Creating an Emotional Safety Plan

October 13, 2011

Last week, 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 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.

Get specific

Think about your favorites: movie, book, CD, book on tape, TV show, outfit, blanket, etc. Write it down. 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

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.

A note: This list may be useful if you are truly feeling unsafe and you are in danger of harming yourself or others, 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. Remember that sad, dark times do come and go, and you are amazing and strong and you will be OK.