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The other kind of emergency plan you need right now

What's your emergency plan?

You know, the go-to actions for when life gets really challenging. The things you do to ward off a descent into a darker place, or the plan that kicks in when you get into a rut?

Many of us only discover the need for an emergency plan when we're already clawing our way of the abyss, grateful for whatever or whoever has thrown us a rope. We might make grand plans for self-care, for rest, for exercise, therapy or other activities that maintain our mental health in the right place.

But it's easy sometimes to let a grand plan slide too. We can often hit the easy buttons instead. What are easy buttons? Here's how Glennon Doyle in her book 'Untamed' describes them

"Easy” buttons are the things that appear in front of us that we want to reach for because they temporarily take us out of our pain and stress. They do not work in the long run, because what they actually do is help us abandon ourselves. “Easy” buttons take us to fake heaven. Fake heaven always turns out to be hell. You know you’ve hit an “easy” button when, afterward, you feel more lost in the woods than you did before you hit it. It has taken me forty years to decide that when I feel bad, I want to do something that makes me feel better instead of worse."

When I came across this idea of a really simple emergency plan, it really spoke to me as a way to help steer us away from those easy buttons. I came across it in this paper on self-care.

It's a plan to have at hand for when things start to get difficult for you. The idea is you figure out in advance what helps and what doesn't and keep the answers to hand (the suggestion in the paper is that you could even write in on a card that could fit into your wallet).

Then (crucially), you follow the plan in difficult circumstances!

Basically, it’s a list of dos and don’t dos/things to avoid


  • List some activities you find soothing, relaxing, distracting, or mood enhancing

  • Make note of activities to avoid – the ones that don’t help when the going gets tough


  • Make a list of people who can provide meaningful emotional support or distraction

  • Note people to avoid

Positive self-talk

  • List some positive affirmations or statements and ways to combat negative self-talk

Anything else

  • List anything else that works for you

  • Note down anything else that doesn’t work

You can download a one-page worksheet here to record your own emergency plan.

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