Introducing my Monday post ritual-Self-Care Mondays, a kick off to your busy week by strengthening yourself with some self-care techniques. These weekly posts will be under 30 minute self-care exercises you can utilize to engage enhance your emotional wellbeing and refresh yourself. Take what you like from the exercises and leave what you don’t. Self-care is all about finding what works best for you.
My first Self-Care Sunday exercise is visualizing your safe place. This is one of my favorite exercises to utilize in therapy with clients and one I like to utilize for myself often. My imagination has been a double edged sword for me. It is a sidekick to my anxiety- imaging incredibly rare, worst case scenarios that can completely sidetrack my day. So I love this exercise because it turns it around to work for me in a positive way.
You can do this exercise in 1 of 3 ways-using an art medium such as drawing or painting, journaling, or simply visualizing it in your head. Do what you feel is best to make the visualization as vivid as possible to you.
Let’s begin. I want you to draw,write about, or visualize a place that would feel very peaceful and safe to you. This place can or cannot exist in the real world. There are no limits what it is or isn’t. The most important part of the exercise in thinking about this place in great detail. It should take you at least more than 2-3 minutes to think about or draw about or write. Think of answers to the following questions:
What is in this environment? Think about the major elements, layout, and colors. Describe the sights, tastes, smells, tactile sensations, and sounds of this place.
What do you look like in this environment? Is there anything different about you than your normal self? What are you wearing and how is your body feeling?
What is nearest you? What are you doing or interacting with?
Is there anyone else in this environment or are you alone? Who? It can be anyone-a loved one, someone you’ve lost, even a celebrity. Ryan Gosling, perhaps? ;P What are they doing in your environment? Are they interacting with you or at they at a distance?
What are the feelings and thoughts that arise for you when you think about this place?
For example, “I’m on a beach. I can feel sand between my toes, I can smell the ocean and hear the waves rolling in. I can taste a pina coloda. I’m wearing a swimsuit and my body feels warm in the sun.”Truly visualize these elements and imagine how you would feel interacting with them in reality.
Describe the thoughts and feelings you have in response to this exercise. Was it helpful or relaxing? Did you find yourself getting side-tracked by off-topic thoughts? Did you find yourself judging yourself during this exercise? At times I catch myself judging that my family is not in my safe place and feel like I should be imagining them with me-but then I remember that there is no right or wrong and the end game here is achieving a sense of peace and self-renewal.
Where and when do you think it would be most beneficial to use this exercise? I find this particular exercise helpful when I’m at wits end and am feeling myself lose control of my emotions. I may have put my son down in his crib or put on the TV for him for a few minutes to go and collect myself. Initially I would judge myself for having to do this but then I remembered-after taking these moments I am walking back into that room a better mom than when I left it. I take 5 minutes to visualize my safe place (mine is in a cabin in the woods) and take deep breaths and start to feel more together before I return.
This is a very common therapeutic exercise. Some people find it hokey or uncomfortable. That is okay! It’s great to challenge yourself to try something new but if you find it wasn’t relaxing for you I hope you’ll come back next week and try the next Self-Care Monday exercise.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable and you are worth the effort.” ~Deborah Day