on February 22, 2017 by Becky Oberg
You may be able to manage self-harm urges with the Calm Harm application, or app. Recently, a counselor shared this app with me. Calm Harm, a British app, is designed to help people of all ages deal with self-harm urges. It mainly does this by inviting the user to “ride the wave”–self-harm, the app says, is like a wave–strongest when you want to do it, and then weaker with time. The app then provides suggestions, a timer, and feedback on how you handle self-injury. It’s an interesting app for anyone, but I cannot recommend it strongly enough for someone who struggles with self-injury.
Here is how you can manage self-harm urges using the app.
Activities to Help Manage Self-Harm Urges on Calm Harm
Calm Harm has four activity types: comfort, distract, express, and release. If you’re unsure of which one you need to use, it has “Random” and “Breathe” buttons as well. Each type of activity lists relevant coping skills. Here are some examples:
Comfort Activities When Managing Self-Harm Urges
- Eat something you enjoy, slowly and savor it.
- Use the microphone on your phone and record saying three positive things about something that matters and listen to it as many times as you like.
- Stroke a pet if you have one or something that you like the feel of such as a furry toy or blanket.
Distraction Activities for Managing Self-Harm Urges
- Say the 13 times table.
- List how many songs can you name starting with the letter “t”.
- Think of a name for every letter of the alphabet.
Managing Self-Harm Urges with Expression
- Say out loud what’s bothering you. Can you change one negative word into a positive?
- Stick some of your positive thoughts on sticky paper near your bed or near where you harm. Look at them to make the self-harm thoughts go away.
- Can you ask your friends to write something about you on a sticky note? Stick these in your room.
Release Activities for Managing Self-Harm
- Hold some ice cubes in your hands or where you want to harm.
- Squeeze a rubber ball very hard.
- Get a sheet of bubble wrap, burst each bubble as slowly as you can.
At least one of these coping skills will help you, and if not, there’s more in the app, including some I’ve never heard of. There are even some you can add ni the app when you’re calm to remind yourself of in a crisis.
Which leads to my next point–you can wait five minutes (and if you can’t, call for help immediately).
Can You Wait Five Minutes to Act on Self-Harm Urges?
The app refers to this as the “five-minute rule,” and if that fails, there’s the “15-minute rule.” Basically, the app gives you a list of coping skills to try for five minutes, complete with timer starting at 60 seconds. Believe it or not, most of the time the urges pass when you’re concentrating on one of the coping skills, such as counting backwards the odd numbers from 100 or naming a country for every letter of the alphabet.
The important thing to know is that you can wait five minutes to self-injure, especially when you’re trying to sing your favorite song backward–it takes up so much thinking effort that the self-harm urge passes. It’s basically a gentle push to think of something else for five minutes.
It may feel like you can’t wait five minutes–I know from experience the self-harm urge can seem overwhelming and asking you to do anything besides self-harm seems insurmountable. You know yourself best. If you can’t distract yourself for five minutes, or if the urge lasts longer than 15 minutes, you’re probably in need of more help than the app can give you. But try to put it off for five minutes first. It’s like alcoholism–you don’t have to think, “Never again,” you just have to think, “Not now.”
When to Call for Help for Self-Harm Urges
I used to say that if I didn’t break the skin it wasn’t a big deal. The problem with that statement is it’s not the wounds, but the fact that the person who feels like self-harming feels that way. It’s not something that should be played down. Self-injury is a serious problem and should be taken seriously especially when it gets to the point where you can’t wait or use coping skills. If the app doesn’t work, call for help. The app lists a few UK-based hotlines and websites, but make a list of local hotlines and keep it with you.
If you can’t call a hotline, there is a text-based crisis service–text “START” to 741741. Your local crisis hotline may also offer a text option–the one here in Indianapolis does. If you’re at a computer, there are two free crisis intervention chat lines: imalive.org and crisischat.org. You can also see our list of resources and hotlines.
To download the app, go to Google Play or the Apple App Store.