Photo by Enoch Patro
We have lost so much in the past two years—and we’re still counting. Loved ones, jobs, businesses, opportunities, and control continue to slip through our fingers, filling us with stress and fatigue.
Both our physical and psychological safety have taken a huge hit.
How can we soften the impact of uncertainty and reinvent ourselves, our companies, and our teams? How do we take what we have learned from these losses to grow and spark new beginnings?
Psychological Safety and the S.A.F.E.T.Y™ Model
Dr. Dan Radecki, co-founder and chief scientific officer of The Academy of Brain-based Leadership and co-author of Psychological Safety, highlights the importance of psychological safety for our personal well-being and team performance.
Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmonson, describes psychological safety as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes, and that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.”
“When we experience an attack on our psychological safety, our brain is triggered into a stress response where our cognitive abilities are compromised and our higher, logical brain that is responsible for thinking, creativity, decision making, and self-control, goes offline. In this derailed stress state, we can find it difficult to concentrate, make decisions, or control our emotions,” explains Radecki.
The current global climate continues to disrupt our reality, challenging our expectations and capacity to protect this sense of safety. You may be afraid to speak your mind, feel isolated, or get lost in the midst of the unknown. But you are not alone, and there are ways to regain your peace of mind.
To nurture your psychological safety, start by looking at what your brain needs to feel protected. The S.A.F.E.T.Y™ model, founded on neuroscience research, categorizes these needs into six “safety drivers:”
- Security – Having certainty, predictability, and consistency.
- Autonomy – Maintaining control over your surroundings and decisions.
- Fairness – Receiving fair treatment or experiencing honest and impartial interactions.
- Esteem – Feeling worthy, respected, and appreciated by yourself and others.
- Trust – Belonging and caring for your community.
- You – Needs related to your unique sense of self, memories, biases, and personal journey.
What are your primary needs at the moment?
Below are some strategies and interventions that can support your psychological safety needs right now:
1) Security: Follow Regular Routines
Habits can help you regain stability and steadiness. Establish and follow regular routines at home and work that align with your values and goals—and break the patterns that are not benefiting you.
For example, if you are a remote worker, you may be tempted to stay in your pyjamas all day and work from bed. Yet, creating a morning routine such as waking up early, showering, eating breakfast, and getting dressed may support a sense of normalcy and give structure to your days.
To learn more about building effective habits, check James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits.
2) Autonomy: Focus on What You Can Control
Make a list of the things you CAN control and place your time and energy on those aspects of your life.
For instance, reduce your access to news and social media. You can’t control what’s happening in the world, so overexposure to these outlets can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Use that time to do something for yourself!
Some of the things within your control that can help you cultivate your well-being include:
- Nutrition – Make a meal plan and go to the grocery store to get what you need to cook.
- Movement – Find activities you enjoy doing within your budget (e.g. go for a walk or a run, ride your bike, do a community yoga class).
- Mindset – Journal about the things you are grateful for and practice mindful meditation.
3) Fairness: Set and Maintain Boundaries
As Brené Brown states in The Gifts of Imperfection, “when we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or a choice.”
Setting and sticking to boundaries, especially physical ones, can help you honour what’s fair, prevent hardship, and protect your inner peace.
This includes personal boundaries (e.g., leaving your phone outside your bedroom before bed) and boundaries with others (e.g., refusing to schedule a team call outside of your work hours). Maintaining equity in resources and contributions within your family, employees, and teams can also support these limits.
4) Esteem: Practice Tender and Fierce Self-Compassion
Dr. Kristin Neff describes tender self-compassion as “being with ourselves in an accepting way” and fierce self-compassion as “acting in the world to alleviate suffering.”
Tender self-compassion involves inner healing, comforting yourself, and being mindful of what hurts you. Fierce self-compassion refers to those steps you take to protect yourself, say yes to your needs, and find the motivation to learn, grow, and create change.
Balancing both tender and fierce sides can help you transform your inner and outer worlds.
Check out Dr. Neff’s self-compassion exercises to care and stand up for yourself in times of stress.
5) Trust: Remember You Are Not Alone
Keep reminding yourself that you are not on your own. We are all in the same life raft, doing our best to navigate pain, sorrow, and loneliness.
Connect with other like-minded individuals at work or within your community and discover the shared experiences you have with each other. Tell your story, offer support (e.g., doing random acts of kindness, listening to a friend), and allow yourself to be supported (e.g., asking for help, enjoying compliments from others).
This “we” mindset can foster a trusting environment to boost your belonging and show your authentic self.
6) You: Learn From Your Lessons
Reflect on your journey with curiosity and ask yourself:
- What are your biases and belief systems?
- What have you learned from past experiences?
- What triggers you?
- What helps you cope with stress?
Write down these answers and keep them close. Revisit them periodically since they may change over time. The goal is to become more aware of your sense of self as you handle current and future setbacks.
Building your safety drivers will help you meet your needs and strengthen your readiness for change.
If you or your loved ones have difficulty riding this wave, seek out support and resources. Senses Mindfulness Coaching offers various coaching packages, retreats, and workshops to promote resiliency and support your mental health.
Contact us today to book a free consultation!