Helpful Hints

Creating a Cope Ahead Plan

Cope ahead plans have been extremely useful for me. It’s a tool I learned in therapy. Essentially, it’s preparing yourself for stress, anxiety, and panic. Preparing for it will help mitigate how difficult the situation is when it arrives. It helps you create a plan of how to deal with triggers when you know that they will be present in your life. It’s exactly what it sounds like. So how do you create one? Here’s how:

  • Identify the trigger

This goes beyond identifying the situation that’s causing stress. It aims to discover what about the situation is causing you to panic. This will help you target that specific anxiety and potentially help with the reaction to it. It can be useful to do a downward arrow exercise to get to what is the core fear that sparks the anxiety.

  • Exposures

If you have OCD, exposures can be a helpful tool in preparing for stress. If I had to face my fear of heights, my core fear is death. I would expose myself to this fear by exercising my brain and allowing it to habituate to the fear. This can be useful for general anxiety too.

  • The Event itself

Dealing with events themselves involves a lot of mindfulness. It’s going to take a lot of mental energy and that’s okay. Even if you’re reminding yourself every couple minutes to bring your mind back to present, you’re doing great. Mindfulness is a practice that I find extremely helpful. Like exposures, it can be helpful to practice these so that you’re not struggling on the day that is already stressful.

  • Response Prevention

When you start to feel the rise in anxiety, how you react to it can make or break your experience. When I’m struggling and I follow an intrusive thought down a rabbit hole, it can be game over. Mindfulness will help you identify the triggers and bring your mind back. If you respond or indulge your anxiety, that’s okay. When you notice that you are, bring your mind back once again. The anxiety is going to get worse before it gets better.

  • Distraction

As the anxiety gets worse, it can be really helpful to have distractions handy. That could look like playing a game on your phone. You could call a friend or text someone. Depending on your circumstance, you could write, draw, sew, paint, or all of the above.

Remember that this is like exercise. Your tolerance will go up over time but only if you continue to practice. It’s not easy and afterwards your muscles are going to burn. If you keep at it though, you can track your progress and see real results. Hopefully, this can be one more tool in your toolbox.

I hope that you’re having a great day. I hope that your day is filled with joy, positivity, and laughter. I hope that you find peace, love, and happiness.

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