What is emotional safety?
People feel emotionally safe when they feel "calm, happy, and supported." In these states, people are better able to learn new things and complete tasks effectively and meaningfully.
When you feel emotionally safe with someone, your heart rate and respiration go down and even synchronize with the other person's. Perspiration, a sign of stress, is reduced. The muscles in your body relax. You’re likely to express more of your thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative.
— Psychology Today, 2023
It's harder for our brains to function when we feel worried, angry, anxious, or humiliated. That's why it's important to create a safe space at home where everyone feels emotionally safe.
Discover 5 ways to create that emotionally safe environment for yourself and your loved ones.
1. Prepare yourself
When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant reviews the safety protocols and always reminds the passengers that in the event of an emergency they should first put on their oxygen mask before helping others with their masks.
The same is true for emotional safety. Before you can create an emotionally safe space for others, ensure you feel emotionally safe.
Be aware of your emotions and stressors. We all have baggage, feelings, and stressful responsibilities. Look inward to identify what barriers may be making it difficult for you to create a safe space for your loved ones.
Understand and manage your stress and anxiety. Your stress and temper can affect your ability to support others. Explore healthy ways to manage your stress and anxiety. You can explore meditation, exercise, enjoyable activities, and counseling.
Take care of yourself. You need to take care of yourself, give yourself grace, and ask for help. It is hard to help others when you need help yourself.
What is the best way to manage stress at home?
2. Express emotions
In an emotionally safe space, people are open to expressing their feelings.
Express how you feel yourself. By labeling and talking about your emotions, you demonstrate that everyone has feelings. Modeling your feelings shows your loved ones that you trust them and encourages them to trust you with their feelings in return.
Use "feeling" words. Include feeling words into your everyday language and it will encourage others to do the same.
Try including additional words aside from angry and sad, such as disappointed and frustrated, to help pinpoint the cause of the feeling. You can also describe your worry about something as a less intense form of fear or terror to offer ways to describe those emotions.
Allow for sharing of feelings. Sometimes we're told that something isn't a big deal. But people need to express and work through their emotions to regulate and cope in a healthy way. When we hold feelings in, they tend to bottle up and explode.
For example, if one of your loved ones wants to talk about their day, provide them with your attention and time to allow them to share what they're feeling.
3. Listen and empathize
Listen to what your loved one is saying.
Listen and provide physical comfort until your loved one calms down. You don't need to talk at first. Your presence and attention will show them that what they're saying is important to you.
You could say...
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I'm here to listen."
Empathize with them.
Empathy is when you acknowledge a feeling that your loved one is having.
"Most of the time, people aren’t looking for solutions in those moments, they're looking to feel heard, accepted, and understood."
You could say...
"I can understand how you're feeling."
"That is really frustrating."
4. Create routines
help prevent emotional stress. It can be helpful to know what is coming up and predict what to expect from your everyday.
can be created with your loved ones to help everyone in the home feel heard and have a sense of control over the environment.
are helpful, but be open to conversations about managing stress when something unplanned occurs and how that makes you feel.
5. Be mindful of your physical space
Go from this...
...by making changes to your physical environment.
Sometimes, your physical environment can be the cause of stress. To design a physical space that allows for emotional safety:
Cultivate a calm environment.
You can physically change things like lighting, furniture arrangements, and air quality. In addition, encourage family members to treat each other respectfully, and refrain from violence, or negative physical and verbal behavior.
Limit the use of technology.
Set aside time without the use of your electronic devices to spend time with your loved ones. You can even carve dedicated chunks of technology-free time within your schedule.
Play calming music in your space.
Play peaceful music, or sounds, in your home. Think about the presence of loud noises. You can replace those noises with calming music, white noise, or sounds from nature like rain or birds chirping through a music app or website.