One useful coping skill during times of stress is having a “safe place” we can go to whenever we need to. All we have to do is close our eyes and imagine ourselves there. Because of the way our brain works, imagining ourselves in that place can have the same effect on us as being there in person.
The safe place should be, first of all, safe. Some people will imagine a place where they felt safe as a child – maybe held tightly in someone’s arms, where nothing or no one can harm them. It might be a hiding place. For others, the place may be primarily restful or beautiful – a place where things are calm, they can breathe the fresh air deeply, or maybe feel an ocean breeze, or sit on the grass.
To (re-) create this place in your mind, first close your eyes and think about places you did, or would, feel calm, happy, and safe. Depending on what “safe” and “calm” or “happy” means to you, it could be a big armchair from your childhood, a sofa where you cuddled under blankets, or a treehouse. It could be a hayloft in the barn, a meadow, or a park, on soft grass, under a big shade tree.
Once you have “found” a place where you love to be, and where all is well, the next step is to imagine it in detail. Use as many senses as you can: see it, feel it, hear it, smell it. This will help your brain to take you there.
Look at your surroundings. Is it sunny? What furniture or decorations are in the room? Are there windows? If you’re in a meadow, are there flowers? Is the grass tall?
Feel the blankets or pillows, the soft couch. Feel the grass or sand under your bare feet, or the water washing around your ankles. With what and how is your body supported? Feel what your feet, legs, arms, or hands are touching. Feel the warmth of blankets or the cool air. Can you taste anything?
Hear the creaking of the old rocker, or the wind blowing through the trees. Maybe you hear the crashing of the waves, or a clock ticking. Maybe you hear quietness.
What can you smell? Pine needles? Clean blankets? Saltwater? Freshly baked bread?
The last step is to name your safe place so that it is easy to recall. Repeat the name of it several times out loud as you picture it in your mind. Use your one- or two-word name you have given your safe place to bring it more easily to mind.
Go to your safe place whenever you need to. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and sensations of your place. Feel your spirits rise, and your blood pressure drop … relax … and reap the benefits!