Thursday, April 1, 2010

Make a Plan!

Do you panic?  Do you have flashbacks that are difficult to control?  Do you have suicidal or depressive thoughts that lead you to situations that may not be in  your best interest?  One thing that helps many people in these situations is to have a written plan.

How do you do this?  While you are calm, think back to a time when you were panicking, suicidal, depressed, having flashbacks, or generally just behaving in a way that wasn’t working for you.  Think of some things that you could have done in that moment to snap yourself out of that thinking.  Think of things you could have done differently that would have led to less exposure to trauma, more structured or rational thinking, or even just a healthier response.  Write those things down on a 4x6 index card.

Now think of where you are when you experience those symptoms.  Put your index card in an easily accessible and visible place in the area where you are when you experience those symptoms.

For example, if you typically experience panic thoughts and symptoms while driving, make an index card plan and put it on your visor.  That way, when you begin to feel the thoughts and symptoms coming on, you can easily see that you have other options and you know what to do to stop those thoughts and symptoms before they overwhelm you.

Here is an example of what this could look like for someone who often panics while driving:

1. Find a parking lot and pull in.  If no lot is available, pull onto the shoulder.  If no shoulder is available, pull into a driveway or onto a side road with little traffic.

2. Take a few deep, calming breaths.

3. Assess thinking.

4. Apply the 3 rational questions.

5. Read over the list of replacement thoughts that are located on the opposite side of the visor.

6. Continue to breathe deeply, read the list, and apply the 3 rational questions until calm enough to drive safely.

Having a plan like this can make all the difference in a panic situation, and can calm the situation down much more quickly than just riding out the panic with no plan.  Take the time today to plan ahead and take care of yourself.  You are worth it!