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  • Writer's pictureSarahRolfeTherapist

Structure for Safety

We are living in very difficult times and we are having to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and the way that we live.

It is normal to feel afraid of what is happening around us because a pandemic has not happened before in any of our lifetimes and our physiological responses are to respond primitively and quickly. Our moods might change more quickly and we might feel things more acutely. We might notice people around us are less patient and do not respond as we expect them to.

It is very important therefore that we put mechanisms in place to help us feel regulated, calm and safe. Start by understanding what will make your situation feel predictable and then you can create some structure to your day and week. Understand where you can gain control over your life and make changes to the way you are living it.

It is important to hold onto places of safety and if you feel unsafe, then now is the time for you to implement safe, reliable systems for yourself. A baby feels safe from knowing what time to wake up in the morning, when they are fed, when it is time to nap and their internal body clock prepares for bedtime when it is evening. Treat yourself in exactly the same way and create a timetable of safety and predictability.

It might be helpful to create a visual timetable and pin it to the fridge perhaps? If you live with others, it’s important to communicate with them how you visualise your structure to be and could even encourage them to make choices about how they share the same space with you. If you live alone, then choose who you are in contact with and organise a time to speak on the phone or have an online chat where you can see each other’s expressions and still maintain human contact.

Start by making choices and become aware of what you look forwards to doing and notice what is draining your energy. If you find that looking at your phone in the morning/watching the news is causing you to feel worse when you awake, then change your routine. Now is the time to take control of your life and to try different routines and if you feel that you would like a walk first thing in the morning then eat breakfast after, then put this into your time-table.

If you feel tired and stiff in the morning, then try some gentle stretching or look for an online yoga session. Test out some different activities at different times and notice what works for you. If you look forwards to catching up with a friend then plan an online gathering, especially if weekends are generally your free time, then make a differentiation between your week and weekends. If you have good memories of somewhere you have been together, share some photos online and reminisce about fun times and memories. You might even want to plan something special once this period is over.

Enjoy the simplicity of what you have around you. If you are lucky to have a garden, look at what has grown, look carefully at what has changed since yesterday or last week. If you have some gardening tasks to do, incorporate this into your timetable. Maybe plant some seeds, perhaps growing some lettuce on a windowsill or cress.

Make intentions and use what you have around you, such as researching recipes, cooking, caring for others and ourselves. Look through your bathroom drawers and create a beauty routine perhaps one evening with products you have. Take your clothes out and look at them properly. perhaps you could create different outfits/make some repairs.

Be purposeful about your evening plans so you are still living within our own structure, such as watching a certain box-set or playing a game which has been gathering dust somewhere. Look on the internet for ideas, maybe ‘20 questions I never knew about you’. Eat dinner together, sing a song together. Aswell as sharing time together, create your havens of safety also. If you have children, let them create a den where they can take a torch into and read quietly, without interruption.

Incorporate your own quiet time, you might like to create your own den as a place of safety. Or maybe agree with others that if you have your headphones in or you are sitting on a certain blanket or chair, then you would like to not be disturbed. Make agreements and stick to them.

If you are self isolating or social distancing, take the time you have now to have a deeper relationship with yourself.

You have the power to create your own tailor-made plan work for you.

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