Calming / Safety Strategies

These are strategies that are designed to help you feel calmer, safer and more secure.

You might want to try some of these strategies if:

  • the voices or visions leave you feeling scared, worried or frightened
  • the voices get louder or nastier when you feel stressed out or frightened
  • you notice that the voices sometimes start when you feel worried, unsure or afraid
  • you are struggling to chill out or get to sleep at the end of the day

What Can I Do?

Question markEveryone is different. Some people find that they feel calmer and safer when they are on their own. Others find it easy to relax in busy places, or when they’re around people they know. What makes one person feel calm can leave someone else feeling stressed out or frustrated.

If you want to try out some new ideas, check out this list of ideas that other young people who hear voices have found useful.

Remember: it can take time to find strategies that work for you. Try to notice tiny differences in how you feel, or how the voices sound. Feeling a little more at ease is a great start … it gives you something to build on. If you can, try keeping a diary so you notice what is beginning to help and what doesn’t feel useful at all.

Sometimes, when things don’t work, it’s easy to get down-hearted and worry that nothing will ever help. Try not to get down-hearted if things don’t work first time. That’s natural. You might want to persevere, to see if the strategy begins to work better as you get more confident using it. If not, it’s OK to put that strategy on the ‘things that don’t work for me’ list and move on to something else.

Find a calming ritual

Cocoa MugA ritual is just something familiar that you can do when you need to feel safe.

It could be anything from making a hot drink, playing scales on the guitar, practising tai chi/yoga, bouncing a ball, reading a reassuring poem or story, watching a favourite TV programme, having a You Tube playlist of videos that make you laugh, holding a favourite toy/blanket, saying a prayer, using mindfulness colouring books, doodling, having a bath/shower or listening to your favourite album.

Writing a mantra

A mantra is a sentence that you can repeat again and again that helps you feel safer or stronger. It can be taken from a song that gives you strength, from a spiritual practice or you can write your own. The mantra might help to contradict the voices, or it might help you remember that you are strong and that you can survive this.

Examples of mantras

Voice: “You’re stupid. You’ll fail”.
Mantra ideas: ‘I do what I can with what I have’, ‘Even if I fail, the world won’t end’ or ‘I am who I am. I do what I do. Your words can’t stop me following through’.

Voice: “Don’t eat. You’re fat. Hurt yourself”
Mantra ideas: ‘It’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it’, ‘This story is mine, it’s not yet written, I’ll find my own words and you will listen’, or ‘You’re just a sign of what I feel, I’m finding the power I need to heal’.

When you write a mantra that you want to try, it can help to write it down so you remember to say it when things begin to get difficult.

Relaxation Exercises

Breathing exercises

When people feel anxious they sometimes take fast and shallow breaths. It’s a natural response to stress, but it can make you feel more panicky. Learning ways of slowing down your breathing can help you to feel calmer and more in control.

You can try this as a starting point:

1. Breathe in over 4 counts
2. Hold your breath over 4 counts
3. Breathe all the way out over 4 counts
4. Hold your breath over 4 counts

Repeat steps 1-4 until you feel your breathing become more regular. As you feel more confident in it, try taking a bit longer to breathe out (counting to 6, 8 or even 10).

Or try this from Youth Space:

Physical relaxation

Some people find it helpful to tense and relax different parts of their body, in turn, starting from their toes. When they tense their muscles they concentrate on scrunching this part of themselves up tightly and hold it for a few seconds, before releasing the tension and noticing how it feels.

See Youth Space’s worksheet for some more guidance: Youth Space Relaxation Technique Booklet

Grounding Yourself

This can really help if your head is buzzing or you feel lost inside your own thoughts. It’s a way of noticing what’s around you and can make you feel ‘grounded’ in the world.

