Feeling calm – meeting your need for safety and security
If you or your young people are finding it hard to settle away from grown ups, find change difficult, feel upset by other people’s actions or are unsettled, worried or anxious, why don’t you try the following steps for meeting your need for safety and security?
When we feel safe and secure, it is easier to think clearly and manage our emotions. We can help ourselves to feel safe and secure by recognising things that make us feel safe, and making sure we have more of these in our lives.
Three things you can do now to help with wellbeing:
- Think about what makes you feel secure, and make an effort to do this more. This could be finding a cosy space to relax, listening to music or talking to someone who helps you to feel safe.
- If you feel worried about something, make a plan that helps you to feel safe. An example could be a visual timetable or calendar to help you make things seem more predictable.
- Dragon Breathing – Breathe in, hold it, and breathe out for longer. This helps to activate our calming systems that tell our brain ‘all is ok’. Our Trainer, Charlie Green shows you how to dragon breathe in this video:
To meet our need for control we need to have some influence over our lives and the decisions we make. There are some things that we can have decisions over, and some things that are outside of our control
Three things to do now to help bring you back to wellbeing:
- We can’t always control other’s actions, but we can control our responses to them.
- We like to have choices in our lives. Making decisions about activities, clothes or which foods you would like on your plate can help us to feel in control.
- Sometimes we have to do things we have no control over. In those situations, try to find ways to help you cope with the challenge, such as having control over the way you approach it.
We all need to take time out for ourselves, to step away from screens and have time to reflect and process our thoughts, learn from our experiences and make sense of the world around us.
Three things to do now to help bring you back into wellbeing:
- Build some time into your day to allow your thoughts to wander. You could look around you, listen to music, doodle or daydream.
- Think about ways to look after yourself and your space. Taking care of yourself can help us to process thoughts from a busy day.
- What are your hobbies? Do you have things you like to do that are away from screens, such as kicking a football, baking, listening to music or being creative? These types of hobbies give us time to think and reflect, particularly at the end of a busy day.
To find out more about how Suffolk Mind can help you and your young person, visit our EARLY Minds page.
Author: Beren Reid
Being Safe & Feeling Safe: What’s the difference?
Sometimes things happen in our communities that make us feel unsafe. In this blog, by our Head of Mental Health Education, Ezra Hewing looks at what’s going on in our brains and the difference between being safe and feeling safe
We are all born with a need to feel safe, physically, emotionally and financially. As children and as parents, our emotional need for security extends to our family, friends and the wider communities we are connected to. So when accidents, injuries, pandemics and acts of violence take place in our communities, it’s entirely natural if we don’t feel safe.
Psychologists, historians and people who analyse the statistics of risk, tell us that we are living in the safest possible time in human history. The evidence shows that we’re less likely to be the victims of murder, war or violence than people living in earlier times.
However, while we might be able accept the evidence that we are safer, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we feel safer.
Why is this?
The answer lies, partly, in how our brain responds to our environment.
Most of us would like to think that we are rational people who will listen to evidence before we make a decision about something. But what neuroscience tells us about how our brains make sense of the world around us reveals a different story.
When weighing up risks, the brain’s emotional centres receive information about the environment around us first – before the thinking part of the brain, which is further up the chain of command.
In particular, the amygdala, a cluster of brain cells shaped like an almond, is located in the brain’s emotional centres and functions as our own personal security officer.
Our security officer reacts to events it sees as a threat – whether real or imagined – as it works to keep us safe.
The security officer does this by triggering the alarm system, known as the fight-or-flight response, prompting us to run from danger or lash out to defend ourselves.
It also triggers strong emotions like fear, anxiety and anger.
The thinking part of the brain, largely located behind our forehead, gets the same information as the security officer, but just a fraction of a second later. So if the security officer has already triggered a strong emotional reaction then our access to rational thinking is reduced.
We might be able to draw upon rational thinking to try and stop ourselves from overreacting, or put the brakes on before we say or do something we regret.
But if the security officer’s emotional response is too strong, the thinking brain’s attention becomes locked on the perceived threat, and rational thinking goes out the window.
We will all have experienced this when are locked in arguments with other people and feel personally attacked. Or when we’ve replied in anger to an email or text, and later read it again and realised we overreacted.
We also see it in the wider world of politics, public affairs and reality TV when individuals and groups become very emotional and lose the ability to see the other person or group’s point of view. Or, even if they disagree, to listen and understand what the other party are saying.
Strong emotions – like anger, anxiety and fear – stop us from thinking rationally, as we all know when we are able to reflect upon it calmly.
And if the security officer doesn’t feel safe we are less able to accept any evidence which tells us that we are safe.
How can we calm the security officer down so that we do feel safer?
Firstly, we can try activities which help us to relax. This might be practicing exercises like 7/11 breathing, or having a soak in the bath. Whatever you do, it should be something which works for you.
Then, when we begin to feel a bit calmer, we can begin to bring rational thinking back online. We might do this by questioning some of the assumptions behind emotionally driven black-and-white thoughts.
So if one of our thoughts is: “if I leave the house a banana shaped hot air balloon might crash land on me,” we can ask ourselves how often this happens to people, how many banana shaped hot air balloons are seen floating by the area where we live, and how frequently it has happened to us in the past.
Of course, this is a slightly ridiculous example, but choosing to start with something absurd can help us to break the trance of anxiety fuelled thinking, so that we can be more realistic about how we assess risk.
If, after you have added something to your daily routine which helps you to calm down, you are still finding it a challenge to feel safe, do speak to your GP or contact wellbeing services.
Author: Ellie Winch
Security: the need to feel safe
Written by Ezra Hewing, Head of Mental Health Education, Suffolk Mind
Staying well – we know we need the right diet and regular exercise. But the need to feel safe is essential too and connected with our survival. How can we calm down when anxiety is triggered?(more…)
Author: Stuart Dent