Mental Floss Series,  Mental Health Education

Mental Floss: How to Create a Safe Space

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How to create a safe pace that's great for your mental health

Does your home have a safe space in it?

You know, a place just for you. Where you can retreat when life gets overwhelming? If you do that’s awesome! If you don’t yet or don’t know what I’m talking about – that’s okay too.

Because today I’ll be teaching you some simple ways to build a mentally healthy safe space!

Why is it Important to Have a Safe Space?

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Everyone can benefit from having a safe space. But it’s especially necessary when you struggle with mental illness. Anxiety, depression, and other disorders can leave you totally drained at the end of the day.

So it’s crucial to have a place to go to recharge.

The process of building, cultivating, and maintaining your safe space is also wonderful self care.

What is a Safe Space?

Everyone’s idea of a safe space is going to vary based on personal taste. However, the guiding principle is that it’s a place where you’re surrounded by things which improve your mental health. It’s also a space where you literally feel safe, able to be yourself without fear.

My ideal safe space would be a small cave-like nook (maybe a closet or something) with warm string lights and lots of pillows and blankets. Other people might prefer a large open area to stretch out in or a medium-sized garage filled with tools. Whatever works for you!

It can even just be your own room, especially if that’s all you have. I know growing up, there weren’t a lot of safe spaces in our house. So I turned my room into a work of art by putting up posters and drawings. Doing so made me feel more at peace.

How do you Create a Safe Space?

There’s lots of concepts out there to help you change your environment. You can base it on the Norwegian concept of Hygge (a feeling of intense coziness).

You can follow the principles of Feng Shui. Or you can even take a more alternative route by pulling ideas from religious and spiritual ideals like Christianity, Buddhism, and/or Wicca.

You can find out more about these concepts by clicking through the links below!

Like I said, there’s lots of ideas out there, which can be a little overwhelming! So we’ve pulled together a list of five easy ways to create your own safe space.

Check em out!

You can create a safe space by adding scented candles, making your bed, having a low maintenance pet, adding warm lighting, and filling it with your favorite decorations.

1. Add Pleasant Sensory Items Like Scented Candles

Sensory items help emotionally ground you. That means they can help you stay in the present instead of worrying about the future or the past. Things with calming, mild scents are best – like a lavender spray for your sheets or a scented candle. Lotions and essential oil diffusers can also do the trick.

And smell isn’t the only sense to include in your safe space! You can have sounds like your favorite music or a white noise machine (which are amazing for helping you fall asleep). Touch is a great sense to indulge as well with a weighted blanket (this one from Amazon has great reviews and it’s actually reasonably priced).

One of my favorite things to do is put rice in a (clean) sock and warm it up in the microwave. This makes a home-made heat pad for your feet, head, or back. The moist heat and the change it makes in my body temperature really help calm my anxiety.

2. Make Sure the Safe Space is Clean and Tidy

Depression and anxiety can make it difficult to keep things tidy. On the other hand, having a tidy environment can really improve your mental health. It’s kind of a Catch-22.

But there are some low energy, high impact things you can do to make sure your safe space is clean and tidy. Even if you’re running low on motivation.

  1. Make your bed/couch/etc. (doesn’t have to be perfect – just straighten the sheets/pillows a little)
  2. Fluff and organize pillows
  3. Put books and electronics away
  4. Throw laundry into a hamper (you don’t have to do laundry, just get it off the floor)
  5. Do a cup check every once in a while
Doing micro-chores like a cup check can help you create a safe space

These micro-chores are awesome because not only do they help keep your space clean, but they also give you energy to do more stuff (if you want). I can’t tell you how much it does for my mood to just make the bed. Instant improvement!

3. Get a Low Maintenance Pet for your Space

Low maintenance pets are great, especially if you have depression like I do! They give you all the benefits of a pet, but without a ton of work. For me, it’s my cats (Pickle and Ulysses <3). But it can be fish, a turtle, a reptile, a frog or really any kind of pet that doesn’t require too much attention.

Having a low maintenance pet like a turtle or a cat can help you create a safe space
Ulysses S. Cat <3

Gently tending to your animal can give a sense of accomplishment and love. Things like fishtanks and reptile habitats can give the room a nice glow as well. And above all else, a low maintenance pet doesn’t need you-it’s just there to be a quiet, nonjudgemental companion. And sometimes that’s the best medicine of all!

4. Fill the Space with Light and Warmth

Harsh white lights, like Fluorescents, are horrible for your mental health. Needless to say, they won’t make your safe space feel very zen. So it’s good to switch out any white light with a combo of the following:

  1. Natural Light
  2. U/V light (aka a heat or light therapy lamp)
  3. Soft, yellow light (string lights, candles, this moon that’s also a lamp,)
  4. Alternative lighting (salt lamps or even a fun lava lamp)

And if you have electronics in your space just remember that Blue Light (aka the light our phones and computers give off) can be bad for your mental health. It’s good practice to turn down screen brightness, switch to “nighttime” mode, and/or wear Blue Light Glasses (I have a pair of these cute cat eye glasses that I love, featured below).

5. Surround Yourself with Things That Make You Happy

They say you can’t buy happiness. That’s mostly true except that you kinda sorta of can.

Having a collection of nice things that bring you joy is really great for your mental health. Of course everything in moderation – make sure your collection improves the space without cluttering.

Personally, I like to have to have books, artwork, photos of loved ones, colorful pillows, stuffed animals, my digital drawing setup and really nice stationary in my chill space. Other people may prefer a collection of toys like Funko Pops. Some people like unicorn everything. Still others fill their space with tools (my husband), gaming setups, plants or crystals.

Basically whatever makes you happy, surround yourself with it and watch your mood brighten.

Wrap Up

One thing to remember all of this: building a safe space takes time. You can do as many or as little of these recommendations as you like. It’s your process so don’t rush!

It’s a great feeling when it all starts to come together, though. I know when my space is clean, organized, smells good and is full things I love, I’m way more likely to have a good day. And on the bad days, it’s nice to have a place to retreat to when I just can’t even any more.

I hope these tips have helped you and please let me know if you have a safe space in the comments below!

Much Love,

MB

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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.

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