Support: self care and safety plan

During this time of uncertainty, increased stress and anxiety it’s important to practice some self care. Talk therapist Jo Warboys kindly shares with us a supportive guide and plan that may help you to focus on what you can do to feel calmer during the current crisis.  Self care and safety plan You may be […]

During this time of uncertainty, increased stress and anxiety it’s important to practice some self care. Talk therapist Jo Warboys kindly shares with us a supportive guide and plan that may help you to focus on what you can do to feel calmer during the current crisis. 

Self care and safety plan

You may be feeling that there is another layer of feelings and emotions that you are now dealing with. It is understandable that you may feel overwhelmed and exhausted.   

How you react and feel depends on many factors, including: 

» the nature and severity of the personal impact of COVID-19 » experience with previous distressing events; » the support you have had in your life from others; » your physical health; » personal and family history of mental health problems; » cultural background and traditions; » age (for example, different age groups react differently)

We all have the strength and ability to cope with the current situation. 

We may react in various ways to a crisis and/or an increase of stress. Some examples of distress responses to crisis are listed below: » physical symptoms (for example, shaking, headaches, feeling very tired, loss of appetite, aches and pains) » crying, sadness, depressed mood, grief » anxiety, fear » being “on guard” or “jumpy” » worry that something really bad is going to happen » insomnia, nightmares » irritability, anger » guilt, shame (for example, for not helping others) » confused, emotionally numb, or feeling unreal or in a daze » appearing withdrawn

All these feelings are a reasonable reaction to what is going on right now. They are all coping mechanisms. You may feel them to varying degrees over a period of time. 

Everything you feel is valid. 

We have the ability to recover well over time with no long lasting effects. 

We all have natural ways of coping. I encourage people to use your own positive coping strategies, while avoiding negative strategies. This will help you feel stronger and regain a sense of control. I invite you to consider your  positive coping strategies » Getting enough rest. » Eating as regularly as possible and drinking water. » Talk and spend time with family and friends via telephone, video call and letters. » Discuss how you are feeling  with someone you trust. » Do activities that help you relax (walk, sing, read). » Do physical exercise. » Find safe ways to help others in the crisis and get involved in community activities.

Being aware of how we are feeling and planning some strategies is helpful. 

I invite you to use the following plan to guide you through simple activities when you are feeling overwhelmed. 

A self care / safety plan can help you avoid engaging in unhelpful, unsafe, out-of-control behaviour you may be accustomed to when under stress. 

All our feelings are valid and we can work towards learning to sit with them all. We can choose activities that are safe, effective, and self-soothing. We can create the space to get to know what works for us and what does not. 

This is YOUR plan, YOUR way of calming YOURSELF. There are no rules, no right or wrong, this is all about YOU! 

Make a note of your answers as you go along including any other suggestions you think might help you.

  • STEP 1: What are your WARNING SIGNS?
  • What thoughts / feelings / behaviours let you know that you are struggling and need to use your self care or safety plan?    
  • Some examples include: racing thoughts, tightness in your chest, feeling unloved, feeling panicked, tension with your partner.    
  • Over eating, taking on too much, talking quickly, feelings of mania, digestion slows down, sleep is interrupted, feelings of panic and being trapped, can’t settle to 1 task at a time, difficulty prioritizing. 
  •  What are some things you can do on your own to take good care of yourself?
  • This could include things like going for a walk, meditating, journaling, enjoying a cup of tea, eating a meal, lighting a candle, having a warm bath, reading, kitchen dancing!                              
  • Online gong bath, decluttering your wardrobe, sorting through papers and books, blow drying your hair, get crafty, draw, paint…..
  • When we are struggling we sometimes need to take a break and distract ourselves and/or regroup. 
  • What are some things you can do that are with or around other people, if this is safe to do so?   
  • How do we remain connected if we are self isolating or socially distancing ourselves?      
  • Connect online with a group, take an online fitness class, access an online yoga class, use social media to connect with others. Whatsapp group….
  • At this point in the self care and safety plan it is important to reach out and share with someone what you are going through. 
  •  Take some time now to think about who you will reach out to.      
  • Do you have trusted friends or family members you could talk to?
  • Do you have any professionals in your life that you can reach out to?    
  • Perhaps a talking therapist, teacher, or faith leader?
  • Peer Support network? Mental health websites? 

If you are in crisis, here are some signposts to agencies and support. Always know that they are available:

The Samaritans

Shout crisis text line

NHS Coronavirus Information

Government Coronavirus Information

Mind Coronavirus information and well-being


This is a fluid plan and can change according to your needs. Thank you for taking the time to look after yourself.       

Jo provides support to clients through talk therapy sessions which are currently taking place virtually or by telephone. Find out more about the different services Jo offers here.

References: World Health Organisation PFA, SHOUT Hive. NHS. 

Bisson, JI & Lewis, C. (2009), Systematic Review of Psychological First Aid. Commissioned by the World Health Organization (available upon request). Brymer, M, Jacobs, A, Layne, C, Pynoos, R, Ruzek, J, Steinberg, A, et al. (2006). Psychological First Aid: Field operations guide (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD. and Freeman, C, Flitcroft, A, & Weeple, P. (2003) Psychological First Aid: A Replacement for Psychological Debriefing. Short-Term post Trauma Responses for Individuals and Groups. The Cullen-Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress, Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Hobfoll, S, Watson, P, Bell, C, Bryant, R, Brymer, M, Friedman, M, et al. (2007) Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: Empirical evidence. Psychiatry 70 (4): 283-315. Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) (2007). IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. Geneva: IASC. International Federation of the Red Cross (2009) Module 5: Psychological First Aid and Supportive Communication. In: Community-Based Psychosocial Support, A Training Kit (Participant’s Book and Trainers Book). Denmark: International Federation Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support. Available at: Pynoos, R, Steinberg, A, Layne, C, Briggs, E, Ostrowski, S and Fairbank, J. (2009).