Helping the Trauma-Impacted Individual with a Safety Plan

I have been writing about the issues surrounding trauma and our veterans in the past few posts. Often, the experience of trauma leaves those impacted with symptoms that are extremely difficult to manage. For example, many veterans suffer constant hyper-arousal, to the point they cannot function in normal settings like home, community or work. I find similar realities for adults who were abused as children. But a veteran or other traumatized individual will benefit from having a Safety Plan.

Improve the quality of life for a traumatized individual with a Safety Plan

Whether a spouse, parent, teacher, early childhood professional, employer or a friend of someone who has faced severe trauma, please be aware the consequences (like PTSD) can emphatically impact the quality of life and relationships of the trauma-impacted individual. Awareness is the first step. But how can we help them?

 Having a SAFETY PLAN  can offer reprieve.

How does a Safety Plan work? The trauma-impacted individual, possibly with the help of others, should find ways to keep safe as possible from triggers or situations that will push reenactment of the traumatic events or from such a degree of overwhelm that dissociation (checking-out) occurs.

A Safety Plan might feel like an overwhelming concept, but to be truthful, it can easily be designed and implemented. If those close to a trauma-impacted person can help honor that Safety Plan, it will help the individual cope more readily with the cues and triggers that can negatively impact him/her.

Here are some examples of the types of ideas that can be put into a personal Safety Plan:

  • Know where exits are
  • Sit near a door
  • Look around to be sure other people seem safe
  • Think about ways to protect yourself if something scary or dangerous happens
  • Refuse to speak
  • Be prepared to leave the room
  • Picture a safe and peaceful spot you really like
  • Sit near someone you feel safe being close to, someone who might protect you
  • Self-talk: think about what you are saying to yourself and correct over-reactive, untrue thoughts
  • Consider if you are overreacting because of something that happened some other time and place; change your thoughts to be more realistic
  • Tell someone you trust if you start to feel unsafe
  • Distract yourself by doodling, take notes, study things in the room, think about what you want to have for dinner, tap a pen on your foot softly, rock, suck on a lifesaver
  • Breathe deeply
  • Relax your body
  • Pray for yourself and others
  • Close your eyes for a few minutes
  • Zone out and decide to not pay attention

No matter your relationship with someone who has been traumatized, you can help him/her design a personal safety plan—no matter where the person may go. Communicating that plan to those who are influential to the person’s life and environments is also extremely important. Each must be aware of, participate in and encourage that Safety Plan.

Following through with this helpful resource will provide our children and adult victims of trauma with a safer world and a better chance to recover and heal.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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