If you grew up in a chaotic environment, you may not know what safety feels like. How do you cultivate something when you don’t know what it is? It’s like trying to describe chocolate to someone who has never smelled or tasted it. Nothing else comes close. It’s something you have to experience to really get it, right? Here are some tips to get you there.
A Calm Mind
Depression is about focusing on the past. Anxiety is about highlighting the potential future. Safety isn’t in either of those places. It’s in this moment. If you are someone whose mind is always going, going, going, it may be hard to be here. So try this. Look at one thing that is within your view right now, or one thing that you’re feeling right now. Get curious about that. Open your mind to seeing or feeling what is there. Don’t judge or push away any impressions. Notice everything without attaching to anything. In this open, curious space there is no depression or anxiety, only possibilities.
There are many reasons to practice this. One huge benefit is that it lays down new neural pathways that train your brain to avoid habitual ways of working to make a new future possible. It’s like we’re hacking a path through the jungle. It’s not easy at first, but the more we use this path, the easier it becomes. Eventually, we will wear a clear path and can live in the present moment habitually where it’s calm.
The more anxious you become, the tighter the chest muscles become and the shallower the breathing becomes. A safe, relaxed body is well oxygenated. The lungs expand easily and you breathe slowly and deeply. To train your body to do this, simply practice. The mind and body are connected. You can trick it into feeling what you want it to by “pretending.” So pretend wildly that you’re relaxed, calm, and safe and you will teach your body how to do that habitually. Catch yourself deep breathing when you’re not trying to, then do it some more.
When we feel on guard, our muscles are tight. Healthy people will go from tightness to relaxation as situations change, but when we have never had safety, or it’s been a long time since that’s happened, our body gets “stuck” on high alert. So it has to learn how to relax. Intentionally relaxing your muscles will teach our body how to let go. Keep practicing until it feels easy and natural.
Safety is not just a physical feeling. If the world around you is dangerous or chaotic, no one can feel safe there. Of course, we can’t always control our environment, but we can build our skills to meet the challenges of our day to day lives. When we are capable of dealing with life as it is, we feel safe. Many life skills and social skills are taught in childhood as we grow up. If you were focused on surviving, didn’t have a capable or available parent, or your parents did everything for you, you may have missed some things. No worries. It’s not too late to learn new skills. If you have to wait for someone to “rescue” you, you’re always at someone else’s mercy. If you can do for yourself, you can create safety anywhere.
It Takes Time
If you didn’t grow up with safety, feeling safe may feel unnatural. You may find yourself creating drama so that you can feel “normal.” If you want to be healthy, resist this temptation. In time being calm and safe will start to feel normal.
The feeling of safety is holistic. It’s a mind, body, and spirit thing that everyone can achieve. Everyone deserves to feel safe. If you need help with this, reach out.