I can pinpoint the exact moment my innocent perception of the world as being safe and friendly changed. Growing up, I felt generally safe. There’s a sweetness that comes from trusting God, the Universe, Source, Life- whatever you want to call it. But when something happens that shatters you, it alters everything in an instant.
Suddenly, my worldview shifted. I had to figure out how to accommodate the fact that bad things happen in this world all the time. And most importantly, that bad things can happen to me.
So you mean all these horrors I see on TV can really, truly happen to me? The murder, the war, the abuse, the kidnappings, the shootings, the illnesses.
Stripped of the naïve view that we are somehow immune to the terrors of the world, how do we cope with feeling unsafe? How do we begin to find our footing in a world whose floor has been pulled from underneath us?
I don’t have all the answers. This is something I struggle with often. But I did want to share some of the tools that have helped me as I try to navigate through this.
Bring yourself out of survival mode with self-care.
Trauma activates our nervous system. It doesn’t know when to turn off because anything and everything could be a threat. I remember those days of jumpiness. Someone spoke and I screamed. Someone touched me and I jumped. When I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, my heart raced as I thought someone might be around the corner or behind me or in my bed.
So I had to make the commitment to practice self-care. To calm the fight-flight response and remind my body that relaxation is possible.
Yoga, especially restorative, is one of the best ways I know how to do this. But it can be anything that brings your heart rate down. Taking a bath. Watching funny TV. Meditation. Writing in a journal. Doing something creative. Cuddling a pet.
Take CARE of yourself and your body will respond.
Ground yourself in space and time.
One habit I find myself engaging in often is obsessing about possible future scenarios. I’ll get caught in a thought loop of playing out terrible things that could happen, with every tiny detail accounted for. What if someone breaks into the house and tortures me? What if I get attacked while walking to my car? What if I go to the movies and there’s a shooting? I’ll play out these situations until I panic. Or, I’ll go back in time and re-live the traumatic moment over and over.
So as often as I can remember, I take a step back. I ground myself in space and time by reminding myself where I am.
I’m here, in my bed, comfortable and safe. In this moment, right here, right now, I am safe.
Stay with what’s actually right here. Come back. Feel the sensations of the present moment.
Hold on like hell to the good stuff.
The good stuff is there- the love, the joy, the peace, the happiness, the good-hearted people. They are there. All the time. Find those moments of pure love and HOLD ON TO THEM LIKE CRAZY.
When the world got really scary, I started a “Happy Bank.” Anytime something wonderful happened, even if it was as small as a stranger smiling at me, I’d deposit it into my happy bank by writing it down in a special journal. Then, I’d go back and look at all the beauty of the world when I needed to.
Watching videos of sweet puppies or baby animals always reminds me of the love. Being around children or babies who are laughing. Being in nature and watching life unfold. Finding all the people who are helping each other and loving each other so immensely.
Love is there. Find it. Keep it close.
My mind can get so negative thinking about all the horrible possibilities for life. So I find affirmations that calm those fears.
“I am loved and safe wherever I go.”
“I trust the process of life. I am safe.”
“I trust my ability to handle whatever comes my way.”
Repeating these to myself several times in the midst of fear helps to redirect my thoughts.
Find phrases that calm your heart and say them to yourself over and over until you feel bathed in love and light.
Trust in something greater than yourself.
This has been hard for me. I used to have such a beautiful trust in the process of life. I believed that everything happened as it was supposed to and everything was teaching me in a divine timing and plan. But then things happened that didn’t make sense to me.
Why? I thought I was supposed to be taken care of and supported by the Universe. And now what? I didn’t see it coming and I didn’t understand it.
Of course now, as I look back many years later, it was a lesson my soul needed to learn. I see the growth it spurred.
But what’s difficult is realizing that surrendering to something greater than yourself doesn’t mean that things will always be perfect. That’s hard. Because we want to feel like we’re safe and supported at all times.
What if we can trust that everything that happens is for our highest good? In some way or another, our life is unfolding to teach us what we need to learn. What if we surrendered to an infinitely loving source energy? What if we let go and drifted along a stream of divine love and light?
If this is difficult for you, I’ve found that simply trusting in my own strength and my own ability to handle what comes way can be helpful. Try to find the trust that no matter what happens in life, you will be able to handle it. You are strong enough for whatever life brings you.
The world is never going to be perfect and innocent. But we have control over how we react to the scary parts of life and the utter uncertainty of this existence. I want to live a life filled with love and laughter, and I can’t do that if I’m worried about what’s around the corner all the time. So I choose to practice self-care, to commit to love each and every day, and to remind myself that I am strong enough to handle whatever comes.
What helps you guys feel safe?