COVID-19 is well and truly upon us, and it has brought upon unprecedented changes to our daily live

The restrictions placed upon all of us during this time period are having significant effects on our lives and mental health.  For some it’s a huge relief from the daily grind but for others life has become busier, more stressful and uncertain.

Feeling down, anxious and overwhelmed are all completely normal and rational emotions to be experiencing during this time.  Yet, what is not normal is that your standard coping mechanisms, such as socialising, visiting the gym or spending time with family,  may not be accessible to you .

Therefore, now more than ever we must look within ourselves to find strength and resolve in the face of adversity.  If you think that life is working for you and shift 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.   One of these ways is to create your own secure base in the form of a safe space.

A safe space is your own retreat, somewhere safe and calm, when things become too much.  This safe space is a place free of judgement, it’s protective and is designed to relieve the pressure by creating calm in the moment.  Your safe space can be an essential tool in helping you to self-soothe and find comfort when you  anxious or vulnerable.

A physical space can be that safe space and be your sanctuary but it is also a luxury; especially during times like these when you may find yourself stuck in a less than ideal living situation with limited or no space.

However, you do always not need a physical space to create a safe space.  When we cannot control the external environment, we must look inwards and create a safe space to anchor ourselves within. This safe space is imaginary and can work wonders to find solace and moments of peace.

So, how do you create this safe space?  

Start by getting comfortable in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, close your eyes, become aware of any tension in your body, and let that tension go with each out-breath.

Imagine a place where you can feel calm, peaceful and safe. It may be a place you’ve been to before, somewhere you’ve dreamed about going to, somewhere you’ve seen a picture of, or just a peaceful place you can create in your mind’s eye.  Try to fill this space and visualise it as much as possible.

Look around you in that place, notice the colours and shapes. What else do you notice?
Now notice the sounds that are around you, or perhaps the silence. Sounds far away and those nearer to you. Those that are more noticeable, and those that are more subtle.  Think about any smells you notice there.

Then focus on any skin sensations – the earth beneath your feet or whatever is supporting you in that place, the temperature, any movement of air, anything else you can touch. Notice the pleasant physical sensations in your body whilst you enjoy this safe place.

Now whilst you’re in your peaceful and safe place, you might choose to give it a name, whether one word or a phrase as this creates an association in your mind so you can bring this image back, anytime you need to.

Next, tell yourself that you are safe. Find a few words for yourself that reinforces this idea. Repeat the words to yourself over and over until you start to feel them and begin to experience the benefits of the calming endorphins that will start to flow through  your body.

Here is a suggestion of words that can be helpful:  ‘I am grounded. I am safe. I am loved, this shall pass, everything will be okay.’  Continue to be mindful, present and focus on your breathing as well.

You have to let yourself believe the words that you’re saying. You have to open up and be vulnerable within yourself in order to create a safe space within in your mind. The more you practice, the stronger and safer the space becomes.

You can choose to linger in this space for a while, just enjoying the peacefulness and serenity. You can leave whenever you want to, just by opening your eyes and being aware of where you are and bring yourself back to alertness in the ‘here and now’.

Being there for yourself and being your own source of strength and comfort is extremely empowering. Whilst having a healthy support system of friends and loved ones is extremely important for positive mental wellbeing, the real work of coping starts with you.

An additional tip is to combine this practice with an activity that helps you relax and de-stress, such as yoga, meditation, a bath or any pursuit where you are focused and in flow.  Trust the process, trust yourself, and stay safe.

If you are suffering from chronic stressanxiety or depression then get in touch with The Melbourne Counselling Centre to find out how counselling can help you work through and resolve your stress.