United Front: System Safety Plan Course
How to Create a System Safety Plan
TL;dr – A safety plan helps system members (or singular folk) to spot stressors, symptoms & self-care issues before they turn into bigger problems. This is called “being proactive”. By keeping track of physical and mental signals ahead of bigger problems, we can make corrections to our self-care, and adjust our routines to eliminate stressors & triggers so that our issues won’t get worse. Eventually, a safety plan can help your system to run at its best as y’all get more used to what works and eliminate what doesn’t. The first time, we suggest that y’all go through your plan without getting buried in the details. You can come back and add more details to it as things change or come up. We may get stuck if we’re too caught up in thinking we need to get it “finished” or “right” on the first pass.
We have to say the life of a spaceship crew can be full of “exciting” moments. To be quite honest, though, “exciting” isn’t always fun. There’s a lot to be done to keep the ship airtight and warm in cold space — parts wear out and Amazon doesn’t deliver unless you’re in a port. Though I guess it will be neat if they upgrade their drone idea to work in space and their little delivery ships would rendezvous with y’all wherever you are.
So ship’s mantainance and constant quality control is necessary to make sure that the ship and crew are on top of things before they turn into a crisis. If you’ve watched any Star Trek there’s occasionally that lost guy with a tricorder (clipboard) that probably contains his checklist, or some nameless person in a corridor staring at a hand-held scanner running it over something. If there isn’t there should be. These aren’t “extras” — these are crew members doing vital routine maintainance. As important as the officers may seem to the casual glance (and the storylines), it’s really these vital daily and hourly tasks that make sure that the ship is still spaceworthy and that when the officers give life-saving orders the ship is capable of executing them.
In plain English: your mind, body, emotions, headmates, symptoms, etc. all telegraph signs that you’re under stress, and that your symptoms are getting worse. Being tapped into that sensory equipment is like having a heads-up-display. “Heads up! There’s an issue!” At that point you have the opportunity to get to it quickly while things are not so bad, rather than waiting for all the little things (pests, minor malfunctions, little aches and pains, annoyances) to turn into big things (clue-by-fours, dysfunctions, flare-ups, debilitating pain) or even worse.
Becoming More Proactive
One aspect of becoming more functional, or “Recovery” as it’s called in some portions of the health and activism community, is to catch your minor issues before the moderate reactions kick in, and definitely before the really bad reactions. By tracking and noticing the minor things, y’all can develop a plan for how to take care of them before they get worse and y’all you can learn to be more *proactive* about your wellness.
Here’s a little 12 minute video about being proactive (Optional. The captions/transcript has been corrected. YouDescribe version.):
In this process we’ll help y’all become an investigative team scrutinizing clues about the uncomfortable or dangerous issues you want to head off in your own life. Life happens. Sometimes things go sideways; happens to us, and most of the people we know struggle with this. We may not feel good, we may be doing things we’re not happy with, or that don’t match with our longer-term goals for ourselves or our shared life. That’s Ok, you noticed! That alone is worth celebrating. Don’t get hung up on when or how long it took to notice — this will improve with familiarity. Celebrate the amazing fact that you did notice.
Our Body is Part of Our System
Many plurals, mostly those with trauma but certainly not limited to us, are not hooked up so well with our sensory equipment. We Crisses have deliberately interfaced with our body but only after decades of having a pretty good relationship with our body did we realize it’s part of our system. It’s our life support system and we need to take even better care to listen to it and care for it. Now we’re extending the same compassion and care to our body that we do our headmates. We do wish we had come to this realization much sooner, but better now than later. We realize we’d been taking pretty good care of our body or at least listening to it for a long time. We will do better in the future starting now.
If interested, check out our podcast on How to Re-Associate with Your Body (007) (34 minutes. Optional. Transcript).
Making OK Moments Better
Maybe you already have ways to tell when things aren’t going well with your ship or your external life, your internal fuctioning, and your headmate relationships. They’re potentially interrelated, or at least none of these things exist in a total vacuum — they affect each other. This is part of the principle of AISOAVV.
It’s usually recommended to develop your system safety plan during good times or moments. Or at least better moments. If life never gives you a break, you may still want to dive in and quickly sketch out a plan, knowing y’all will come back and further tweak it later. Being in a good place is suggested so that y’all can see clearly where you want to come back to when things aren’t going as well. So being in a good or better place is good (but not necessary) to start with. Don’t worry about it being perfect, having a plan is progress and progress is perfect.
This process helps y’all turn around those not-so-good moments, spot the early signs of issues developing so they can be corrected sooner than later. Once you start to work on presence, self-care, and noticing various anxiety states this will help improve your energy level, your physical health, your ability to think and concentrate. It will eventually pay off as you put it to good use.
Did you know that the sailors in the 1800s scrubbed down the decks of the ship every day? I mean with sandpaper-like rocks and all. Someone determined that it was a major issue that needed to be kept on top of. Dry rot would set in, planks would weaken and break or splinter. Decks would build up dirt and grime and get slippery. Crew would get injured during bad weather because they couldn’t keep their footing. When you’re a part of a well-oiled ship-machine keeping the rigging up, shifting sails, raising/lowering anchor, reporting to stations for a fight, etc. it’s very important that you can safely go places on board without risking slipping and going overboard into the ocean.
So they learned, eventually, to prevent grime build up. They would scrub more often until they learned that daily scrubbing made the job easier. The sailors knew why it was important, the officers ensured it happened.
You have the ability to get ahead of your& ongoing issues, it is a process and takes time. Creating a safety plan in the meantime can help you log the cues, figure out the rhythms that are important to maintaining your whole ship and your adventuring operation (as in life is an adventure!). The process of building a safety plan will take months, tweaking and refining it may be a periodic thing y’all do, but y’all also can start using it right away. Today, even.
The Plan Mindset
The process of building the plan requires some objectivity. If y’all get mired into the details and pain of the exercises then y’all may kinda miss the point. The plan is looking for factual information. Like let’s take an example: a sign that things are not going well may be a headache. It’s not time to analyze why y’all get the headache, to feel bad about the headache, think about what the headache has prevented y’all from doing, or to try to blame anyone for the headache. Y’all identify a headache as a not great sign — next would be well what helps when we get a headache? What might we try? It’s not a good time to feel bad about “we should have thought of this sooner” — that may stop y’all in your tracks.
Consider this a brainstorming session, to come up with anything that has worked in the past, ideas y’all may have heard of that y’all would like to try. If headaches are an extreme issue for y’all, make a note of it, and later on (between sessions of working on your& plan) y’all can ask around or do a little research on things other folk have tried that help with headaches. For now, make a quick list of what y’all might like to try. Don’t dwell on it though. 1-3 ideas is enough to go on to the next thing. If 10 ideas come up right away, great! Write down 10. It’s not the time to think of every possible thing or get stuck on 1 issue or potential solution.
Later on, if one of those ideas doesn’t help, y’all can either cross it off, or figure out whether that idea inspires new ideas that might help.
Y’all are kinda scientists experimenting on how your shared life operates and what works for y’all, inside & out. Y’all are like the sailors who eventually figured out that scrubbing the deck daily was important and helped keep everything operating smoothly.
So the whole approach is not to look at what’s going wrong or why it’s going wrong so much as the signs, subjective or objective depending on the exercise, that things are going topsy-turvy and what y’all may be able to do to work with it, help with it and turn it around.