Former Secret Service agent-turned-psychologist shares tips for staying safe today

Mar 14, 2021 | Protection, Safety

dr Mary Beth in State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program uniform Staying Safe Today

It’s always a good idea to know how to protect yourself both physically and mentally from violence, danger and fear.

But especially in these times of uncertainty, protest and unrest, just knowing you have the tools to respond in the case of a physical or mental assault can bring self-confidence and peace of mind—even if you never have to use them.

Former US Secret Service and international protection agent Mary Beth Wilkas Janke was the first and only female instructor in the history of the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program and is the only U.S. woman to have officially protected a foreign president abroad (Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti).

Mary Beth’s personal motto: prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

She offers these tips for bolstering mental and physical toughness. In an interview or an article she can expound on each:
● Learn your surroundings to notice when something is out of place (e.g. it’s 90 degrees outside and there is a man walking around your neighborhood in a long winter coat).
● Choose the lens through which you look at things. When you notice you are starting to panic or become scared, focus on acting, not thinking. Always tell yourself you can do something – it could be a matter of life or death.
● Focus on your physical fitness. This is the key to both mental and physical health.
● Learn five self-defense moves. You do not need to have a black belt in martial arts to effectively protect yourself and boost your self-confidence. Just five techniques can do the trick.
● Find your voice. Voice is a stun technique that can buy you 2 to 4 seconds that you need to either run or disorient your attacker. If someone is making you uncomfortable, when in doubt, scream, then run.
● Be very careful what you put out on social media. Never say where you live, where you are going that evening, etc.
● Meditate. Meditation is proven to reduce stress, decrease fear and anxiety, boost positive mood, and promote emotional health and self-esteem. Do it!

Mary Beth’s new memoir is The Protector: A Woman’s Journey From the Secret Service to Guarding VIPs and Working in Some of the World’s Most Dangerous Places.

Dr. Mary Beth