With so much discussion surrounding mental health and the ways we can all prioritize our own, people who have struggled with anxiety, depression or suicidal ideations may be feeling especially triggered. Often times when conversations regarding things we’ve personally wrestled with make their way into the collective conscious, we can start to have flashbacks of our darkest times. Wherever you are in your mental health journey, it’s always a good idea to have a safety plan just in case things get unexpectedly hard to handle. As with anything in life, tough times are much more manageable when you’ve put some actionable items in place beforehand. If you’ve never made a safety plan before, here are some things to consider.
Identify your warning signs.
Do you know when you’re turning the corner to being in a depressed mood? Can you feel when your mind is starting to race? Are there signs that you can recognize coming before you really start to slip? These are great things to nail down so that you can try to redirect before things really take a turn. For some people, it’s finding it hard to focus while others may find it’s not having the energy or enthusiasm to do the things they usually enjoy. Whatever your telltale signs are, take note of them so that you can know when it’s time to reach out for help.
Determine your coping skills.
What makes you feel better that is safe and allows you to redirect your energy to all the good things happening in your world? Does working out help? How about taking a drive or a walk? Maybe getting out of the house or watching a show that you’ve watched a million times so you already know what happens (it’s said that people who suffer from anxiety can find knowing how a story ends therapeutic). Whatever works when you’re in a funk—write that down in your safety plan so when your mind is racing, you can ground it with tried and true methods.
Name your triggers.
Social media. A conversation with a toxic family member. Overextending yourself to the point of exhaustion. Whatever contributes to you feeling less than your best, write it down. You’re going to want to avoid those things at all costs when things are cloudy. It’s also helpful to know what triggers you so that you can prepare yourself for any emotions that may come up in the aftermath. Remembering that external factors can greatly impact our internal peace is a good way to remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with you. You are simply responding to factors that are outside of your control.
Who can bring you back into reality?
Often times when we are at our worst mentally, it is because our mind is inflating events of the past or casting fear on events of the future (that very well may never happen at all). When this is the case, you need a sounding board who can gently bring you back to the present moment. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself about who in your life can stand in this space for you. Let them know that they’re part of this plan and what you may need from them in a hard moment. This may also be a good time to ask them if they feel equipped to take on that role for you now or in the future. Not everyone wants the responsibility of talking a friend off the ledge, so be sure to consider that.
Where do you feel most at peace?
Choose a place that is easily accessible to you and write it down. This may not be the best time to head to a beach in the South of France (unless you got it like that…if that’s the case, go off sis!) but to, instead, consider the places you feel most safe. That way when your mind is trying to convince you that there is no place where you can truly be at peace, you can have the proof in front of you that it does exist. And, if you feel comfortable doing so, you can physically take yourself there until you’re feeling better.
Make a list of the local emergency numbers and professional contacts.
When things get to their peak, there’s no time to waste when it comes to keeping yourself safe. If you have a therapist, they can point you in the direction of the numbers you may need to get help in an emergency mental health situation. If you have yet to find your own professional help, utilizing sites like Psychology Today or the suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK) can be great resources for finding someone to lend an ear when you need it most.
Most importantly, remember that everything is temporary. No feeling last forever and things can and will get better, sis.