When you’re feeling suicidal, people always recommend that you call a suicide hotline. I certainly won’t discourage you from doing that, but sometimes calling a suicide hotline doesn’t feel right. Perhaps:
- You get anxiety attacks from talking on the phone and worry it will only make things worse
- You’re not sure what to expect from the call, and it’s causing you stress rather than relieving it
- You’re not sure if the person who answers the phone will speak your language
- You’re not ready to admit you have a problem or verbalize your feelings out loud
- You don’t have access to a phone at the moment
If talking to someone just isn’t an option right now, try one of these strategies:
1. Write things down
Suicidal ideation is often a part of a cycle: negative thoughts lead to negative emotions which lead to thoughts of suicide. These thoughts continue to play over and over again in our heads and we can’t escape them: things we’ve done wrong, things people have done to us, ways our lives just aren’t quite right. The emotions that stem from these thoughts are overwhelming.
I find it helpful to write down the thoughts in my head — all of them. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just pick up a pen or pencil, or sit down in front of your computer, tablet or phone, and write it all down as you think it. Just keep writing until you’ve written down every single thought in your head.
I find this strategy helps end the replay. Eventually, your brain will move on to other things. You may even find yourself writing down the answer to problems you’ve been mulling over in your subconscious.
2. Sing and dance
Music is an important part of my life. Sometimes, thoughts of suicide come to me when I am in a place that I can’t write: in the shower or driving, for example. When this happens, it’s vital that I try to end the negative cycle right away. The best solution I find is to crank up the tunes and sing along. Sometimes, I start dancing. Just like with writing, it’s not about being good at it; it’s about helping your mind go somewhere else. So, put on your favourite tunes and have fun with it.
3. Organize something
When everything in your life feels out of control, it helps to take control of something, even if it’s small. For me, cleaning is often a way out of negative thoughts and emotions. I’ll pick one thing in my life that’s chaotic, and I organize it. Sometimes, I go through my pile of paperwork and get rid of the things I don’t need anymore. Sometimes, I stack the dishes next to the sink so they’re ready to wash. Other times, I go through my camera uploads and organize them into folders. Pick anything in your life that needs organizing, and organize it. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it helps you feel like you’re taking control of your life.
4. Watch a movie or TV show
Sometimes, it’s nice to lose yourself in someone else’s life, so watch a movie or TV show that entertains you. It doesn’t have to be a comedy if that’s not your thing, but try to avoid anything that reinforces your negative emotions. If, for example, you’re upset about a recent breakup, watching a romantic drama might be a bad idea. Or, if you’re upset about the state of the world and government corruption, you should probably avoid that political thriller.
5. Just breathe
I’m not big on mediation, but many people I know swear by it. Regardless of your stance on mediation, it never hurts to take a few slow, deep breaths. Taking control of your breathing helps reduce your heart rate, lessen anxiety and slow down your racing thoughts. Try pairing this method with another one of the strategies on this page if it doesn’t feel like enough all on its own.
6. Be creative
Have you ever tried painting, sculpting, drawing, photography, graphic design, writing, videography, choreography? Being creative is a great way to put your brain power to use in a way other than focusing on those negative thoughts, and gives you an outlet for your emotions. You may not have supplies for something new handy, but thankfully, pretty much any of us has pen and a piece of paper nearby to draw with. Just remember that the goal is to distract yourself and try something new, not be instantly good at it. Don’t judge yourself or your handiwork, just have fun with it.
For many, exercise is a word that makes them cringe, but it doesn’t have to be the kind of workout that makes you want to collapse in exhaustion. You could simply run around your living room, do a few jumping jacks, or hold a plank for as long as you can. Even light or moderate levels of physical activity will get your blood pumping and release endorphins that can help improve your outlook on life. If one exercise is too hard for you, try something else. It’s about what you can do, not about what you can’t.
8. Learn something new
I love to read and I love to watch videos on YouTube. I can learn so much from reading an article in Maclean’s or watching an episode of Crash Course. When we make room for knowledge, there’s less room in our minds for negative thoughts and emotions. Even if you just sit down at your computer and read a random Wikipedia page, you’re probably going to come out at the end of it with a newfound understanding of how a little piece of the world works and a little less focus on yourself.
Need to call a suicide hotline? Find one in your area.