A “safe space” doesn’t have to be a physical location. It can be something as simple as a group of people who hold similar values and commit to consistently provide each other with a supportive, respectful environment. Knowing that there is a safe space for you to share your experiences can make you feel less isolated and provide support when you are feeling anxious. Chronic anxiety can take a toll on our emotional and psychological health.
“Anxiety pushes the nervous system into overdrive which can tax bodily systems leading to physical discomfort like a tight chest, racing heart, and churning stomach,” says Dr. Juli Fraga, PsyD. “Because anxiety causes fear to arise, it can lead to avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding one’s fears and isolating from others,” she adds.
When we think about safe spaces in the context of mental health, it’s obvious how they can be a beneficial — and perhaps an essential — part of everyone’s life.
Safe spaces can provide a break from judgment, unsolicited opinions, and having to explain yourself. It also allows people to feel supported and respected. This is especially important for minorities and marginalized groups.
Safe spaces aren’t there to let us hide from the realities of our world, quite the opposite. They offer us a brief opportunity to be vulnerable and let down our guard without fear of judgment or harm. They allow us to build resilience so that when we’re outside of these spaces we can engage maturely with our peers and be the strongest, most authentic versions of ourselves.
Most importantly, safe spaces allow us to practice self-care so we can continue making thoughtful, productive contributions to difficult discussions, in all areas of our lives.
A safe space is an environment in which a person can feel confident that they will not be judged for showing up as they are. Many times, safe spaces are especially important for marginalized or minority groups who often face discrimination in other environments.
Can you think of a way that you could create a safe space for yourself or your friends? Maybe you could start a weekly group where you can share ideas and brainstorm creatively to come up with solutions to local problems. Perhaps a quiet time for individual reflection or mindfulness but somewhere that you know you won’t be disturbed.
Try it out!
What does a safe space look like? What does it sound like when people are in it? How do people feel? Try drawing a picture of what a safe space would look, sound, and feel like to you.
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