Self-Harm and Stress: Get Motivated to Cope

January 15, 2014 Jennifer Aline Graham

Self-harm urges rise during times of stress, and it is hard to find the motivation to move forward in a positive way, but it is possible. Get a pep talk here.

I'm under a lot of stress, but I won't turn to self-harm as an answer. No way. After five years without a cut, I will never go back. That’s the thing with being five years self-harm free: I’m so proud of my success that I don’t dare step backwards. But I need to deal with this stress and self-harm urges.

Lately, things haven’t been working out the way I’ve been hoping. For some reason, my emotions have been on a crazy, never-ending rollercoaster and I’m just waiting to get off the ride. It could be because of the crazy weather or because of issues I’m having with a new job search. It could be that some of my friends are moving away and some are planning weddings and that too could be getting to me.

One thing is for sure - I’m having a hard time coping.

Motivation Decides the Stress vs. Self-Harm Battle

For many self-harmers, motivation is difficult. It’s hard to make that initial step forward when seeking help. For many people, it’s difficult to admit you need the help and self-harmers understand that. When self-harmers decide to make an effort to stop cutting or burning or picking, that first step is the most difficult to hold onto because it can easily be forgotten or given up on.When stressed, motivation can be hard to find, but it is possible if you set your mind to it.

Just like a New Year’s Resolution.

For some reason, my picking has been on an ultimate high. For the first time, almost ever, I think it really is due to stress. I do not realize I am doing it and when it begins, like any kind of self-harm, it is tough to stop. Try telling yourself to stop biting your nails or picking at your acne. Yes, it’s not easy. Over the last month – I’ve become worried. I really have been having a hard time and I know this was my number one resolution to work on.

My motivation needs to start improving. That really is the first step to overcoming any obstacle. Whether it is to stop cutting or to start focusing on a job, motivation is key and I cannot stress that enough. Once motivation increases, you become more determined to move towards that positive behavior or that goal you’ve set for yourself.

It’s human nature to feel stress and anxiety and many self-harmers feel this way from day to day. However, you can deal with that stress by finding ways to become motivated. Create a list of goals or start the Post-It Project. Find a way that will get your mind and body moving in a good direction.

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APA Reference
Aline, J. (2014, January 15). Self-Harm and Stress: Get Motivated to Cope, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Jennifer Aline Graham

Nelia Rudy
April, 23 2014 at 10:17 pm

You win the remark of your day.

January, 20 2014 at 11:50 am

I enjoyed reading your article and can most definitely relate. After many years of cutting, I have now made it 7 months. That may not seem like along time, but to me if feels like a lifetime. The urge to cut is still there, but your right I finally have the motivation I need to stop myself and find healthier ways to cope. I am afraid of failing and disappointing those who have stood by me and supported me through some hard times. And disappointing myself. Therapy is still the most helpful thing for me. Not that my therapist would judge me, it just makes me feel accountable. There have been many times I've thought, oh, she won't know if I don't tell her. But, I have always been honest with her about it, so why stop now. I can do this.

BreAna Loya
January, 17 2014 at 11:53 pm

The first time I cut myself was when my boyfriend went into surgery. He hadnt come out for two days and I was scared to death. His mom told me he awoke during surgery and he couldnt stand the pain. I ztarted getting addicted after that. I got sleep deprived and I would just stare at the ceiling in the middle of the night. Stayed up until about 8 am every day and got dark circles under my eyes. My friend noticed first and she wanted to help. She got my concealer to hide it and made me promise I would stop. But, I didnt. I broke her promise and kept gettig scars. None of my teachers or parents noticed, thankfully. The last time I cut was four days ago. I wrote "HATE" on my arm and its still there. If any of you wanna talk about it, we can get through it togeter

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January, 17 2014 at 10:23 am

I'm amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a
blog that's equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you,
you've hit the nail on the head. The problem
is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently
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Sharon Heller
January, 16 2014 at 10:18 am

Hi Jennifer,
Cutting your skin or pulling out your hair is considered a psychiatric disorder whose purpose is to distract you from intense emotional pain. Apparently it does so by releasing endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, rapidly reducing tension. Some have described the feeling afterwards as a “calm, bad feeling.”
But cutting or pulling serves another purpose: it helps you get in touch with your body. For this reason, cutting is common with people with sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Those with SPD tend to either feel things to intensely and are hypersensitive, or feel too little and are under-sensitive to sensation and experience sensory deprivation. Cutting, pulling, skin-picking etc. is basically a self-stimming behavior that calms the body by regulating internal sensory input. Why choose this route to self-regulate? Hands, scalp, and face have many nerve endings. And though it might seem counter-intuitive to seek sensation if you experience things too intensely, the body in overload will go into a state of numbness for protection – the same as it does when traumatized. A sudden wham of sensation where you have the most nerve endings will snap you out of the deadness.
Those with SPD who are under-sensitive to sensation are especially likely to use cutting etc. for self-stimming. Under-sensitivity typically goes hand in hand with having low muscle tone (think non-muscular, fleshy or floppy) and poor body awareness, which puts you at high risk for depression. Under severe emotional turmoil, you may feel emotionally frozen and cut off from your body. Cutting your skin or pulling out your hair provides intense skin sensation and pressure that helps you re-connect with your body and know you are alive and okay.
Cutting may also give you an increased sense of mastery and control for those who feel out of control and powerless to change their circumstances or experiences – an all too common mindset of those with SPD and especially for those who have suffered the dysfunction for their whole lives.
Of course, there are better ways to get in touch with your body. Deep pressure touch, as in a bear hug or massage increases body awareness as does “heavy work” – exercise that heavily engages the joints and muscles, like uphill biking, working out with weights, or carrying heavy groceries or your child.
For more information, see my book, "Uptight & Off Center."

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