The skills list

The skills list is a tool made to help manage strong feelings. It can be ordered free of charge in printed format here or be downloades as a PDF here.

Skills to cope
  • Focus on your breathing. Feel each breath, count them and vary the pace of your breathing
  • Clench one part of your body at a time for 10 seconds, relax and then clench another body part (fist, face etc.)
  • Pay attention to your senses, observe and describe one thing you experience via each sense (smell, hearing, etc.)
  • Call a friend or a helpline
  • Use the 10-minute rule; commit to not harming yourself for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes have passed, commit to another 10 minutes
  • Pick an object and try to think of 30 ways to use it
  • Pick an object and describe its qualities such as shape, weight and colour
  • Come up with as many names as you can starting with the same letter
  • Talk to yourself
  • Say the alphabet backwards
  • Listen to music that you like
  • Play a game on your smartphone
  • Think of an object or a person and search the internet for more information about it
  • Watch a film or a TV series
  • Sort things you have at home by size or colour
  • Clean up
  • Take a cold shower or wash your face with cold water
  • Stand on something and try to keep your balance
  • Buy beads and mix them in a big jar. Then sort them by colour
  • Read a book, newspaper or comic
  • Paint your nails, put on a facemask or take a bath
  • Draw something in detail
Skills to express powerful emotions
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings
  • Write to someone who has upset you, even if you don’t send it
  • Put a plaster on a part of your body where you would otherwise have harmed yourself
  • Paint your body
  • Tear some paper into tiny pieces
  • Scream into a pillow or punch it
  • Dance to music
  • Inflate balloons and burst them
Skills to cope with negative emotions
  • Do the opposite. When you want to harm yourself, do something comforting or pleasant instead
  • Look at yourself in the mirror and write a list about the body parts or qualities you like the most about yourself
  • Play or cuddle with animals

Before you harm yourself, ALWAYS ask yourself these questions:

  1. What am I feeling right now?
  2. Why am I feeling the way that I am?
  3. Why do I want to harm myself?
  4. Have I been through this before? If so, what did I do to manage the situation? If I wasn’t able to manage the situation, what could I do for it to be better this time?
  5. If I were to harm myself right now, how would it feel?
  6. If I harm myself right now, how would it feel in an hour or tomorrow?
  7. Is there anything left for me to try before harming myself?
  8. Do I really want and need to harm myself?

Keep these questions easily accessible and pick five skills from the list above in advance to try before harming yourself next time.