The Importance of Having a Crisis Plan For When Things Go Wrong

The Importance of Having a Crisis Plan For When Things Go Wrong

Last update: 26 December, 2022

How many times have you said to yourself: If only I’d known, I’d have dealt with it better? Probably many. Maybe every time an unforeseen event has arisen. However, it’s not possible to have a plan prepared for each twist and turn that reality can take. In fact, assuming that you have a plan for every possible eventuality is far from profitable in psychological terms. So, what’s a crisis plan?

Crisis plans are the actions, generic or specific, that you carry out when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. They allow you to charge yourself with energy to operate again. In effect, they’re the engines that guide you so you can continue moving forward in the middle of the storm.

worried woman
Having a crisis plan is a way of self-regulation.

The importance of having a crisis plan

How do you develop a crisis plan? Can you learn how to make one? We’ll explain it with a metaphor.

Imagine a water dam (your mind). When the weather is favorable and the rainfall is normal (the problems), the dam is maintained with adequate levels of water that are far from dangerous. Everything is fine or, at least, it’s within its usual parameters.

However, the weather turns and it starts to rain heavily. So much so that the dam begins to fill up dangerously (you feel overwhelmed by problems). Now, you can imagine two possible scenarios:

Without a crisis plan

The structure of the dam barely holds up as cracks begin to form, revealing excess weight and pressure. When this happens for the first time, the dam holds the water. Nothing bad happens. In other words, you successfully cope with those extremely stressful events ‘by force’. In effect, you handle them without really knowing how.

Therefore, the problem ends, and, without really knowing how you did it, you emerge, victorious but exhausted. However, this is a red flag that indicates burnout.

Repeated wear and tear over time can reduce your coping ability and lead to problems related to a multitude of clinical entities such as anxiety, depression, or addictions.

Imagine that the dam has suffered a multitude of overflows and, consequently, has many cracks. It rains heavily again. But this time the dam is unable to continue maintaining the weight and the pressure that the rain exerts on it and it breaks. It explodes. It sinks. Consequently, it floods everything in its path, generating great destruction. At this point, we’d like to ask you some questions to reflect on:

  • Is it necessary to be under so much pressure without having a safe escape route?
  • Do you have to wait until it breaks to find solutions?
  • Can you do anything to prevent this from happening?

Sometimes, it’s inevitable that the dam breaks, but you can contribute to its stability and integrity with acts of self-care.

With a crisis plan

It rains again, and the dam is dangerously full again. However, when the engineers built it, they devised a security mechanism. When the dam is filled to a certain level (for example, 90 percent of its capacity), mechanisms are activated that safely empty it, allowing the water to escape gradually until it reaches a safe level. In this regard, ask yourself:

  • What safety mechanisms do you have?
  • What valves do you have that allow you to release tension?
  • Do they release it in time?

In short, what’s your crisis plan? Each one can be as different as people are. They’re ways of acting that are adapted to each individual.

What to include in a crisis plan

If we transfer the dam metaphor to the field of mental health, there are many ways to compose a plan. A crisis plan may include aspects such as:

  • Stopping to disconnect. Sometimes, the mere fact of stopping helps you to gain perspective. Taking a view on the problems that happen to you implies temporarily distancing yourself from them. It’s like looking through a window at them. Mindfulness is a good tool for this.
  • Communicating. Talking about your problems with people who are important to you is an act of self-care. It can help you find ways of focusing on a fact that you’d previously ignored. Two brains think more (or better) than one.
  • Dividing. Julius Caesar and Napoleon were right. Breaking a problem down into smaller problems is the first step to solving it. Therefore, setting checkpoints in an ambitious goal will not only help you achieve it but will also help you enjoy it more with the small reinforcers that you obtain along the way.
  • Finding your vanishing points. If reading, playing sports, or just collapsing on the couch to watch Netflix are valves that release your pressure, focus on them until the pressure drops enough for you to face the problem again. Ideally, your vanishing point involves an activity that’s easily achievable, involves movement, and is rewarding.
man thinking
A crisis plan helps us face reality, reducing pressure and stress.

Adjust the plan to your own needs

These are just some of the elements that a crisis plan may contain. You can add as many more as you need. It’s useful to remember that a crisis plan is a succession of actions that allow you to reduce the force and pressure with which stressful and problematic events burst into your life

Staying inactive means cracking your mental dam. What elements will you include in your crisis plan?

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  • Miranda, G. C., & Vega, G. C. (2021). La comunicación asertiva: Una mirada desde la psicología de la educación. Didasc@ lia: Didáctica y Educación, 12(3), 131-151.
  • Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, M., & Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, M. (2006). Mindfulness-based psychotherapies: a review of conceptual foundations, empirical evidence and practical considerations. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(4), 285-294.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.