As part of a collaboration between the University of Guelph and McGill University, we are a non-profit outreach initiative providing information and resources about self-injury to those who self-injure, those who have recovered, and those who want to help.

Coping Day-to-day

A guide to coping day to day

Coping Day to Day Guide - Image below title and above list of coping tips

  • Coping Tips
  • Strategy 1: Building Resilience
  • Strategy 2: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Strategy 3: Breathing Exercises
  • Strategy 4: Seeking support from others
  • Strategy 5: Write about how you feel or engage in another creative activity
  • Strategy 6: Review a good feelings or gratitude journal
  • Strategy 7: Read for Relaxation.
  • Strategy 8: Listen to music
  • Strategy 9: Exercise moderate to higher intensity for 20 or more minutes every or most days.
  • Strategy 10: Clean!
  • Strategy 11: Take a bubble bath or rub nice lotion on your body
  • Strategy 12: Play or cuddle with a pet
  • Strategy 13: Seek out a place in nature (like a park, or even your back yard!)

Enhancing coping day-to-day

In addition, to the urges that you may experience, sometimes just day-to-day coping may be difficult. The following section has suggestions for how to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings as well as strategies to help minimize negative feelings and enhance positive feelings. Part of the process in working to reduce your self-injury is to build resilience through developing your strengths and learn a set of techniques to help you cope with the challenges of everyday life.

Pad of Paper & Pen on a wood background.Log the times that you did not act on an urge to self-injure. 

Making the decision that you want to stop self-injuring is a big step in the right direction. This said, even with this resolve, it may still be be difficult to stop completely right away. It can be useful to track your progress so you can visually see how far you’ve come and recognize that you have the ability and strength to resist the urges to self-injure.

Keep a log in which you write down each time you have an urge but do not act on it. In the log describe the urge and how you did not act on it and what you did instead. These ‘urge resistances’ may be purposeful on your part, or just circumstances that made acting on the urge impossible. In either case, log the your urge resistance, and the feeling afterwards as all of these incidents are evidence of your ability to have urges, even intense urges, that are not acted upon!

This urge resistance log can be kept close by and reviewed as a technique to resist urges, (Strategy 3, Urge Resistance) and in general to remind you of your strength.

2006 --- Woman Relaxing in Rocking Chair --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis Slowly relaxing different parts of your body can be very helpful when resisting an urge to hurt yourself. People who have self-injured often say that this type of activity can be very helpful in resisting urges and feeling better.

We are developing an audio file you can download and play from your phone, iPod, MP3 player or computer whenever you have an urge or need to relax.

In the meantime, click here for files you can download that walk you through some of these types of relaxation exercises.

We also recommend the “Relaxing Your Body” video on the right of this page. This video shows you how to relax your body, which many people find can help to reduce stress. 

Resting on the Couch --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisMany people who self-injure tell us that breathing exercises can be quite helpful when dealing with difficult feelings.

If you’re just starting breathing exercises for the very first time, check out the video to the right called: “Intro to Breathing.” This video walks through an exercise showing how breathing can help to deal with stress.

After you try this several times, you can use the video called “Breathing Zone.” This video helps build on the first video and helps to guide you to breathe in and out when you hear a tone in the video. It is important to keep in mind that this video is a bit more advanced than “Intro to Breathing.” So, if you try “Breathing Zone” and lose your place, that’s okay. This takes practice and it may take some time to do.

Finally, we also recommend the following video for teens, “Breathing 4 Teens.” This video was made specifically for adolescents.

Similar to “Intro to Breathing,” this video is intended to guide teens through a breathing exercise to help reduce stress.

We are developing a series of guides to help you learn how to do a variety of breathing exercises. Please check back soon.

Girls Standing --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisTo help cope day-to-day having a number of people, friends, partners and/or family who you can talk to helps.

Often people feel very alone and when you have a hard day that can feel worse when you don’t feel you have some to share your feelings with. So, to prevent this situation, it is a good idea to consciously try to develop a support network of people you can trust. This is not done quickly or easily but with some effort you can start thinking about who might be good for this.

Don’t limit yourself to same age peers, think of anyone who has been receptive or open to talking with you.

Colored Pencils in CupTo help cope with difficult and intense feelings, it can be helpful to express these creatively.

You can write about them in a poem, a letter, a song, a story or even just write out what you feel and list the words that you feel.

If you don’t want to write about your feelings, you can also find other ways to express them.

Examples include: painting, drawing, sculpting, playing a musical instrument and so forth.

Woman reading book --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisIt is helpful when things are better to write in a “good feelings/ gratitude journal” that can then be reviewed when times are harder.

In this journal write down some of the things that you feel good about.

You can also write down the things that you feel grateful for in you or your life. 

Pregnant Woman Reading Book ca. 2001Many people find it relaxing to find time each day to read a good book.

It is generally good to read something that captures your attention and that is unrelated to self-injury.

For some people it can give a bit of a break or an “escape” from the cares of everyday.

However, be cautious about seeking out books that are intense and may only worsen your mood.


Listening to music, like reading, for some people is an excellent way to focus on something other than the day-to-day problems.

Really try to listen actively, hearing the different instruments and letting yourself be taken over by the melody.

Avoid triggering music that you know will worsen mood.

Moderate to high intensity exercise has been shown to MP900387446be extremely effective in helping people to improve their mood and help them cope.

While it can be very difficult to force yourself to exercise after a hard day, the regular exercise will not only help you cope with the bad day, it can help to even moods day-to-day, so even contribute to preventing the bad days!

Even try just turning on a timer and walking up and down stairs at home for 20 minutes every day (maybe listening to some good music at the same time). 

Okay, not everyone likes to clean but many MP900049625people say that when they are feeling upset or having other negative feelings, it can be helpful to clean a room in their home!

Really throwing yourself into cleaning and seeing the results can make a difference.

A bubble bath --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

A bubble bath or massaging your body with a body lotion, any kind of pampering of yourself can help.

Taking care of yourself in this way, showing yourself a little TLC can feel good!

Dog and Cat Reclining on a Blanket ca. 2000 San Francisco, California, USA

Cuddling with a pet can be very soothing and comforting.

Many people find that cuddling with a favorite pet can help to feel a bit better and distract from negative feelings.

Animals can be very sensitive to their owners’ feelings and will often work to comfort them!

Teenage Girl on Swing --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Many people find observing and interacting with nature soothing and helpful in putting day-to-day hassles in perspective.

Just taking time to look at the sky, the clouds, feel the bark of a tree, focus on feeling the wind on your face. Focusing on nature can be very calming.

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SiOS Guide to Coping Day to Day SiOS Guide to Coping Day to Day
Intro to Breathing Intro to Breathing
A 3-minute introduction to help you learn to breathe to reduce stress.

Relax Your Body Relax Your Body
A short relaxation exercise to help with stress.

Breathing Zone Breathing Zone
This is a bit more advanced than "Intro to Breathing" and helps to guide your breathing using tones.

Breathing 4 Teens Breathing 4 Teens
A short breathing exercise for teens to help manage stress.


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