We all go through difficult times when negative thoughts and emotions can become overwhelming. When we're in crisis, it's essential to have a plan of action ready - personalized strategies to keep us grounded and get the support we need. That's why creating a safety plan can be a lifeline.

A safety plan is like a handout you create for yourself to refer to when you're struggling with thoughts of self-harm, intense anxiety, or suicidal urges. It outlines warning signs to watch for, reasons to stay safe, coping techniques, and support resources - all tailored specifically to your needs. Having this plan filled out in advance empowers you to work through crises in a safer, healthier way.

While it takes some thoughtful reflection upfront, your safety plan is an act of self-compassion that could be vital down the road. So let's walk through how to create yours step-by-step.

Getting Started

Find a quiet place where you can spend some unhurried time focusing just on you. Grab a notebook or open a fresh document on your computer. You may want to pause and take some deep breaths to center yourself before digging in. Remember – you're doing this for your own wellbeing. Be honest with yourself as you go through each section.

Step 1: Know Your Warning Signs

The first step is to identify the personal thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or situations that signal you're starting to feel extremely distressed or having thoughts of self-harm. These are your unique warning signs to pay close attention to.

Some examples could include dramatic mood swings, intense hopelessness, withdrawing from loved ones, having trouble sleeping, increasing substance use, obsessive thinking, hearing voices, paranoia, or inability to complete daily tasks. 

List out 2-3 of your most common warning signs. 

Step 2: Remind Yourself of Reasons to Stay Safe

Next, write down the most meaningful people, dreams, goals, or responsibilities in your life – the things that motivate you to get through this difficult time. These are your personal reasons for living and staying safe.

Maybe it's your kids, spouse, or close friends. Maybe it's looking forward to an upcoming trip or special event. Maybe it's working toward a career goal or embracing a passion like art or music. Recognizing these reasons in darker moments can reignite your drive to keep going.

Step 3: List Coping Strategies to Ground Yourself  

What healthy activities or actions can you do on your own to soothe intense emotions, clear your mind, and become more centered? Things like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, taking a walk, journaling, or playing music are powerful coping tools.

Make a list of 2-3 personal coping strategies you can realistically try when you start experiencing a crisis. Having these tangible techniques at the ready increases your ability to self-soothe.

Step 4: Build Your Support Network  

Identify the specific people you trust and can reach out to when you need company, distraction, or support during a crisis. Family, friends, a spiritual leader – write down their names and contact info so you have it handy.

You'll want at least 2-3 supportive people listed with current phone numbers and emails. Let them know in advance that they're part of your safety plan support system.

Step 5: Note Professional Resources  

Additionally, include contact information for any therapists, crisis hotlines, or mental health services you can call if you need immediate professional help. Put the phone numbers and website URLs in your plan. This way, you don't have to scramble for these critical resources in the midst of a crisis. 

Step 6: Make Your Home Safe 

Look around your home and living spaces. Are there any potential dangers or temptations that could be harmful if you're in an extremely distressed state?

Note in your plan how you'll secure or avoid those risks, whether it's safely storing medications, removing potential weapons, or having someone hold onto your car keys temporarily. This creates a safer setting as you work through the crisis.

Step 7: Give Yourself Something Positive to Look Forward To


Come up with at least one thing, even something small, that you can look forward to doing once you get through this difficult period. Planning a fun activity, visiting somewhere new, or treating yourself helps reinforce that brighter days lie ahead.

When and How to Use Your Plan  

Keep your completed safety plan somewhere you can easily access it - in your pocket, bag, or saved on your phone. Review it regularly, at least monthly, and update it as your needs, circumstances, or support systems change.

Then, when you notice those warning signs we talked about - dramatic mood swings, paranoia, hearing voices, inability to complete tasks - that's the time to refer to your safety plan immediately. Read through the reasons you wrote about why your life matters. Start trying the coping strategies you listed.

If working through those initial steps isn't enough and the crisis escalates further, your safety plan then guides you on contacting the support people and professional resources you identified.

The key is recognizing those personalized warning signs early and putting your safety plan into action right away. Having this tangible tool filled out in advance helps ensure you have healthier coping methods and support readily available when you need it most.

Creating your unique safety plan takes some intentional work upfront. But it's work that shows how much you value your own wellbeing. Use this step-by-step guide to thoughtfully craft a plan personalized just for you. Then keep it nearby as a powerful resource for safely navigating life's darkest moments.

Want More Help?

Take control of your mental health, build stronger relationships, and become the best version of yourself with Remble. With access to hundreds of therapist-created courses, activities, and tips, prioritize your well-being and see positive changes in your life.

Download Remble for free today and start your journey to a happier, healthier you.

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