What is this booklet about?
TeenTalk volunteers have created a few strategies you might find helpful during the hard times. Each volunteer at TeenTalk has their own unique story and their own personal experiences and struggles, which is what makes TeenTalk such a great resource. We are teens between the ages of 15 and 19, and we know what it’s like to face some of the same struggles. Some may have struggled with something similar to you. You are not alone and we at TeenTalk are here for you. What you will find in this "booklet" are coping strategies our TeenTalk volunteers found or have used to work through tough moments. Please note that we are teens/peers and not professionals. We have gathered ideas we think are helpful and not every suggestion will fit you and that is OK. Use and do what is right for you!
Content warning: This "booklet" is intended for support and to provide suggestions around coping with difficult situations. It includes references to self-injury. If this puts you at risk of experiencing trauma, flashbacks, or any other reaction you may have to emotionally stressful subjects, consider a safety plan. Do not read this "booklet" if the subject matter puts you at risk of being triggered, or make sure to read it when you feel you are in a good place mentally and emotionally. If you do read it and find yourself having a difficult time with emotions, memories, etc. or are feeling triggered by the "booklet," look toward a good friend, family member, counselor, or the Crisis Line (1.800.626.8137) to discuss it with or try finding a good outlet like a sport, book, art, or other favorite pastime. Remember to take care of yourself as well as others!
Message from a TeenTalker (content warning)
"Being a former cutter myself, I know a little about how you feel. I'd first like to start off by telling you that it's okay to feel how you feel. Many teenagers feel upset, depressed, angry, or scared, for no obviously apparent reason. These feelings are normal, and with some simple guidance and support, I think you may be able to get the urges under control.
"You need to know that self-injury (SI) is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. If you seem upset, I'd like you to look at your current situation and try to find what might be causing you to want to hurt yourself. Whatever the problem might be, once you identify it, the best way for you to deal with it is to seek help. Talk to a teacher, friend, school counselor or other trusted adult. If possible, seek professional help from a counselor. Many states offer counseling services for free or little cost to teens. If you're in Washington state and 13 years of age or older, you can receive counseling services without parents' consent.
"I'd say that for now, until you can really get to the bottom of the problem, if you can't stop SI, try to get a better grasp on it, and control it more. Try setting limits on how often or how much you cut, or try some alternatives to cutting, like snapping a rubber band on your wrist, squeezing an ice cube in the palm of your hand, taking a really hot or really cold shower (just make sure not to burn yourself), or something else that gives you that same shock or pain of cutting, without hurting yourself as badly. And remember, if you're going to cut, be smart: use clean and sharp objects (nothing dull or serrated), DO NOT share cutting tools, and make sure you keep your cuts clean, and that you know some basic first aid for yourself.
"As a recap: it's okay to feel sad, but you should try to find out what's making you sad, and try to seek help for it. Cry as much as you want, and if you have to injure, be safe and take good care of yourself."
You deserve a 15-minute break
Feeling an urge to self-harm? Take a short break. Give yourself 15 minutes. Try some distractions from the urge.
Make your room a place you want to be (3)
When first entering your room, does it seem welcoming and comfortable? Your room should offer the pleasant environment where you rest an re-charge, as well as contributing to your learning and concentration. The simple solution of adding elements to your home environment can create a more positive atmosphere for you to be in.
Write down some simple additions or changes you can make to your room and set a date to achieve it! Things you can do include putting up posters of your favorite place in nature or soothing art, making a collage piece, having photos of family or friends who are your strong support group, or keeping your room organized so the cluttered environment doesn’t stress you out.
Creative writing ideas to clear your mind
If you are having a rough day and need to clear your mind, here are some topics you could write about. As a poet in my spare time, I find the act of writing to be very helpful when things are stressful. Here are some interesting topics that I thought would make for fun writing prompts.
Get to know yourself:
Create your own:
If you are comfortable with sharing your work, send what you write in to us. We would love to read what you have created and would enjoy hearing from you! May your muse aid you in your writing.
Relax with breathing and yoga
When urges get intense, it’s important to relax and calm your body, not just your mind.
Yoga poses and breathing techniques are a simple way to calm your mind and body. Below we have some basic yoga poses. You can Google the pose or YouTube a yoga video if the descriptions below are confusing :)
Let’s start with seated poses, and make sure you have some room to move.
