Borderline personality disorder (BPD) management is hard. I know what it’s like to feel lost and like things are never going to get better. But they really can if you put the work in. If you follow these BPD self help tips, along with professional advice, recovery is possible.
I don’t want to paint these tips as a quick fix – there is no such thing when it comes to any mental illness. But believe me when I say that practicing self help and self care is going to give you a much higher quality of life than if you neglect yourself. So if you’re serious about taking action then these BPD self help tips are for you!
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Self help tips for BPD
Psychoeducation has been so transformative in my own journey with BPD.
When I first learned that I might be suffering from borderline personality disorder, I had so many unanswered questions and misconceptions about it. What was wrong with me?
But the more I researched, the more I connected with my diagnosis and everything that I was learning made so much sense.
My favourite way to learn is through books, and there are plenty of books that will help demystify borderline personality disorder.
If you prefer to learn in other ways (such as through videos and podcasts) I have a page of resources for borderline personality disorder with a whole heap of helpful links.
When you start learning more about your diagnosis, you might feel like a weight is lifted off your shoulders. Everything can start to click in place and you feel less overwhelmed because you can now understand why you feel and act in a certain way.
But the key is to not identify too much with your diagnosis. While your diagnosis acts as an explanation for your feelings and behaviours, it is not an excuse, nor does it define you. You are your own person capable of making your own choices.
While your diagnosis acts as an explanation for your feelings and behaviours, it is not an excuse, nor does it define you. Click To Tweet
I’ve gotta be honest and say that sometimes BPD can make me feel a little “away with the fairies”.
When things get overwhelming we need to bring ourselves back down. We can do this with grounding techniques.
Grounding techniques are techniques that help us feel safe and connected to the earth. These feelings are connected to our root chakra.
Grounding for BPD
- Walking barefoot
- Using breathing techniques
- Drinking a hot drink
- Cuddling something fluffy
- Smelling strong smells
- Laying under a weighted blanket
- Holding an ice cube
- Practicing yoga for the root chakra
Mindfulness is a huge part of borderline personality disorder treatment and one of the key components of dialectal behavioural therapy.
With BPD, we have a tendency to get lost in our thoughts and feelings and lose touch with reality. Many of us completely dissociate.
Mindfulness is a way of bringing our attention to the present moment and can help prevent us from going into spirals of thought or emotion.
Mindfulness exercises for borderline personality disorder
- Body scans
- Mindful seeing
- Mindful listening
- Mindful eating
- Mindful walking
- Mindful breathing
- The five senses exercise
- Observe your thoughts
- The mindfulness bell exercise (see below)
Self-care is so important for everyone, let alone individuals with borderline personality disorder.
Looking after yourself can be incredibly hard when you have BPD. Low moods and other negative symptoms can result in self neglect and self sabotage. For this reason, there are times when self care for BPD may look a little different to what you imagine self care to be like. And that’s okay.
I’ve spoken before about inclusive self care, and a lot of these self care ideas will be suitable for BPD sufferers too. But I know that even some of these ideas may miss the point when we’re dealing with a BPD episode.
With that being said, here are some “boring self care” ideas for when things are a little more difficult. Take or leave whatever you need because self care is different for everyone.
“Boring self care” ideas for BPD sufferers
- Drink some water
- Wash your face
- Brush your hair
- Unplug electronics one hour before bed
- Brush your teeth (or use mouthwash)
- Open a window
- Step outside
- Watch a funny film
- Listen to soothing music
- Change your clothes
- Make your bed
While these self care ideas may sound boring, completing these subtle acts of self care can make you feel accomplished and like you’ve “got your shit together”. This can be a really positive step for your mental health!
Use self-harm alternatives
Self-harm is a common coping strategy used in borderline personality disorder sufferers. Unfortunately when things get overwhelming, this can feel like the only way of coping.
This isn’t true, though. We can just as easily create new healthy coping strategies that we can implement in place of our maladaptive coping mechanisms. Self harm isn’t the only option, and it does more harm than good.
Here are some alternatives to use when you experience the urge to self harm.
Self harm alternatives and distractions
- tear up paper into little pieces
- write down how you feel then tear it up
- flick an elastic band on your wrist
- hold an ice cube
- have a cold shower
Mind have great information available to better understand your urges to self-harm and what you can do if they occur. I highly encourage you to check this out if this is something you or someone you know suffers with.
Let off some steam
Explosive anger can be an overwhelming symptom of borderline personality disorder. Sometimes we hold so much frustration but we don’t know how to cope with it. This is something I personally suffer with a lot.
Remember that anger is a healthy emotion to experience, and there are ways to express that you feel angry without being “explosive”.
Doing activities designed to “let off some steam” can help us redirect our anger in a healthy way and manage our feelings so we don’t act out at others or ourselves.
Ways to release anger in BPD
- Punch a pillow
- Scream into a pillow
- Throw ice cubes into a bath so they smash
- Jump up and down
- Go for a run
- Bite on bunched up material
- Write down what you’re feeling (without censorship)
Listen to music
Music can be incredibly healing and sometimes I find adopting the “earphones in, world out” mentality really helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
A technique that has helped me is creating a calming playlist on your favourite platform that will bring you down at times of need. I have a playlist on Spotify (not an affiliate link) full of my favourite songs, which always helps me calm down.
Another top tip is to communicate to loved ones that you find this helpful. My partner has been known to shove a pair of headphones on my head when I’m having an “episode”. I know this wouldn’t be a good idea for everyone, but it sure helps me!
Talk to someone
Sometimes you just need to talk. I know talking is hard, but bottling things up and dealing with everything on your own is even harder.
Talk to a friend or a loved one about how you’re feeling. Help them to understand what you’re going through.
However, it’s also important to set boundaries about who you share with. Sharing with the wrong people can have negative consequences. I’m not saying that to scare, but make sure it’s someone you trust, or failing that a licensed professional.
Make use of DBT skills
Dialectical behavioural therapy can be so beneficial in the treatment of BPD, but not everybody has access to it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from it though. Whether you’re actively engaged in DBT or not, you can still make use of DBT skills.
DBT self help is a great website which has all the skills available for you to practice on your own.
You can also try a DBT workbook to work through the skills and track your progress.
For me, a key component of BPD recovery has been self awareness. Practicing self reflection regularly can help you get to know your triggers and have more control over how you react to them.
My favourite way to self reflect is journaling. I find writing my feelings down really helps me to gain a different perspective and make sense of what’s going on for me when I feel overwhelmed.
Having more self understanding means you can share this with others, which in turn can result in you feeling less misunderstood and being treated better, according to your own needs and boundaries. Self awareness really is key when it comes to BPD.
BPD self help summary
- Educate yourself on your diagnosis
- Use grounding techniques
- Practice mindfulness
- Take care of yourself
- Use self harm alternatives
- Let off some steam
- Listen to healing music
- Talk to someone
- Make use of DBT skills
- Practice self-reflection
Hopefully these BPD self help tips provide some guidance on how to manage BPD yourself.
But please remember, this is not a substitute for professional advice, therapy or medication. This is simply guidance to add to your existing treatment program.
If you have any tips that you would like to add please leave a comment or get in touch via email. I’d love to hear your experiences and perspectives!