My Green Box: a way to manage urges to self-harm

This young girl shares her experience of using a distraction box to help her get through difficult times.

This can help if:

  • you’re engaging in self-harm

  • you want to learn a way to manage the urge to self-harm

  • you’re worried about a friend who self-harms.

Girl sitting on floor holding arm

My Green Box

It's the inside of the box that counts… I have a green box. It isn't just any old green box, although it looks that way to most people. It’s a really special box.

My Green Box is for special occasions – occasions when I’m feeling out of it and want to self-harm. It’s a safety mechanism that my psychiatrist and I have put in place. Maybe it isn't the box itself that’s special, but its contents and their purpose. It’s a muddle of finger paints, watercolour paints, brushes, plasticine, paper, pencils, pens, glue, little toys, a small puzzle, pictures from calendars for analysis – anything and everything that will keep me occupied when I really need to hurt me. It’s a distraction mechanism. It also has envelopes and addresses for letter writing, and a safety list of phone numbers I can call if I need to.

How it works

The idea is this: I sit on my bed with nothing in reach except My Green Box. I’m not permitted to have anything that isn’t contained in the box, and nothing in the box can be sharp or have the capacity to harm me in any way.

In My Green Box I also have a couple of valerian tablets (a herbal sleeping tablet) and lavender oil (which helps me to relax). I suppose it’s up to each individual what they put in their safety box, depending on where their interests lie. I enjoy doing artwork, so most of my stuff is arty. It works for me most of the time.

By using my Green Box, relying on great friends for support, and babying myself by taking a bath with lavender oil, or drinking a glass of warm milk, or using other relaxation techniques, I’ve been able to avoid self-harming for some time. This is success in my eyes, and in the eyes of those who care for me.

What can I do now?

  • Get some support on the ReachOut Forums.

  • Learn some self-care strategies to help with self-harm urges.

  • Learn how to build your coping skills.