• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #16 3-30-2020

We are clearly living in a time when the seams of society are unraveling. And we have aspirations to create a new tapestry, together, and I appreciate that kind of optimism. But I also think we may need to lower our bar a little and start perhaps with setting up a goal more like needle point, or even something simpler, like maybe creating a pre-printed cross stitch.

We are all struggling with various questions that bubble up. Why are liquor stores ‘essential’ but See’s Candy stores are not? Who decided that it’s not critical to keep stores stocked with fresh flowers? If we’re all stuck at home, and our newly planted gardens have yet had time to bloom, shouldn’t we have access to the ‘friendliest’ of flowers, daisies, as noted by Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail?

Some of us are even starting to run out of things to do. Which in some ways is funny, because I know we all have items we’ve moved from one list to another, over a few years, never to be crossed off. No time like the present?? Or not so much? Do you have a current updated phone list in your phone or computer? Do you regularly sort your emails and put them into folders and delete and thin the herd? Do you wash your windows, indoors and out? My impressive friends are cleaning like nobody’s business. One told me yesterday that in her zealousness, after hand washing all the floors, she detailed her doggy door. (Which made think, ‘ooops – should I be doing that?’ followed by, ‘I’ll add that to the list of going through the large boxes in the garage labeled ‘misc., probably maybe should shred someday.’)

Here is something we CAN be doing though. Safety planning.

Remember how we are supposed to have home fire drills with our kids and designate the spot we meet (next door? around the block?) and where our ‘go bags’ are stashed, ready to pick up in a moment’s notice, containing our important documents and prescriptions and extra dog food? Remember that? Well, this is an excellent time for a few family meetings to do a few different types of safety plans. The main thing is to brainstorm, write things down, and hang things up where they can be seen. In case of an actual emergency, our brains freeze and it’s hard to remember anything, let alone whom to call first.

Here are a few different safety plans you can create:

1-Social safety plan. Each person living in your space writes out who they are going to call or text or Facebook messenger in moments when they notice they are feeling alone, lonely, or checked out. In the moment of sadness, we can’t remember one pal, let alone the hundreds in our aforementioned phone contacts or on our social media sites, so it’s good to write down actual names. Feel free to be expansive. Your children have teachers and mentors, coaches and grandparents, scout leaders, neighbors, aunts and uncles and also friends. Let them generate a long list of people they can call or to whom they can reach out. They may never need this list, but it can be of comfort to see it hanging in their room or on the fridge. And they can keep adding to it. For their exercise, you can just tell them, ‘let’s make a list of all the people who love you and then a list of all the people who like you and then a list of all the people you know.’ This is also a fine assignment for young adults and adults and older adults. WHO YA GONNA CALL? Ghostbusters, sure, but also why not that high school friend you love but have not had time to visit for years? Put them on the list.

2-Mental health safety plan. Typically, we think of mental health safety plans as established for life and death crises. We may design a safety plan for if we ever felt suicidal or at risk of relapsing from addiction. Or at risk for self-harm. In these times we can extend the concept and develop a list of resources upon which we can call in case of changes to mental health – mini panic attacks, chronic sleeplessness, noticeable lack of interest in things that used to be of interest, plus crisis situations. This list can include the name and contact information of a therapist or counselor, priest or rabbi, clinic or counseling center. It can also include apps (which can be downloaded now, into your phones) such as CALM and Virtual Hope Box and MY3. It can also include contact info for crisis centers, including those with texting and phone and email options. It can also include 2-1-1 as a reminder about local resources.

3-Medical and physical healthy safety plan. As noted, this plan can include resources we may need relative to our health and physical safety. First, look to science and research for education and information. If someone in our house has an underlying condition, do we understand it? Do we know the symptoms for the current virus? Do we own a thermometer? Do we know what our MD wants should a family member feel ill? (It’s NOT walk into their office!) Do we know where the urgent care facilities are in our area and what their hours are? Do we have the information for all those in our care and heart, including parents, children, spouse, best friend if you’re their emergency contact number? Do we have all health insurance id numbers written down somewhere so if needed we don’t have to go searching? Also, if you do not have health directives feel free to download a template and save that with your health insurance numbers. It’s good to be prepared. On a lighter note, physical health safety planning is like when you first baby proofed the house. Do we have batteries and back up and those long tall candles in the glass jars from the 99cent store? Do we have flashlights? Extra charger cords or charger stations? Medications? Gas in the car? The most sought-after comfort item at the market – toilet paper?

What’s your plan? I am not trying to scare you – just wanted to give you an idea of things you can do. Now is a great time to work on safety planning in whatever format works for you. It does not have to be fancy or lengthy. You won’t be graded on the assignment. And there are comprehensive suggestions much better than mine available on line.

In these times, we have time to tackle things we have avoided previously. So why not plan for our safety? Meantime don’t get on me about tackling the boxes in my garage. They are up there for the long haul.

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