How to reach out to someone (2)
Talking to someone is sometimes a difficult step to take when you feel an intense urge to self-injure (SI). Fortunately, there are a couple different ways you can go about reaching out to someone, which can be a huge help in distracting yourself from that urge.
One way is to simply explain to a trusted friend, mentor, or family member that you are feeling the urge to self-injure (SI). Sometimes a simple distraction in the moment can be just what you need to get you through a tough time. Even if you haven’t told that person about your self-injury, you can still talk to him or her about those emotions that are driving you to want to self-injure. You do not have to share that you SI. Instead, just talk about your feeling or emotions!
If you don’t feel comfortable with talking about those emotions or feelings, you can still reach out to that someone for some chitchat, weekend plans, a funny story, and hobbies. It might even be helpful to make a list of people that you know you enjoy talking to so you know that there are people around who enjoy your company! If you can’t get ahold of the first person then you can call TeenTalk. We will tell you a joke and keep you distracted.
Dear friend, let’s talk about being kind to yourself ...
"Right now, things might be hard and I know life can get busy, but don’t forget about you in the craziness of day-to-day life. When things get really hectic, it is easy to put off a meal or a few hours of sleep. Being kind to yourself somehow becomes less important because the to-do lists are getting longer. Or, perhaps you just can’t stand to take the time or spend the energy to do much of anything. If you take 15 minutes to eat, or shower, or even just stop moving and breathe, things become a little less stressful. You are giving yourself just a few moments to stop and focus on you and your health. Nothing can be accomplished without a healthy and content you.
"If you think about it in real life application it makes more sense. For example, when you get on an airplane, they run through a safety demonstration. During this demonstration, they tell you that, should there be complications with the plane, you are supposed to take oxygen first and then give it to any children you may be traveling with. This throws off a lot of people. At first, a lot of people find it selfish and wrong. It is engraved in our culture to be self-sacrificing and it’s so thick that we honestly believe self-care is wrong. However, when you think about it, if you are flying with a child and there is an emergency in which the oxygen bags drop, you need to be there to take care of the child; to make sure they are getting oxygen. If you don’t make sure you have oxygen, you don't survive to provide for the child either. The end result is neither one of you survives. However, if you do as instructed, you both survive. Self-care is similar. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone or anything else. There will be too many complications.
"There is nothing wrong with keeping busy or doing a lot. Helping people and accomplishing things are wonderful values to hold. However, if you are sacrificing your health/happiness, that is when a problem arises. Max Ehrmann once said 'Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.' Sometimes the best thing to do when you get so busy or you start feeling drained is take a break. Know that you aren’t alone and you are stronger than you believe. And there is always TeenTalk."
- Your friends at TeenTalk
Make “I Owe You” coupons … for yourself!
Sometimes we get so busy with our lives, school, family, helping others, and our passions that we forget about the importance of taking good care of ourselves, giving ourselves a pat on the back, or even scheduling time on our calendars to do absolutely nothing.
You may or may not have created this perfect homemade gift for someone. The idea of an “I OWE YOU” coupon is to make up coupons of free activities to give someone; but this time it will be a homemade gift for yourself!!!
Download this page of blank coupons and fill them in with things you like to do or things you normally never give yourself enough time to do. Cut them out and use them when you need them!
How to reach out to a trusted friend
Out of all the people I feel comfortable talking with, I’d say my friends and peers are the best to relate with. Friends can provide some of the best support! However, it is always good to know and be realistic in about what your friends can and can’t do. Sometimes too much support from just one source can be unhealthy.
It’s good to keep in mind some of these tips on unhealthy responsibilities for friends:
There are a lot of things friends can do:
Places to get help when friends are unavailable:
Visiting a mental health professional or doctor
You may find yourself debating about whether or not you should seek support from a professional to help you cope with self-injury (SI). It can be intimidating. Doctors can do things we can barely fathom. Anything from taking out your heart and putting it back in your body to increasing your mental stability. If you are looking at doctors as if they are the cold, heartless people that stick you with shots and make you cough, instead try to think of them as people that probably have friends and family members who struggle with SI, depression, and anxiety. Who knows ... your doctor may struggle with depression. I mean, “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” (National Institute of Mental Health).
