What are distraction techniques?

Isaac Woerner, 7, has blood drawn while his mom, Janice Woerner, uses a tablet game to distract him from the pain of the needle poke.

What are distraction techniques?

People who self-harm sometimes find it helpful to distract themselves from their thoughts. Distraction techniques recommended by the National Self-Harm Network (NSHN) include displacement techniques, reinforcing techniques, physical distractions, creative techniques, comforting techniques, constructive techniques, fun distractions, and inspiring distractions. Therefore, What are distraction techniques?

An individual who self-harms might need to try several different techniques before he or she finds something that works. Diverting someone’s attention with distracting techniques that are aligned with their interests, hobbies, and passions is valuable. It is possible that none of these distraction techniques will have any effect at all. Neither the individual nor the situation is to blame. It is not uncommon for distraction techniques to work one day, but not the next. The use of distraction techniques is not the only or most effective way to manage self-harm. The role of these programs should be considered complementary to other forms of support. In addition to other methods of support, engaging with, and exploring, different distraction techniques should be encouraged continuously, since their effectiveness may vary depending on the moment in time.

Below you will find some examples of distraction techniques that may be useful for someone who self-harms.

The displacement process

  • Using a red marker to draw on your skin

  • Putting an elastic band or hair tie around your wrist

  • Self-harm is done by putting plasters on the areas that you want to harm yourself

  • Ice cubes being squeezed

  • Showering with an exfoliating body wash after a hot shower

  • Taking a bite out of a chili

The Reinforcing process

  • Take a moment to think about what you don’t like about self-harm, e.g. scars, being hospitalized

  • A glowstick can help you resist the urge to hurt yourself. When you feel the urge to harm, snap the glowstick to start it glowing and tell yourself you cannot harm until it stops glowing. In a few hours, you should feel the glow of the glow, which will hopefully help you to control your urges

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The physical process

  • Doing exercise.

  • Using a punching bag as a training tool

  • The act of having a pillow fight with the wall

  • Screaming and shouting

  • Using a stress ball to relieve stress

  • Inflating balloons or wrapping them in bubble wrap

  • Taking a walk/riding a bike/riding the bus/driving

The creative process

  • Writing creatively

  • Making doodles

  • The art of drawing or painting

  • Performing a song

  • Making crafts

  • Putting together a playlist of your favorite songs

The comforting process

  • The act of sleeping

  • Having a shower or bath

  • Having fun with a pet

  • Letting yourself to cry

  • Taking a hot drink

The Constructive process

  • Writing out a to-do list

  • Performing housework, paperwork, and school work.

  • Book reading

  • Baking or cooking

  • Putting a call across to a helpline e.g. Good samaritans

  • Making a list of positive things in your life

  • Planting a garden

  • Get your nails painted

  • Taking part in web forums and replying to others’ posts

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The Fun process

  • Enjoying your favorite TV show or movie

  • Using the internet to browse

  • Enjoying your favorite music

  • Wearing appropriate makeup

  • Having fun with computer games

  • Ink coloring

  • Engaging in fidget spinner or tangle activities to distract you

  • Puzzle-solving

Distractions with others

  • Hanging around with other people

  • Talking to a friend over the phone

  • Attending a public place

  • Having physical contact and connections with others e.g. having a hug

The Inspiring process

  • The act of gazing at the stars or looking up at the sky

  • Practicing meditation

  • Practicing yoga

  • The art of looking at works of art

  • The beauty of watching a candle burn

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