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Creating an Emotional Safety Plan

Last week, in a post about what to do when nothing goes your way, I mentioned creating an emotional safety plan, a just-in-case of severe emotional distress plan, which seemed to peak a little interest and I thought it warranted it’s very own post. I am the kind of girl that loves a plan. It makes my skin tingle with stability and comfort just knowing what the heck I will do if things don’t quite go my way.

Now, I feel the need to differentiate this from expecting bad things to happen, because above all else, I do not want to encourage you to EXPECT the worst. That said, if you’re the kind of person who likes a little bit of sure footing and likes to put a physical plan in place should you need it – this post is for you. I also have found that creating an emotional safety plan teaches you to think about how you best care for yourself, and it is my hope that you will regularly implement these self-care strategies in your every day life. You need not wait for an emergency! We should be loving and caring for ourselves every single day, without question or worry that we don’t deserve that nice time with ourselves.

How to Create an Emotional Safety Plan:

  • Formalize your plan in some way. Do you want to write it down so that you have it handy in case you need it? Will it help to designate a specific box to fill chock full with your favorite goodies? This is important, because sometimes in a moment of panic we can forget that we have so very, very many fabulous ways to make ourselves feel better.
  • Think about your favorites: movie, book, CD, book on tape, TV show, outfit, blanket, etc. Write it down. Be specific. I have a particular sweatshirt that I wear when I’m feeling really stressed, and I just LOVE it.  Just pulling it on tends to make me feel better. I also have identified very specific movies, shows, and books that make me feel comfy and cared for. The reason for this is that when you’re upset or scared, everything can seem foreign and terrible, but by introducing stable elements into your environment, the effect can alter the situation to make it feel more safe and normal.
  • Think about your favorite meal. Now, this is a tricky one for me, because as someone who spent the majority of my life comforting with food – I make a conscious effort not to do that any more. However, I find myself calmed by cooking, and by preparing myself something healthful, warm, and delicious. Thus, this meal is carefully thought out and is not a trigger food for me in any way. My comfort meal is rice and beans, and I always, always have the supplies to make this dish in my cabinet.
  • Make a list of emergency contacts – yes, yes just like at the doctors. I like to think about who I will call in case of emergency, but I also don’t like to rely on this too much.  My list is basically compiled of my sweetheart and family members. However, sometimes bad feelings come in the middle of the night or when everyone on your list is somehow unavailable, and I don’t want to add to the darkness by feeling like everyone hates me and no one wants to answer my phone calls. If you don’t have anyone to call? Understood – you will be OK, gather the other items on the list and remember that you are amazing and perfectly able to take care of yourself. 
  • Compile a list of actions that are tried and true in making you feel better. Some ideas: go for a walk, dance, exercise, sing really loud, hula-hoop, spend time with a pet (yours or get yourself down to a local kennel/shelter and see if they need help walking/caring for the animals), write a letter to a long-lost friend, take a bath, go to a movie, and my personal favorite – write about the situation until it becomes clearer.
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Now, I do want to insert a caveat here and say that if you are truly feeling unsafe, and you are in danger of harming yourself or others, this above list may be useful, but you should immediately seek the assistance of a mental health care professional. That said, for every day ego bumps and bruises, break-ups, sad moments, periodic freak-outs, and moments when you feel scared and alone – I hope this list is useful for you.

Above all else, reach out. Come here – to Medicinal Marzipan, I’d love to hear from you! Remember that sad, dark times do come and go, and you are amazing and strong and you will be OK. xo

15 Comments to Creating an Emotional Safety Plan

  1. October 13, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Love this idea – will be sharing with many!

  2. October 13, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I LOVE this. This is what I’ve been trying to figure out the past few weeks during which I’ve had more freak-outs than I would like. What are some of the “goodies” you speak of? I need to make box or something and put this together. Also, good point about the emergency contacts-I know I have those-but I know I can’t rely on them too much. I also like how you emphasize to not just save these ideas for emergencies, but for everyday life, because as a result they will probably help lessen the emergencies!

    Have a great weekend :)
    Hannah recently posted..Phew! Exam ReflectionsMy Profile

  3. October 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    This is a great idea! I too am a girl who loves the security of a plan. I’m planning on making today one of reflection and planning for my creative business, but I’ll be sure to make time to think about this too. Thanks for writing such a great post!
    McKella recently posted..Handprint List Item and an AnnouncementMy Profile

  4. Ela's Gravatar Ela
    October 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    This is a great idea. My therapist had a similar one, of preparing a ‘comfort box,’ including the kinds of things you listed, as well as handwritten lists of affirmations, goals, gratitudes.

    I appreciate your distinction between preparedness and expecting the worst. Too often, I’ve thought “oh, I’m all better now, don’t need that,” and then sooner or later everything comes crashing down again, so preparedness is only smart.

  5. October 14, 2011 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I really love this post.

    I’m in the process (yes, it’s a long one) of creating a crisis plan together with my thereapist and the crisis team I’m working with.

    I’d like to add that for most people, creating a plan like this TAKES TIME. Most likely, it will involve a lot of trial and error. The important step is to ask why. Why did this work this time? Why didn’t it work?

    Also, I think it’s useful to start investigating your warning signs and triggers. If you can understand your own crisis reactions, you’re more likely to be able to put your emotional safety plan into action at an earlier stage, and maybe you can avoid the crisis altogether! :)
    Marthe recently posted..Storytime: The girl who was looking for itMy Profile

  6. October 14, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    wise beyond your years….
    MizFit recently posted..Four on a Friday (VEGAS edition)My Profile

  7. October 18, 2011 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Wonderful! It’s like an outline for a page in my Book of Me. One which I will be using shortly to add a new page. Thank you!
    Kathryn recently posted..5 Unusual Energy DrainsMy Profile

  8. October 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing.

    I needed this the other night, and pretty much everything on this list would have helped my night go better.

  1. By on October 14, 2011 at 4:46 am
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Welcome! I’m Mara.

I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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