My Crisis Plan defines specific steps I follow to deal with crisis. They range from the very basic, trying to calm myself, to the very difficult, reaching out for help. But the point is they establish a step by step response to crisis that, I’ve learned over time, works for me.
My Plan directs me to use various tools: my journals, my books, my CDs and DVDs, my meditations, etc. When I turn to each depends on the severity of the crisis. I begin by breathing and, if that fails to calm me, graduate to additional steps until the crisis is over. One of the steps is to open my Wellness Toolbox, my “calm-tainer,” and use the items in it to ease my mind. Those items include photos, meditation beads, scented candles, and more.
But that presents a problem: what if a crisis should occur when I don’t have access to my Wellness Toolbox?
For this reason, one of the items “in” the Toolbox is my smartphone. My phone is always with me and, through the use of a microSD card, has ample memory. I’ve added to it a variety of ebooks and apps from the Play Store. My phone has a large 5.5″ screen so I don’t mind reading on it but I’ve also got audiobooks and, wherever possible, meditations from those books. In addition, I have a copy of my Crisis Plan on my phone and on my Google Drive. This way my Crisis Plan is always available to me.
All audio files are kept in my Music folder, all ebooks and my Crisis Plan are in my Documents folder. Additionally, on my phone I’ve created a “Self Care” folder which contains access to all of the apps I’ve downloaded. I’ve found that this simple organization works for me and avoids any panic which might come from not being able to find a tool when I’m in crisis.
The ebooks I’ve added to my phone include The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. To read the books, I’ve installed the Lithium ebook reader. Key sections are bookmarked for quick reference. Of these books (and there are others not mentioned) the first I turn to is Hyperbole and a Half. I find that the humour in it is often enough to change my mood.
Audiobooks on my phone include The Mindful Way Through Depression and Hardwiring Happiness, as well as the accompanying meditation files (where available). I find the guided meditations to be particularly helpful in a crisis. If I’m having trouble calming, a guided breathing meditation often does the trick.
My apps include suicide prevention apps 1 and 2 from Durham Mental Health Services and the Stay Alive app. All three of these apps include tools to help me cope with suicidal thoughts. The DHMS apps are local to me and include information on crisis lines that I can use. The Stay Alive app is UK-based and has information on UK-based crisis lines.
The book, The Happiness Trap, has a companion app which I’ve bought and installed on my phone. The ACT Companion is a simple acceptance and commitment therapy tool and acts as a way to take the ideas from the book and implement them in your life. Of course, the ebook is also on my phone. If nothing else, this the book and app have helped me accept the existence of depressive episodes in my life. They’ve made me who I am.
The bulk of the apps I’ve downloaded are meditation apps. Over the course of the past year I’ve learned that variety helps me cope with crisis. I can switch between apps until I find the voice and music that soothes me at that particular time.
The apps I use include:
- Mindfulness: The Art of Being (L): basic meditation app (includes free check-in and breathing meditations); I liked this and bought the full version
- Mindfulness: The Art of Being (F): full, paid for, version of above, it has more guided meditations
- Wildflowers Mindfulness: subscription based meditation app; free trial period; basic free meditations; be wary of this as the download is huge
- Headspace: subscription based meditation app; free basic meditations; one of the best meditation apps there is
- Calm: subscription based meditation app; many free meditations; another excellent meditation source
- Buddhist Meditation Trainer: free meditations
- Take 5 Mindful Minutes: a collection of 5 minute meditations
- Take 10 Mindful Minutes: a collection of 10 minute meditations
- Mindfulness Caring for Me: a collection of five mindfulness meditation strategies
- Mindfulness Getting Started: a collection of four basic mindfulness meditation strategies
- Dbt911: DBT is about distress tolerance. With this app you will quickly get a random distress tolerance skill to do
- Thought Workbench: a CBT tool for smartphones to allow you to discreetly log your thoughts
- Insight Timer: a huge selection of free meditations
- Gratitude Garden: a tool to help you keep track of moments in your day to be grateful for
- Breathe: a simple peaceful focal point to assist you in steadying your breathing
In practice I begin by turning to, as I said above, Hyperbole and a Half. I may also turn to the Breathe app to divert my attention to my breath. Very often, that’s where the intervention stops as they provide enough of a distraction to move my thoughts.
If I’m dealing with ideations, I turn initially to the DMHS apps and work through them. Again, the idea is to distract, and they enable me to do this in a safe way.
Meditation is very important to my recovery and guided meditations are especially helpful. When I’m in a crisis, I can find a calming voice and calming music and direct my attention to it. I’ve enough variety in my apps that there’s always something to help.
But the real importance is that these tools are always with me and there’s a certain comfort from that fact. Certainly enough of a comfort that I can escape the possibility of panic and concentrate on distraction.
The apps I use barely scratch the surface on what’s available on the Play Store but they are the ones that work for me. Please share with us the apps that work for you.
About John Dickson
A lifelong battle with Major Depressive Disorder resulted in a suicide attempt. That attempt taught me the danger of being silent about my personal struggles with mental health. I've had to learn to be more open about my struggle. I now choose to reach out with the hope that someone will be inspired and end his/her own silence. I'm a dad, a blogger and a new convert to the power of social media.