Relaxation for Decreasing Self Harm Behavior

This relaxation script is for teens or adults with self harm behavior or nervous rituals.

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Self harm or nervous rituals may include motions such as hair pulling, hitting oneself, cutting, scratching, pinching, burning, or any other way of hurting oneself. This may also include general self-defeating actions such as under eating or overeating, substance abuse, neglect, or lack of self-care.

These behaviors can occur for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

- Low self-esteem, self hatred

- Punishing the self

- Masochistic tendencies or getting enjoyment out of causing the self harm

- Boredom

- Nervousness or anxiety

- An attempt to feel something

- Feelings of emptiness or loneliness

- Feeling upset or angry

- To vent emotions

- Trying to turn emotional hurt into something physical

Regardless of the reason self harm or nervous behaviors occur, these actions are negative coping strategies. This relaxation script aims to create a feeling of calm and then explore more positive coping alternatives.

Find a relaxed position in a quiet place. As you settle in, turn your awareness inside...tuning out everything around you and focusing deep inside your mind.

I will count down from ten to one. Focus completely on the numbers...noticing nothing else...allowing yourself to become intensely focused and relaxed.











Now that you are starting to feel relaxed, think about the types of nervous behavior or self harm behavior you have used in the past or continue to use now.

Identify in your mind what these behaviors are. There may be self-defeating behaviors that you have not been aware of…ways you mistreated yourself unknowingly. Or, you may have deliberately engaged in behaviors that were harmful. Simply think about, and identify, nervous or self-harm behaviors you have engaged in.


Now that you have identified some of the negative coping strategies you have used, think about the implications of these behaviors. What are the results of engaging in nervous behaviors or rituals, or of using self harm behaviors?

There are probably some benefits of these actions…some positive results of using them. You would not have ever used these coping strategies if there was no positive result.

Think about the benefits and positive results of the nervous rituals or self harm behaviors you have used.


You can see that you have valid reasons for using these behaviors.

Now let's consider the other side. What are the negative results or drawbacks of these behaviors?


These behaviors have had their benefits, but they also have costs. Which side is stronger for you right now…the costs or the benefits?

More positive coping behaviors may allow you to experience the benefits without so many costs.

Think again about the benefits of your nervous rituals or self harm behaviors. These benefits may indicate part of the underlying need that drives the behavior.

For example, if you engage in hair pulling whenever you are stressed or upset, it is likely that you are using the hair pulling as a way of releasing stress and coping with negative feelings. It is probably also a way of directing negative feelings toward yourself.

This suggests that your underlying needs may include stress relief and expression of feelings. It is also likely that your self-esteem is low, and that you have a need to improve your self image.

Think about your own underlying needs. What needs do the benefits of your nervous rituals or self harm behavior suggest?


You have been meeting these needs by using nervous rituals or self-harm behavior. If you decide that you would like to change these behaviors, it is still possible for your needs to be met.

Consider some healthy coping skills that may meet your needs. For example, healthy exercise (not to much or too little) such as walking, running, yoga, stretching, weight lifting, or sports, may help to alleviate boredom, cope with stress, release nervous energy, and improve self esteem.

Perhaps assertive communication skills may allow you to express feelings and ask for what you need from others. You can learn and practice effective communication by taking a communication class, speaking with a counsellor, or attending an assertiveness group.

Maybe you seek non-verbal means of expressing yourself, such as artwork or music. You could draw, sculpt, or sing rather than harming yourself.

There are many other positive coping skills available. Think about some options you could try…some alternatives to the nervous rituals or self harm behavior that will meet the needs you identified earlier.


You do not need to come up with new coping skills completely on your own. You can get help from others, including friends, family, counsellors, teachers, or your doctor. If you are not sure what could replace the nervous rituals or self-harm behavior, make an agreement with yourself now to seek out support within one week.

The remainder of this relaxation exercise will help you to relax as an alternative to nervous rituals or self harm behaviors.

Close your eyes, and take a few moments to breathe.

Allow the air to flow slowly in and out of your lungs…feeling the energy and calm you absorb from each breath.

You are able to pause right now…to keep from engaging in any self harm behaviors or nervous rituals…simply calm and relaxed…

When you have an urge to use self harm behaviors, it is a sign that you have unmet needs.

What do you need right now? What needs are you trying to fill by using self harm behaviors? What needs are your nervous rituals aiming to fill?


If you are upset, simply allow yourself to feel upset for a few moments. You are not going to feel this way forever. In fact, the feeling will pass more quickly if you allow it, rather than fighting it.

It's okay to feel stressed, angry, lonely, or upset. There is nothing wrong with having negative feelings, although they feel unpleasant.

These feelings will not last forever. Expressing the feelings will allow them to naturally run their course. Avoiding the feelings by using self harm behavior or nervous rituals will provide short term relief, but over the long term, the feelings will continue to build up.

Notice that you can use relaxation techniques to experience relief, instead of using negative coping behaviors. Let's use relaxation right now.

Focus completely right now on your breathing. Breathe slowly in…pause…and breathe slowly out…

Take each breath slowly…calmly…letting each breath relax you a bit more…

Concentrate on your feet. Notice a feeling of warmth and heaviness in your feet. Your feet are becoming very heavy…sinking downward…so very heavy…

Focus on your legs, and notice your legs getting heavier…becoming very heavy…as heavy as lead…weighing down so heavily you could barely lift them if you were to move…but you are filled with such a feeling of stillness, you feel content to simply rest…still and relaxed…so heavy…relaxed…

Notice your arms becoming heavy…your upper arms and lower arms are very heavy…and your hands are feeling heavy as well…so heavy and relaxed…

Your whole body begins to feel heavy…it feels like you are sinking downward…relaxing completely into heaviness…so warm…heavy…and relaxed…

The feeling of heaviness is so pleasant…

Allow yourself to sink into a feeling of peace…serenity…and calm….


Notice how you are feeling right now…physically…and emotionally…

Take note of how much calmer you feel after relaxing…

You might even find that the urge to use nervous rituals or self harm behavior has passed.

If the urge is still present, you may decide to continue to use relaxation techniques, or you might choose to do another activity, such as calling a friend, writing in a journal, or going for a walk.

You are stronger than the negative coping skills you may have used before. You do not need to continue to use these behaviors because you have alternatives.

Try one of the alternatives now. If it does not work, you will simply be back where you started, where you are now. You have nothing to lose by putting off the self harm and trying a new behavior.

If you would like to continue to relax, take the next few moments to deepen the feeling of relaxation you are experiencing.

Notice any areas where your muscles feel tense.

Now imagine directing the energy from your breaths into one tense area, and feel your breathing relax this spot. Imagine breathing away the tension. Breathing in relaxation…and breathing out tension…

Breathe in...and out...


Becoming more relaxed with each breath you take.

Let each breath take you even deeper into a state of relaxation…


You have now completed this relaxation exercise. You can choose to become fully awake or to drift off to sleep. I will count to three. If you decide to wake up, become more alert with each number, until at three you have returned to your usual level of wakefulness. If you decide to go to sleep, you can become sleepier with each number…drifting off to sleep with the number three.




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