How To Create A Safe Place To Support Your Healing Journey
One of the many things I experienced with trauma was losing my sense of safety and autonomy. Have you felt this as well? For me, it was a really important part of my healing journey to regain that felt sense of safety and autonomy in my daily life! One of the ways I was able to do this was by creating a “Safe Place” at home, where I could focus on calming my mind, my emotions and my body. Below I’ll outline the 6 elements of creating a safe place that helped me to rebalance my nervous system and signified the first steps in making positive choices towards self-leadership.
But First, Understanding The Healing Qualities Of Rest And Activation
Healing from trauma requires us to alternate between periods of activation (sympathetic nervous system) and rest (parasympathetic nervous system).
Rest gives the overactive nervous system an opportunity to calm down and return to a more neutral and restorative state. You may experience this change as a reduction in heart rate, relaxation of muscles and slower and deeper breathing cycles. With practise, you may even notice your thoughts become slower and less intrusive as your brain wave frequency reduces. Difficult emotions can seem less intense and become easier to regulate as the secretion of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol subside.
Feeling dysregulated, mentally, emotionally and/or physically, often leads to the experience of additional emotions of shame and anxiety. By learning to regulate our own reactions and take care of ourselves, we can feel more empowered and in control of our inner workings and alleviate these additional unhelpful emotions.
Rest allows the mind to process new information, skills and techniques that will serve you well on your healing journey. It also gives your body the chance to re-energise so you can enter another state of activation when the time is right! Alternating between states of rest and activation is an integral part of the recovery journey.
Using Your 6 Senses to Create Your Safe Space
You can create a safe place at home, when you are travelling or even in your imagination! The environment we immerse ourselves in provides cues for how we feel. Mastering a “Safe Place” mindset gives you confidence to regulate your emotions and bring your mind and body back to a neutral state whenever you need to.
What would you like to look at whilst you are in your safe place? For me, safety was an important issue here. I wanted to know no one would be entering my space from behind me and I could see if anyone entered in front of me. And then, to the elements that made the space look special. You might like to consider what type of lighting you prefer. Do you want lots of natural light or would you like to see a flickering candle? Do you want to see elements of nature such as the sky, trees and birds or perhaps photos of people you love? Think about the visual elements that give you a sense of safety. Remember this is your personal space and you can be as creative as you like.
What would you like to listen to in your safe place? You might prefer complete silence with the help of some noise cancelling headphones, or the sound of nature, your favourite music, guided meditations or podcasts. Listening to soothing music is of the easiest ways to sends signals of safeness to the brain. Soothing music provides safety cues that give rise to bio-behavioural responses that support health, growth and mental and physical healing. Have a play with some different options and see what works for you. “Devi Prayer” is one of my favourite songs for relaxing. Its about 20 minutes long and is like a lullaby for me. Make sure to turn off your phone so you are not bothered by any distractions. This is your time, enjoy!
What do you want your safe space to feel like? You may like to add some soft and comfy cushions or a blanket to provide a sense of containment. Do you want to be seated, lying down or have your feet up the wall? I love this position and it is also very energising. What temperature is your safe space? Would you like to let in a natural breeze or fresh air? Hugs from your favourite pet can also be an invaluable addition to your safe place. Work out what feels good to you and bring it into your space to make it as comfortable and nurturing as possible.
Do you find the scent of incense or a candle relaxing? Or maybe you’d like to try some essential oil in a burner or put a dab on your skin. Lavender is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils and is thought to calm anxiety by impacting the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions. Flowers can also add a special touch and add natural fragrance.
You can also enjoy your time in this space with a calming drink such as a warm cup of herbal tea, whatever helps you to relax. Sipping a warm cup of herbal tea in the middle of the day or in the evening can be a relaxing ritual, and there is some evidence that certain herbal teas have properties that can help tame stress.
Notice the energy in your space, is it calming and relaxing? Is your space somewhere you can spend some quality time without too many distractions?
Let the people that you live with know that you are creating a safe place to use as an integral part of your healing journey. When you are in your safe space, you are making a conscious decision to take care of yourself and give yourself some well-earned nurturing. Let those close to you know you need this time to relax and self regulate and that it’s important for your recovery to have time and space to heal.
Keep your safe place separate from your workplace – with so many of us working from home now – this is an important separation and will help you keep your intention clear. This is a time to relax and rebalance your nervous system. Working on your issues and solving problems is better tackled during times of activation.
I know from my own personal experience that initially, it could take me quite a while to calm down after experiencing a triggering event (up to 2 – 3 hours!). But after a while of using this safe place technique, I was able to calm myself within a very short space of time (as little as a couple of minutes). All of the elements you have included in your safe place become cues for your nervous system that it is time to take a break, rebalance and come back to neutral.
The space you create for this technique will be very personal to you and you can play around with different elements until you feel that it “works” for you. There is no right or wrong way to do this, it’s all a matter of personal choice so have fun with it and be as creative as you like.
What do I do in my safe place?
For some ideas on what you can do in your safe place, read my blog “What is meditation and why should I do it?” to learn some simple meditative practises that you can integrate into your daily routine.
This is a really valuable skill in your healing journey! I recommend scheduling time in your safe place on a daily basis – find a time that works for you and your routine, so that your body and mind can become attuned to the space. Before long, you will slip more easily into a state that is peaceful and calm. You can also use this technique any time you feel overwhelmed or dysregulated with intense emotions. Over time, you will develop the skills and confidence to regulate your state whenever you need to.
With love and peace,