I refer to trauma, anger, resentment, stress, anxiety and depression in this article when I make connections about your experiences that have made you feel unsafe in the world. There are times when this is clear and times when it is not clear.

In today’s fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become common, impacting you mentally and physically. Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. These are your survival needs. Without having these basic needs, you will not reach self-actualisation was Maslow’s famous theory. “Safety” is a need to survive. You might look safe and think you are safe, but your feelings are telling you something else. Your feelings have an intrinsic purpose, yet we are trained to ignore, repress and dissociate to cope in modern society.

Your home or work environment can be the causes of stress including factors such as work or academic pressure, financial difficulties, relationship issues and you may be in the process of a big change, a health concern or be dealing with a loss. Depending on your personality and support system, you may feel unsafe. Maslow’s theory is that you will become unwell and be unable to move up the pyramid.

The stress-anxiety loop

Stress and anxiety are closely intertwined, often feeding off each other in a perpetual cycle. When faced with stressors, whether they be work deadlines, financial pressures, or interpersonal conflicts, the body’s natural response is to activate the stress or trauma response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. While this response is adaptive in the short term, stress can lead to heightened anxiety and a sense of irritability or unease.

The role of safety

Feeling safe is a fundamental human need in order to feel well in our mind and body. Maslow believed that a human need for safety involves feeling secure, supported, and accepted in your environment. When you perceive your environment as unpredictable, your stress and anxiety levels can skyrocket and your mind and body is going to go into fight or flight mode as you struggle to regain a sense of safety and control.

Impact on mental health

When you feel constantly on edge (unsafe), your nervous system remains in a state of hyper-arousal, making it difficult to relax and unwind. This chronic state of stress can disrupt sleep patterns, impair cognitive function, and weaken the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to a host of mental and physical health problems. Over time, stress and anxiety will take its toll on your mental health in the form of depression, anxiety and anxiety-related conditions and disorders such as having panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and possibly unwanted behaviours such as unwanted coping mechanisms or disorders such as OCD.

Counselling helps calm your mind

I will help you develop healthy coping mechanisms, learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, slowing yourself right down to just be with your emotion to calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels. You can review your lifestyle and take up a form of exercise you enjoy, even if it’s just having a short daily walk. You can consider your diet and make healthy changes to start having and maintaining a balanced diet. As you begin to very quickly feel safe and supported in your life through the therapeutic relationship, you will soon experience less heaviness and a more relaxed approach to life. Your stress and trauma symptoms will reduce and over time you will enjoy life again or possibly for the first time.

Creating a sense of safety

Creating a sense of safety in your environment is crucial for managing stress and anxiety effectively. You might start looking at de-cluttering and having a sense of spaciousness in your living areas, enjoying choosing colours and textures that are pleasing to the eye and touch. You can use candles and consider the smells that invoke pleasure and take a refreshing look at your pictures on the wall, using mirrors to light up and create an illusion of space. Maybe tend to that garden you have been procrastinating about or buy some potted plants for your back yard. Listen to some music and decide how it makes you feel. Choose soft lighting and light shades that tone down brightness so you feel more relaxed in your free time. Develop healthy routines and boundaries to create predictability and structure. It’s your life, your choice!

Setting boundaries

When we make changes to our lives we might find the friends we associate with keep us locked in unhealthy habits and behaviours. For example, recovering from addiction means not hanging out with people still using the substance you have chosen to abstain from. Building a strong support network of friends and family or spending less time with them is known as setting personal boundaries.

Setting boundaries involves deciding on your new limits for how you want to be treated by others and what you are willing to accept in various situations. You are making the changes necessary to fall in line with the life you want. You don’t have to explain yourself. You just need to learn to clearly communicate. This is being assertive about your needs, preferences, and limits so that you are respecting how you feel and your needs in your new way of thinking and living. You have a right to autonomy and self-respect. When you reduce stress and anxiety, the world looks less threatening and you can have a more peaceful, happy life.

Counselling helps

Making life-long changes, learning how to say “no” and putting your needs first takes practice and the therapeutic relationship in counselling is the ideal conditions needed to build confidence and talk about your needs so that you feel validated in your life. This is the theory of Carl Rogers who developed Person Centred Counselling. When you are ready to talk to a professional, fill out my contact form and I will work with you on asserting safe, appropriate boundaries in your relationships and clearing any trauma we come to along the way.

Disclaimer: I write from my experiences and from my client work in counselling and have no scientific training whatsoever.  I am a person centred counsellor specialising in anxiety and trauma within the context of counselling.  My work is dependent on the therapeutic relationship and the meeting of two minds. It is a humbling experience and that is all part of the healing process that I witness every day. It is the best job in the world.