When people experience stress, the hormone cortisol often floods their brains. Sometimes they go into “fight or flight” mode, which causes adrenaline to surge through their bodies. These chemical reactions can cause us to say and do things that are out of character. They make thinking straight challenging if not impossible. That’s why I encourage my patients to make safety plans.
The safety plan is a commonly used tool that many therapists utilize. I never ask my patients to use tools I wouldn’t implement myself. So when my physical or emotional demands make me feel bad, I create a plan. It incorporates activities that will relax or restore me. The plan always includes meditation, taking a walk if I feel well enough, calling a loved one, breathing deeply, and going to a movie if I can leave the house. I encourage my patients to write their plans down and place it where they can see it. If they don’t have adequate privacy, I urge them to put the plan in their pocket or in their purse. I post my plan on my desk. I write it out every time I need to reinforce my commitment to wellness and so that I can see it and be reminded of what I can do to feel better.
These small tips, such as writing safety plans, are just one element in my ongoing effort to be as healthy as possible. Each small element of my overall plan has the potential to help improve or maintain my well-being. They aren’t effective every time, but I continue to practice them because each day I need to be mindful of my health and work hard to be my best.