One way to manage anxiety: safe people
Welcome to this week's Brightly Alex Mental Health Monday! Today we're talking about the concept of a "safe person" - an idea that has helped me manage anxiety.
I've always been a pretty sociable person, but my recent anxiety has made everything mentally harder: fun things, sad things, hard things. During a recent session with my counselor, I was describing an upcoming event that was giving me anxiety because Eric, my husband, wouldn't be there with me. My therapist said to me "It sounds like he's your 'safe person' and things are just easier when he's there".
This made me think. It is true that Eric is my safe person and with him I feel like I can get through anything. But I had never heard that term before. So I have been mulling over it as a concept and how having a safe person (safe people, really, I'd say I have 3-4 of them in my life) affects me and helps me. As always, these are my thoughts as I share my story of experiencing anxiety, these are not hard facts or professional advice.
The role of a safe person
I think for me a safe person has two main roles: one is to be a familiar presence. When I am doing something that may trigger anxiety, having someone who I trust just there with me helps to keep the anxiety down. Even without words, the safety of familiarity is helpful.
The second role of a safe person, for me, is having someone to confide in when anxiety arises. Sometimes I don't want to talk about the feelings as they come because naming the anxiety is admitting that it's there. But it helps 100% of the time to even just lean over and say "Eric, I'm feeling anxious right now". It's even more helpful if we have time and space to talk through it, but getting the truth of how I'm feeling outside of my head is always a relief.
Jen Hatmaker, in Of Mess and Moxie explains this idea well: "Isolation concentrates every struggle. The longer we keep our heartaches tucked away in the dark, the more menacing they become. Pulling them into the light among trusted people who love you is, I swear, 50 percent of the recovery process." And I agree! Vocalizing my struggle, whether it's the first time or the hundredth time, gets it out of my head and into a more helpful space.
Safe person self care
After traveling and being away from Eric for a lot of the last two weeks, a friend suggested to me "I think you could use a lot of Eric time". Sometimes I can feel guilty for spending a lot of time resting and hanging out with my husband, especially when it means saying no to other people or to "productive" activities. But I'm learning that in this season of anxiety, I need to allow more time for what is healing to me. In this case, that means carving out ample time with Eric and my other safe people. And there is no shame in that! Healing is important.
Thanks to Hadassah Carlson for these photos!