Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Preparing for a Crisis

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Today I want to talk about self-care and safety planning. Knowing these things before a crisis happens can reduce the intensity of the crisis or help you get back on track much faster in the aftermath.

Self Care - Self Aware

What is self care anyway? 
It's a personal list of things you need to do for yourself to lessen how vulnerable you are to a possible crisis occurring when bad things happen. It is a personal thing, in that depending on your experiences and history, personality type and preferences, physical and mental health- your plan may be very different from the next person. That's where it can get tricky if you don't have a certain level of self-awareness. Let's start with the basics everyone needs, then we'll discuss personal self care.

Basic self-care for anyone:

1. Food/nutrition

Not getting enough to eat, or not eating regularly has been proven to affect how you handle life. It can have an effect on your mood, thinking abilities, and energy level.

2. Sleep

Getting regular, restful sleep is another basic need that can affect mood, thinking and energy level. 

3. Balance

Paying attention to what you spend your time on and how it effects you is important. Making sure you have enough positives in your life to relieve the negatives directly effects your mood and energy level, and can interfere with your thinking abilities.

Those 3 things are generally agreed upon as necessary and universally true for anyone. Next are some that may or may not pertain to you personally. 

4. Medications

If you have physical or mental health issues that require medications to help control negative symptoms, it is important to take them as directed. Uncontrolled symptoms (whether it's from pain, Diabetes, PMS, high blood pressure, Acid Reflux, vitamin deficiency, ADHD, a mood disorder, or any other mental or physical issue) can affect your ability to follow through with the first three self-care needs, or even directly cause problems with mood, thinking clearly, or energy levels.

5. Exercise

Most important is just maintaining the amount you move your body. The amount and intensity of how much people need to exercise is debatable and very individual. Just be aware of changes in your level of exercise and the effect they have on your quality of life.

6. Social Interaction

This one is tricky. I say it should be "Positive Social Life". What that means from one person to the next is very different. For self care, examples of this could be avoiding toxic relationships, seeking out like-minded people for conversation or support, or planning more time with your kids or pets. There are various reasons why limiting it to just "spending more time with people" could be a bad thing and increase your vulnerability rather than help it.

7. Relaxation/Down time

This can be different things for different people. It's really just figuring out what activities help you feel less tense or stressed. Whatever you enjoy, be it spending time in nature, doing crafts or other creative things, reading something by your favorite author or certain types of books, meditating or just being alone with your thoughts, looking at pictures of (insert favorite animal or environment), or any other activity you find calming. For some one thing may be just making sure to take breaks at work if you have a stressful job. It's important to remember that not everyone finds the same activities relaxing.

Those are just the basic categories according to me. Everything else I have found is either a sub category, or fits more than one of these. This list is just to get you started thinking about what your own personal self-care includes.

Safety Plans

I really feel that having a safety plan is important for everyone. No matter who you are, having a go-to list of steps to follow for if/when something goes wrong is so very helpful. It's about knowing what to do when you are distressed. Being in distress can effect your judgement and ability to remember things. That's why having it figured out ahead of time who you would call and what you would do and having that information somewhere easily accessible can make such a difference.

There are many templates out there for creating safety plans, and various professionals who can help you make your own, tailored to you. I am just going to cover basic questions to ask yourself when coming up with one.

Questions to ask yourself when coming up with a safety plan:

1. Who can help me?

List reliable friends and family along with how to contact them. If you have a history of a specific type of crisis that reoccurs, having contact information for professionals or organizations within that subject should also be on this list. Knowing who to contact for what and what times they are available ahead of time can help you not feel alone or lost when a crisis hits. The longer your list, the less likely you will find yourself without support when you need it.

2. What matters to me? What makes me feel good?

Having a list of positive things, coping techniques, and favorite activities ready ahead of time can be very helpful. When people are in crisis, they sometimes can't remember things like they can when they are calm. Having a list of reminders can jump start your brain from crisis mode to action mode, which will shorten recovery time, and (usually) the intensity of the effects of the crisis.

3. What types of events or experiences do I have trouble dealing with? What has worked for me in the past to deal with those? Did anything make it worse?

Knowing what parts of life you already struggle with can help you know where a possible crisis could come from, and tailor your safety plan to include specific coping or contacts for it. Knowing what kinds of things you have tried before to deal with similar problems, and what worked and what didn't can save time and energy. 

I recommend having an index card with this information on it in several places so it's easy to find when you need it. In your wallet, your glove box, your bedside table, your desk drawer, a note on your cell phone or in a file on your computer- any easy to find place. Make sure you always have access to your list!

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