It helps to remember that you can be in control of your treatment when you meet your doctors. To help lead the discussion with your doctor, bring a piece of paper with your questions and concern.
Some questions that you may want to think about are:
Additionally, your doctor will also ask you questions to help create the best treatment plan for you. It is important you do your best in answering the questions they ask you as honest as you can be to get the most personalized care and also be prepared for the questions so you are not caught off guard.
Some questions the doctors may ask you are:
Always remember you have control at your appointments. Never be afraid to ask questions about why they are choosing the treatments they are. Bring a guardian with you if you feel that you may be afraid to ask questions. Also, trust your instinct if you disagree with a treatment plan or feel that you are not respected. Let your doctor know or try a different medical professional. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right mental health professional for you. Every patient is different and so is every mental health professional! Thank goodness for diversity :) (4)
16 steps to self-care
My Four Squared
One way to remind yourself of why you are working hard or to support you during the hard times is to carry a My Four Squared card with you. A My Four Squared card is a piece of paper that has all the important stuff.
Download this My Four Squared card and fold the piece of paper to make four sections. Each section will have information useful to you during the hard times (support system, inspiration, resources and distractions). Fill out this card and leave it in your wallet or other place that is easy to access.
The SIX senses: Self-soothing strategies
Taste: Try new foods, or just enjoy your good ol' favorites. Cook healthy, tasty food instead of bland, processed food. Try small amounts of dark chocolate, ripe fruit or sweet tastes. Savor your food and eat mindfully.
Sight/Surroundings: Tidy or rearrange your room, add plants or soothing colors or pictures of nature or friends. Watch funny or light-hearted television shows or movies. Look up pictures of baby animals, or simply look out a window with a view.
Hearing: Listen to a playlist of uplifting or energetic songs. Sit near the ocean or a moving lake, or listen to recordings of natural sounds. Try meditation or relaxation tapes or just try earplugs for a calming silence.
Smell: Try having clean clothes and bed linens on. Try aromatherapy or incense in your room or fresh flowers around the house. Change to a new deodorant, perfume, or aftershave. Head out to nature for some fresh life scents.
Touch: Pampering wash/dressing routine, play with or pet an animal or pet. Give yourself or others hugs, get or give a massage. Try snuggling up in a warm blanket.
Sixth Sense: Now, when you hear sixth sense, everyone thinks paranormal stuff. But no. This is more about SPIRITUALITY. Now, spirituality is not about religion. It’s about self-acceptance and loving yourself. This can be through different types of meditation, taking care of yourself, or just telling yourself how important you are!(3)
Log of SUCCESS
The Log of SUCCESS (yes, always all caps) is a journal in which you record those times in which urges did not lead to SI. Whether it was your own important decision, or by happenstance, you couldn’t, it is still a SUCCESS. When filling this log, pick a format, stick with it. Want an example?
What started it?
What stopped you?
The important thing is to notice the times when you reject those negative urges, and make yourself a stronger person.(2)
Celebrate your SUCCESS.
Don’t throw your hard work down the drain
Many who self-injured have been through a cycle of recovery and relapse … guess what … that is normal. Sometimes people that self-injure (SI) will count the days they have been SI-free. Being SI-free for one day is an accomplishment!!! And TeenTalk is SO VERY PROUD!!!
When we count SI-free days and then relapse many tend to think, “Now I have to start at zero again, I wasted all 12 of those days … they are gone.” This is not true! Start counting in a more positive way that shows all days of recovery and hard work. When you get graded on a test at school and you miss 1 out of 12 you do not get a failing grade and have to start over. Instead you get 11/12, which is a 91% and an A-! So let’s say you are working on stopping and you relapsed on day 32 of being SI-free. That’s not 31 days wasted, instead it’s 31/32 which is a 96.8%. You still have an A! Then, after that day, you went 23 days SI-free and slipped up on the 24th day. That’s 32+24=56 (total days in recovery) 1+1=2 (days of relapse). Now to figure out your percentage you will need to subtract the days of relapse by the days in recovery (56-2= 54). Then, make a ratio to get your percentage, 54/56=96.4%! Still an A! Congratulations! You are still working hard and doing great!(1)