How to Develop an Effective Mental Health Plan

13 May 2019 By Karine Rayson, The Crew Coach

hen we are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or stressed, it is often to do with worrying about the future. When we give power to worry, we allow for it to take control — when it gets to this stage it is very difficult to regain our power. Having a mental health safety plan will put you in a better position to manage your mental health issues.

A mental health plan is designed to be your lifeline when you can sense that your wellbeing needs are at risk. The most important part of the plan is that you make it your own and is personalized to meet your needs; if not, you are unlikely to use it, making it ineffective.

Where to Start
Create a working document — This means that you will continuously refer back to your plan and make changes when needed. This is important because your triggers and coping strategies change with time.  The purpose of the plan is to manage difficult emotions and ideally prevent them from manifesting where it threatens your wellbeing.

When you have finalized your plan, transfer it to a medium that is easily accessible, such as your phone or a sheet of paper that you keep in your wallet.

1. Identify Early Warning Signs
Start off by identifying the situations or events that can trigger you in feeling overwhelmed — we call these early warning signs.

For the purpose of this article, let’s imagine there is a crewmember named Jane. Come post and pre-season, when she is responsible for managing the yacht’s inventories, Jane feels anxious and stressed out.

2. Think About Triggers
Think about what triggers your warning signs. Triggers for Jane could be upcoming deadlines, taking on too much, poor time management, or a resistance to asking for help.

Jane is feeing incredibly anxious and stressed because she thinks that she can’t reach out for support. Therefore, she is likely to make mistakes with inventory, as she is so exhausted by her sheer workload. Therefore, some of Jane’s triggers would be failing to take time for self-care and not delegating work to her peers.

3. Prepare a Strategy
Think about strategies that might help ease the stressful situations; what was helpful or unhelpful for you in the past? Next, write down the links between warning signs and triggers, followed by possible strategies.

Jane called a meeting in the crew mess for the purpose of involving the crew to brainstorm ideas on effective and efficient ways to tackle inventories. Despite her fears, the crew was very excited to share responsibility, and they left feeling valued and empowered. Furthermore, Jane felt as if a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders and can now replace her usual inventory worries with self-care methods and time spent reflecting on her personal and professional life.

4. Use a Support Network
It’s very important to have a positive support network in place made up of friends, family, or peers who you can reach out to for support.

If you struggle with asking for help, I highly suggest that you explore that on a deeper level because if you don’t address it, your mental health could be in danger. Here’s why that’s important:

  1. You don’t know everything and you never will. By outsourcing your weaknesses and using your resources and contacts wisely, you can increase your chances of learning and fast track your success.
  2. Asking for help promotes a growth mindset: In contrast, having a fixed mindset means you will only feel increasingly more stuck and frustrated. A growth mindset comes with vulnerability and courage, which is why it’s invaluable to challenge your belief system and your aversion to asking for help.
  3. Asking for help strengthens relationships: People have more respect for others who can admit to their vulnerabilities or weaknesses. If you want to build real connections and be an admirable leader, you need to be genuine.

Now, you need to share your support plan with your support network since they play a key role in ensuring you are able to carry out your plan. They are likely to pick you up when you fall and walk alongside you until you are confident enough to carry out your plan independently. Going back to Jane’s example, she talked with her second stew and articulated what support she needed from her and how she would communicate her needs moving forward.

Many people find that having such strategies in place enables them to feel more at ease, knowing they have a support plan in place that has proven to work. The Crew Coach provides counseling — go to — where they can help you to explore potential warning signs that you may not be conscious of as yet. We also help you curate new strategies to remedy these warning signs.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where things do get a bit much or if you need further support, please reach out to your support network or seek professional advice.