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What's the Connection Between Safety & Self-Care?

by Nicky Besuden

Often self-care is represented by glossy images of sun-soaked spas, luxe 24k gold face masks, and whatever the latest Instagram trend is. But at its core, self-care is about prioritizing time for ourselves, listening to our mind and body, and taking time to check in with our emotions. Not that a facemask and hot tea during a Netflix binge aren’t great, but they just scratch the superficial surface of what it means to care for ourselves, inside and out.

Thanks to millennials and gen z, we’re now more open and honest about mental illness, therapy, and taking care of our heads and hearts than ever before. In a time where #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, and what seems like daily school-shootings dominate the news cycle, it can feel like our world is a volatile place where we’re all constantly fighting to be seen, heard, and respected. In fact, despite the world becoming safer as a whole, with violent crime, fires, and car crashes all dropping in prevalence over the last century, many of us have cited feeling less safe than ever.

So then, why don’t we think of safety as part of our wellbeing, as part of self-care— why aren’t agency, uncompromised identity, and confidence celebrated and enforced with rituals and mindfulness?

What does safety look like in terms of mindfulness?

It’s easy to make a quick link between being more mindful and our safety. If we’re more aware, we’re more likely to recognize that something is amiss. But that doesn’t just mean we keep a vigilant eye on the people and situations unfolding around us. Before that even, it means listening to our bodies. You know that moment you have when the hair on your neck stands up, and you get that feeling in your gut? That’s your body saying “hey, something isn’t right here”. Physiologically speaking, that’s our bodies' fight-or-flight reaction kicking in. It’s an early sign that we’re sensing something unsafe in our environment.

Mindfulness also means paying attention to how we’re moving through the world. It doesn’t mean we change what we’re wearing, or our identities, it means we pay attention to ourselves, first. We’ve all had those weird moments where we tune out; suddenly you realize you’ve been reading an assignment on auto-pilot and didn’t retain any of the information, even though you know you read it. You might be driving a route you’ve been on a million times, and snap to the realization that you’re home without remembering the last few stoplights. When we’re running on auto-pilot inside our own bubbles, we’re less likely to notice cues that may alert us of something wrong.

How can we be more mindful to improve personal-safety?

First, let’s recognize that the onus for safety shouldn’t be put on those most at risk, that we also need to focus on making the aggressors of violence held accountable for their actions. We need to put in place measures to help the communities most at risk of domestic violence, assault, and intimate violence, something we’re actively working on at Flare.

But speaking in terms of the reality that we live in, where unsafe situations do happen, let’s talk about how we can do some small things in the vein of self-care that will not only keep us safer but help us listen more to our heads and hearts.

  1. Mindful Observation: Mindful Observation means taking intentional moments throughout the day to notice a detail in the world around you. Typically, people choose an item like a flower, a tree, or a cloud in the sky and focus their attention on that object for as long as their concentration will allow them to, noticing all the small details in shape and color. It helps us train our brains to naturally notice details in the world around us and ultimately improves our ability to recognize changes or shifts in the space we’re in. But what if we took it a step further and paused to mindfully observe ourselves and our bodies? Having a deeper understanding and awareness of how our own body feels and looks in a calm and comfortable state will help identify when we feel uncomfortable, unsettled, or unsafe because we will notice our body change. It could be fast breathing, tense shoulders or feeling closed off, losing your voice, getting a sinking feeling in your gut, or the hair standing up on the back of your neck.
  2. Mindful Breathing: When our body perceives a threat or unusual situation, it reacts to help call our attention to the potential danger. While this is an important signal, it can be hard to think and react the way that we want to in the moment because of anxiety, confusion, or shock. When you feel your body reacting this way and identify that you are feeling uncomfortable, unsettled, or threatened, taking a deep breath can help you slow down your body’s reaction and think more clearly about how you want to react. This will help you take control over how you want to act, instead of being guided by your anxiety and stress. You can practice mindful breathing daily — just take 5 minutes to deeply breathe without distraction. Sit on your bed, inhale deeply through your nose, listen to your body, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to get in a quick 1–3-minute session of deep breathing throughout the day to give your mind and body a chance to catch up with each other. Deep breathing exercises also have been proven to help with mindfulness and managing stress, which helps keep us more aware throughout our day.

At Flare, we operate with several very important beliefs, one of these is the belief that everyone — regardless of age, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, deserves to live their life the way they choose. To us, that means not being held back by outside forces. Feeling safe and comfortable in your environment is essential to being able to fully own your identity and live your best life. Flare is committed to helping you be uncompromising in owning who you are, starting with your safety and wellbeing.

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