Maintaining mental health, like maintaining physical health, requires effort. You often hear suggestions to support mental health like repeating words of affirmation, regularly exercising, getting good sleep, and journaling.
While all those suggestions are undoubtedly beneficial, none of them are quite as helpful as feeling safe.
So, what does it mean to feel safe, and how can you gain it if you don’t have it? Let’s dive a little deeper into safety and how it plays a vital role in maintaining your mental health.
WHAT IS SAFETY?
When we first think of safety, we often think of physical security. In a physical sense, safety is being free of harm. In our everyday lives, we may feel safe while we’re at home, when we’re with people we know and trust, and when we’re in familiar places, like work or specific stores.
When discussing mental health, we refer to emotional safety similarly to the physical, but a little nuanced. Emotional safety means you feel free and open to share your thoughts and feelings and to be yourself.
Emotional safety is most often looked at within the context of a relationship. That relationship can be any type of relationship. Whether romantic, friendly, or familial, it is essential to have someone you can be emotionally safe with to have good mental health.
WHAT DOES EMOTIONAL SAFETY LOOK LIKE?
When you have emotional safety within a relationship, you may feel:
When you do not have emotional safety within a relationship, you may feel:
- Closed off
If you question whether you have emotional safety with a particular person, reflect on how you feel when you’re with them.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Emotional safety breeds robust, positive mental health. It gives us a feeling of security and rids us of needless anxiety when we feel we don’t have someone to open up to. Knowing we have someone to open up to keeps us stable and happy–two cornerstones of mental health.
HOW CAN I GAIN EMOTIONAL SAFETY?
Finding emotional safety can be difficult, especially if you don’t have it within an established relationship. To gain it, start by examining your relationship with the critical people in your life.
Think about how those people have reacted when you have shared something important in the past. Were they judgmental and hurtful, or were they kind and empathetic?
Think about how you felt when you shared. Were you nervous and hesitant, or were you calm and at ease?
If someone in your life makes you reluctant to share or be yourself because of their words or actions, have a conversation with them, explain how their behavior affects you, and ask them to work with you to foster change. Emotional safety comes from honest communication between both parties in the relationship.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Emotional safety is critical to your mental health. If you haven’t found emotional safety within a relationship, work to find it. It is possible to have, and you’ll notice positive changes in your mental health.