The restrictions placed on us by the economic downturn are having a significant impact on our lives and mental health. For some, it’s a huge relief from the daily grind, but for others life has become busier and more stressful.
As you go through this difficult time, it’s normal to feel down, anxious, and overwhelmed. But what may not be normal is that your standard coping mechanisms—socialising with friends, working out at the gym or spending time with family and friends—may be inaccessible to you right now.
Positive thinking is a powerful tool. If you think that life is working for you and shift your perspective from a negative mindset to an adaptive mindset, you will see opportunities where you can begin To reclaim parts of your life in small ways, you can choose to spend time with friends and family, pursue an interest or hobby, or spend time in nature. One way to develop a secure base is to create your own safe space.
A safe space is a place where you can go when you feel overwhelmed or stressed, to relax and collect yourself. This safe space should be free of judgment and designed to relieve pressure by creating calm in the moment. You can use your safe space to help you self-soothe and find comfort when you’re feeling anxious or vulnerable.
A physical space can be a safe space for you, one where you feel comfortable and at ease. However, this can also be a luxury; especially if you find yourself living in less than ideal conditions with limited or no space.
Although it is not always necessary to have a physical space to create a safe space, we can often find ourselves unable to control the external environment. In moments like these, we must look inward and create a safe space that allows us to anchor ourselves. This safe space is imaginary, and it can be used to find solace and moments of peace.
Begin by finding a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, sitting or lying comfortably, and taking a couple minutes to focus on your breathing—becoming aware of any tension in your body and letting go of that tension with each out-breath.
Imagine yourself in a safe, peaceful place. It may be a place you have been to before or a place you have dreamed of going to. Try to fill this space with as much detail as possible.
Notice the colours and shapes around you in that place. Next, notice the sounds around you, or perhaps the silence. Are there sounds far away and those nearer to you? Are some of these more noticeable than others? What else do you notice about the sounds around you? What about smells?
Next, focus on any physical sensations—the ground beneath your feet or whatever is supporting you in that place, the temperature, any movement of air, anything else you can touch. Notice the sensations in your body as you enjoy this safe place.
Now as you’re in your peaceful and safe place, you might want to give it a name. This will create an association in your mind so that whenever you need to, you can return there.
To help yourself relax when you are having a panic attack, tell yourself that you are safe. Think of a few words that make you feel safe, and repeat them to yourself over and over until you feel calmer.
Here are some words that may help: ‘I am grounded. I am safe. I am loved, this shall pass, everything will be okay.’ Continue to be mindful and present as you focus on your breathing.
You must believe the words you are saying, be vulnerable and create a safe space within yourself. The more you practice, the stronger and safer that space becomes.
You can remain in the space between wakefulness and sleep for as long as you like, simply enjoying the peacefulness. You can leave whenever you want to by opening your eyes and being aware of where you are and bringing yourself back to alertness in the ‘here and now’.
It is empowering to be your own source of strength and comfort. Having a strong support network of friends and loved ones is important for positive mental health, but the real work of coping starts with you.
You can enhance this practice by engaging in activities that help you relax, such as yoga, meditation or a bath. Trust the process and trust yourself.