5 Things Technique

Name:

5 things you can see, 5 you can hear and 5 you can feel
4 things you can see, 4 you can hear and 4 you can feel
3 things you can see, 3 you can hear and 3 you can feel
2 things you can see, 2 you can hear and 2 you can feel
1 thing you can see, 1 you can hear and 1 you can feel

Be as detailed as you can with the descriptions of what you see, hear and feel. It’s ok to repeat things. The main thing is to focus on what’s around you right now. For example:

I see an old table with a blue and white checked tablecloth on it. I see a brown and orange laptop back. I see a cream vase with 6 yellow flowers in it. I see a glass of orange juice on the table. I see my dog, Basil, lying down by my feet.

I hear the sound of traffic on the road outside. I can hear someone walking around upstairs. I can hear my chair creek as I move around. I can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. I can hear the tapping of my keyboard as I type.

I feel the fur of my dog as he’s lying my by feet. I can feel the table under my hand. I can feel the carpet underneath my feet. I can feel the warm wool of my jumper. I can feel the cold glass of orange juice in my hand.


Other ways of grounding yourself
include:

cat resting

  • Walking and concentrating on the way your feet feel on the ground
  • Choosing an object with different textures and really focussing on what it feels and looks like
  • Eating an orange (or something else) and really thinking about what it looks, feels, smells and tastes like
  • Finding some smelling salts or essential oils that have a strong smell that help you feel reassured
  • Surrounding yourself with things that help you feel safe

Creatie a Safe Space

Physical Space

This involves creating a safe space at home where you can go when you are finding things difficult. It could be a room, a corner of a room, a beanbag or somewhere else – anywhere you can begin to create a space that helps you feel calmer and protected. Some people choose to put pictures in this area, fill it with cushions or make sure it has other things that contain good vibes. If you can, speak with your family about this space so that they know that you’re using it in a positive way to deal with things when things are difficult.

Imaginary Space

Sometimes finding a physical safe space isn’t easy. You might be sharing a room, live in a shelter or spend a lot of time outside of your home. Some people find ways of using their imagination to create a safe space that they can think about when they’re beginning to feel stressed out. Some people re-create a good memory, others imagine a quiet beach or a time when they felt loved and cared for. If you find it hard to remember this, it can sometimes help to carry a token with you to help you re-create the memory when you need it. Someone who thinks of a beach, for example, might carry a shell with them.

A Good Memories Box

When things are tough, it can be so hard to keep hold of good memories and feelings. Some people find it useful to create a box or scrapbook with pictures, tokens, lyrics, quotes, artwork, photos and memories inside. It’s important to do this when you feel more or less OK – creating a box like this is really hard when everything feels overwhelming. Looking through the box doesn’t make everything feel OK – but sometimes it can help people hang on to the idea that they are in the middle of a storm, but that the storm has a beginning and an end. It’s not permanent.

Other ideas

Listen to music: Music can be a great way to relax. Different types of music can help with different moods. Some people need chilled out acoustic music when they’re anxious, but others find metal or rock works best. Experiment – find out what works for you. If it helps, you could create a playlist that helps you move through different feelings.

Have a relaxing bubble bath: Warm water and comforting scents can be really good at helping people relax. Experiment with different types until you find the one that works best for you – there are lots around.

Hug someone you trust: If you need it, it’s ok to ask a friend or family member for a hug. Sometimes it helps more than words can.

Give yourself a massage: There are lots of ways you can massage yourself. It might sound weird, but it can actually work really well.

Stroke a pet: Some people find that stroking a cat, dog or other pet helps them feel a little calmer and safer.

Go to a place you feel safe in: Working out where you feel the most safe is really helpful if you’re feeling really stressed out and overwhelmed. This might be at home, your bedroom, a youth centre, a library or somewhere else.

Rolling with it: Anxiety can sometime be helpful – it’s our body’s way of preparing us for things we’re worried about (like exams or moving house). Instead of seeing it as the enemy, it can be good to accept some worry as a natural reaction to stress and allow it to pass with time.