In the final week, you’re going to develop a blueprint or “coping plan” for maintaining your resilience in the future, and review this each day to make sure you’re able to follow it satisfactorily. The idea is to formulate a simple conceptualisation of the habits you’re most determined to overcome, and to become crystal-clear about the key factors you’d need to observe to implement any change. This doesn’t necessarily take much time. You’ve should have plenty of time to reflect on things and try to simplify your observations over the past few weeks into a handful of key observations, worth remembering for the long-term.
A simple revised coping-plan might be composed of three main elements, which can be subdivided as follows:
- Triggers. The signs or situations that you need to keep an eye on, and be particularly cautious about, in order to prevent yourself from relapsing into old habits…
- Early-Warning Signs. These initial signs might be bodily sensations, such as trembling, or thoughts, such as “What’s the point!, which you recognise as being early-warning signals of unwanted reactions.
- Situation. These are the “high-risk” situations, in which you consider yourself most vulnerable to setbacks, and where you therefore need to be especially cautious and mindful of your responses.
- Previous Response. This is the old pattern of coping, which you’ve decided to abandon and replace with something more constructive; these are voluntary responses, you can potentially choose to cease.
- Thoughts. Sometimes this is the trickiest part because we often overlook our thoughts unless we’ve been practising mindfulness carefully. For that reason, though, it’s especially useful to try to identify the ways of thinking that you could “do without”, i.e., unnecessary and unhelpful ways of responding.
- Actions. What unhelpful ways of coping, or behaviours, could be abandoned or replaced? The hardest part of this is noticing that inaction, or avoidance, sometimes in very subtle forms, is often the pattern of behaviour that needs to be reversed. That might include subtle patterns of mental behaviour such as distracting yourself or trying to block your feelings, etc.
- Alternative Response. This is the new way of coping that you want to introduce into the situation, on the assumption that doing so will often take effort and perseverance, and that you shouldn’t expect to succeed perfectly first time.
- Thoughts. What would be a more helpful thing to tell yourself in these situations, or when you notice these early-warning signs arising? This should be realistic and truthful, but also constructive and helpful – not just “positive thinking” in the sense of Pollyannaism.
- Actions. What would be a more helpful thing to do in these situations, or when you notice these early-warning signs arising? What would be a constructive way of responding or alternative to avoidance?