Holiday Safety Planning and Self-Care Guide
Welcome to the Holiday Safety Planning and Self-Care Guide brought to you by University Counseling Services’ Advocacy Program and The Health Promotion and Well-being Center (The Well). We know that the holidays can be challenging, and with the added stressors that this year may have brought, we’re here to support you. In this guide, you’ll find resources for safety planning and ways to engage in self-care.
What is a safety plan? A safety plan is a personalized, practical, plan to improve your safety and well-being by identifying coping strategies, trusted loved ones to confide in, and community resources that can provide additional support.
You have a right to feel safe in your space and within relationships. Physical safety planning can include attending to injuries, feeling safe where you live, work, or visit, and finding supportive networks.
- Have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call or text for help, including friends or family. Keep a spare charger nearby, if possible.
- Let trusted friends or loved ones know about your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you might need their help. Give them clear instructions on who you want them to contact in moments of crisis.
- Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night, and practice leaving safely.
- Have a plan for seeking medical attention if needed. Consider having the contact information for your local hospital, community health service, or primary care physician.
Emotional Safety Planning
Emotional safety can look different for everyone. Ultimately the goal is to develop a personalized plan that helps you process your emotions and build resilience.
- Seek out supportive people. A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can create opportunities to help support you in ways that fit your needs. This may include providing space to discuss the situation or engaging in activities to help you cope.
- Identify and work toward personal goals. Goals can include engaging in self-care or contacting a supportive resource. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
- Find a space or item that brings you comfort. Designate a peaceful place to go, such your favorite cozy chair, a nearby park, or under a blanket. Additionally, you can designate an item that brings you comfort such as a favorite piece of clothing or a book.
- You are worthy of love and support. At the end of the day, we cannot control others’ responses to us. We can recognize and remind ourselves of our worth by journaling or reciting positive affirmations.
Tips for Navigating Differences in Values or Politics
Complicated dynamics exist within families and communities, often causing many VCU students to grapple with standing up for their values/beliefs without negatively impacting their relationships with family members. Here are some tips for navigating dialogues around differences in values or politics.
Before the Conversation
- What are your goals in having this conversation?
During the Conversation
- Avoid all verbal attacks and judgment; take a moment to listen and process.
- Having a coping plan following political dialogues is key!
- People are more likely to side with you if you connect it to their emotions.
- Stick to and communicate your boundaries.
Following the Conversation
- Do what you need to do to take care of YOU!
- Check out the section on Emotional Safety Planning and/or the Self-Care Checklist
Safety Planning and COVID-19
It is important to consider your safety, and the safety of people around you, particularly as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some VDH guidelines to keep in mind this holiday season:
- Masks have been shown to provide protection to the wearer as well as to others. Wear a mask (also known as a cloth face covering) whenever you interact with another person, especially if you are less than six feet apart, even if you are outside.
- Students/staff travel home by multiple means, including personal vehicle (lower risk) or commercial/public transportation by airplane, bus, or rideshare (higher risk).
- Get your flu shot! They are free at most locations.
- Limit the size, frequency, and duration of social interactions. Other factors should also be considered, such as the location of the gathering (outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoor gatherings) and the behavior of people at the gathering.
- Consider getting tested about 1 week after returning home to help identify any exposures or illness you may have picked up while traveling.
- Anyone who develops any COVID-19 symptoms, even if symptoms are very mild, should isolate from others and get tested as soon as possible
- Many schools, including VCU, will have return protocols (such as quarantining and getting tested) that you should follow at the end of the holiday or break.
- If you have more questions about COVID-19 contact 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343) and follow together.vcu.edu for university updates.
- Pulled from Resource: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/182/2020/11/VDH-Considerations-for-IHE-Students-and-Staff-Returning-Home-for-Holidays-Combined_11.6.2020_Final.pdf
Sample Safety Plan: When in times of ongoing stress, our minds and bodies react in ways that we may not always recognize or understand. Creating a safety plan can help us identify our physical and emotional responses, the ways that we cope, and what supportive resources may be available.
- I know I am overwhelmed, or in need of support, when I feel or experience the following difficult emotions (e.g. worried, anxious, angry, scared): __________
Changes in routine or habits (e.g. difficulty reaching out for support, drinking or using substances, changes in eating habits, lack of motivation):__________________
Physical responses (e.g. tightness in the neck and shoulders, heart racing, feeling flushed, sleep difficulties):_________
- I can tell my family, co-workers, boss, counselor, or friend about my situation. I feel safe telling…. (Name, Contact info): _________________
- These are the ways I can cope if a loved one is not available to support me (i.e. relaxation techniques, distraction, physical activity)_____________
- I can make up a "code word" or phrase for my family, co-workers, friends, and counselor so they know when to call for help for me. My codeword/phrase is: _____
- These are the places I feel physically safe: _________
Check out the resources section and our Linktree for support around a variety of health and safety issues: https://linktr.ee/vcucounseling
- Spend time outside, enjoy nature and the beauty around you
- Take some time for reflection. Engage in a guided meditation, write yourself a love letter or journal.
- Set a sleep schedule or establish a nighttime routine.
- Do something that you’ve been putting off for a while.
- Throw yourself a mini party. Grab your favorite snacks and play your favorite music.
- Create a vision board of what you want to accomplish this upcoming year.
- Schedule a catch-up date with a friend or loved one in a way that protects their health and yours. Try a Netflix watch party or a virtual recipe swap
- For additional ideas, apps, and information, check out University Counseling Service’s Linktree, or The Well’s Mental Wellness Resource Guide
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