Painful emotions and challenging situations are something all of us face, sometimes on a daily basis. Most of us have the tools to cope with many of the difficulties life throws at us. However, there may be seasons where you feel overwhelmed, heavy, and maybe even unsafe with what you’re carrying. If you or your children have ever struggled with self-harm, aggressive behavior, or thoughts of harming yourself or others, creating a safety plan will be a huge help. It exists as something to land on when everything feels out of control. Below are some essentials to include in your safety plan.
1. Warning signs that a crisis may be developing. These include thoughts, images, moods, situations, or behaviors that are the start of an escalating challenge. Acknowledging these as they come up gives you time to act with intention before becoming overwhelmed.
2. Internal coping strategies. Coping tools include things you can do to take your mind off the problems or crisis developing. Examples include deep breathing, going for a walk, distracting yourself with music or art, and progressive muscle relaxation. Try out and find the tools that work best for you.
3. Name people and social settings that provide distraction. Identify two people and two places that ground you. When your internal coping tools aren’t calming you, reach out to these people or go to these places.
4. Identify people who you can ask for help. This may include the people in step three. For adolescents, these people should be trusted adults that can take proper action if necessary.
5. Identify professionals and agencies you can contact during a crisis. It is okay to reach out for professional help during a crisis. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary and life-saving. You can include your counselor or therapist’s name and number, the local urgent care, or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
6. Make the environment safe. Remove any objects that can be used to harm yourself or others.
If you, your child, or anyone you know is struggling with destructive thoughts and behaviors and you are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.
Written by Kathryn
2021 Graduate Intern