Safety Planning

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Some of the times when I feel the most anxious and afraid it’s because I’m having an allergic reaction. If I list all of my allergies, people stop and ask me “What the heck do you eat?” The main things I avoid are dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, eggs, shellfish, pork, and a variety of fruits. On paper, I’m also allergic to beef but I put up with the puffy tongue because it is all too difficult to cut out that much. I’ve acquired some of these food sensitivities and allergies as a 20-something young woman and many more came to join the party when I hit 30. I typically carry an EPI pen and I am constantly on the look out for allergen friendly foods. The EPI pen is really a precaution because the likelihood of going into anaphylactic shock is slim to none. I do it anyway because this shit is scary. AND IT’S ANNOYING. It’s also a very large stressor. As an already anxious person, one little bump on my lip or an itch in my throat can send me over the edge. Recently, my entire face blew up. One afternoon, I went into the allergist for my weekly allergy shot. I noticed my arm reacted quite a bit to the shot but it wasn’t alarming and I didn’t feel tired or sick. The following morning, I woke up with a red and blotchy face that looked like hives. This happened to me one other time, luckily a few days before my civil marriage ceremony, which was cause for concern for a variety of reasons! When I woke up and saw my face, I was calm. I knew it had happened before and resolved on its own. I wasn’t thrilled about it. I decided to call my allergist and was instructed to send in a picture of my face and a physician’s assistant called me back to discuss what it was and make a safety plan. Again, it resolved on it’s own and I was fine by nightfall. 3 days later, as I was going to sleep, I had one small blotch on my check. I LOST IT. I made my husband stay awake with me, I took as much allergy medicine as I could, I was icing it to try and calm it down and my mind went to a very scary place. In a span of 30 seconds, I had already made a plan of this being a severe emergency. I had already decided we should take a cab to the hospital instead of an ambulance. I was going to administer the EPI pen only if my breathing was incredibly shallow before we arrived to the hospital. I would change into sweatpants and pack a bag for the hospital in case I was admitted. I also wondered if they would just put me on a Benadryl drip and I wondered if my husband would be allowed to sleepover in the hospital. THIS WAS OVER ONE SMALL RED MARK. After icing it for ten minutes, the red spot was gone. And, I sat down to write this blog post at 3 am because these thoughts are fresh. So, what is the lesson here? Don’t freak out? No. Don’t make a mountain of a molehill? Not sure that’s correct either. Here are the top 5 things that are important to do in any stressful, anxiety provoking, and scary moments. I call it a Safety plan.

What You'll Need

  • Just need yourself.

What You'll Do

  • 1. Follow your gut. If a situation is life threatening, you’ll know in a heartbeat. After you know, your God-given instincts will kick in immediately. If the panic is still there and the situation is not life threatening, acknowledge the fear and stay with it. Do whatever you need to do to calm down. Walk, pace, cry, drink water, hug someone, be alone and turn all the lights off. Follow your gut. In my case, I got some allergy medicine and iced the red bump. Even thought I got anxious, my gut told me it wasn’t life threatening.
  • 2. Time Give it some time. The truth will boil to the top. In my case, I gave my little bump ten minutes on a timer. It got better within ten minutes. Sometimes when I feel something weird in my mouth or tongue, I’ll set my timer on my phone for ten minutes. If things get worse, then I clue in. If things DO NOT GET WORSE (which is usually the case) I allow myself to calm down.
  • 3. Know your body will tire. When we are anxious and in a state of panic, our bodies will eventually become exhausted. For me, this is comforting to know. Your own experience with your body and your own anxiety has a lot of good information that you can use in a moment of panic. For me, I remind myself that this will be over and I have ABSOLUTELY NEVER STAYED IN A STATE OF PANIC. Use your training and experience to guide your actions.
  • 4. Get your posse. This is such an important part of a safety plan. I have a solid posse that I know I can count on when I start getting anxious. For example, I know that I can call my sister and she’ll smack me out of it. My husband is amazing at staying present with me and giving really big hugs. I also know that if I get outside, walk around the block, and say hi to the people outside, the entire neighborhood becomes part of my posse. Getting your mind off of your anxiety can be so helpful.
  • 5. Choose your thoughts. Choosing our thoughts can sometimes feel impossible. The truth is, we always choose our own thoughts but it becomes much easier to choose convenient thoughts. For me, sometimes anxiety is a convenient thought. I know the feeling. I understand. It’s been around for a while. I have also had the experience of choosing to feel safe and calm. It is sometimes harder to follow through with this choice but I have done and I know it can work.

Tips & Warnings

  • BOTTOM LINE? There is no way that we can eliminate any type of fear, stress, or discomfort in our lives. It’s impossible and unrealistic. But we can easily make a safety plan allowing for our experience to become easier and less difficult to deal with. What is one part of your safety plan? Comment below and let us know. We could all use some new ideas to help us live a better life and you may just have a secret one of us is looking for.
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