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Create a Soothing Sanctuary for Your Mental Health

You need a mental health sanctuary because life can be chaotic and overstimulating. Being constantly on the go, facing endless responsibilities and demands, is stressful. Add to this our fast-paced, technological world that has us almost constantly plugged in and connected, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed and even out-of-control. When the brain is bombarded by sensory input, it can have a hard time processing everything. One pleasant and effective way to decompress and reset is to create a soothing sanctuary for your mental health. Keep reading to discover what a mental health sanctuary is, why it's vital, and how to create it. 

What Is a Mental Health Sanctuary and Why Is It Helpful?

A sanctuary is a retreat. It's an oasis of quiet and calm amidst the noise and what often feels like chaos. A mental health sanctuary is a soothing place you can step into to give your mind a rest from thoughts, feelings, and stress

Sanctuaries offer a purposeful place to reduce stress and anxiety, and other mental health challenges. In a sanctuary, you dedicate time to taking care of yourself. Facing constant stimulation and demands is hard on both mind and body. It contributes to chronic stress, which means that the nervous system is constantly on high alert and reacting to what it perceives as threats. Your heart rate and blood pressure stay elevated, your breathing remains shallow and rapid, and your body continually creates and circulates stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. 

This chronic stress response can cause or worsen anxiety and depression. It also aggravates symptoms of any mental illness and makes them harder to manage. Without a break, the brain is constantly on overdrive, making it hard to function. This can rob you of inner peace and joy in life, and it can interfere with your relationships, work, and studies. Having a mental health sanctuary is a great way to nurture your whole self in order to live life fully and freely. 

How to Create Your Own Mental Health Sanctuary

One of the great things about mental health sanctuaries is that they're entirely personal. Your sanctuary is yours. It only needs to be pleasant and meaningful to you. There are no requirements, no minimum stuff necessary to include. A mental health sanctuary can be indoors or outdoors in nature. It can be a single small room or even a space within a room. It can be a place that is meaningful to you or one that simply offers quiet and calm. 

A sanctuary doesn't even require rules of conduct or behavior. For many people, "sanctuary" means a private, serene, silent environment with very little stimulation.

"A place of solitude offers a retreat from the opposing forces and diverse demands of living, an entry into a state of peace and unity. Mind and body can retire from a place of confusion and conflict to a sanctuary of clarity and harmony."--Anthony Lawlor

For others, the idea of sanctuary is any place where they can be themselves and do what they love to do. In this case, a sanctuary is an energized place involving passions and activity.

"Basketball is my refuge, my sanctuary. I go back to being a kid on the playground. When I get here, it's all good."--Kobe Bryant

Or:

"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."--Maya Angelou

The common theme is that a sanctuary offers a place to retreat from the world and nurture your mental health. While there are no rules for what your personal mental health sanctuary should or should not be, some guidelines can help you create your soothing haven.

  • Consider what you need. Do you need a place where you can put aside your to-do list and dive into an activity that makes you forget about everything else? Do you often feel overstimulated, overwhelmed, and even anxious and thus crave a place where you can bask in silence and do nothing for a while? 
  • Personalize your space. Even if you're sharing a living space with others, such as a college dorm room or apartment, carve out an area where you can plop down among sights, smells, and sounds that soothe you. Set up a sanctuary in a corner chair by bringing special items with you while you're there (a plant, a candle, a favorite photo, beads or stones, etc.). This will make your area feel cozy and personal, even if it's just for the time that you're using it as your sanctuary. (Be sure to set up boundaries by politely clarifying that you don't want to be disturbed.)
  • Remove all distractions. The point of your sanctuary, regardless of whether it offers peace and silence or an activity you embrace, is to let all concerns melt away and give your brain a break from extra sensory input and stimulation. When you're in your sanctuary, leave your phone and computer behind (unless you're using them for music or guided meditations, but promise yourself that you will only use them for that purpose). 
  • Use it regularly. Giving yourself this vital mental health break on a regular basis helps keep your nervous system in balance to manage your body's stress reaction (the fight-or-flight response) even when you're not there. Making a habit of allowing your brain to rest and reset helps you better deal with stress, emotions, thoughts, and symptoms of mental illness. 

As you provide yourself with welcome relief from the demands of the world in your soothing mental health sanctuary, you teach your brain and body how to self-soothe. Then, when you're out and about and on the go, facing challenges and demands, simply closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and visualizing yourself in your refuge will calm your mind and body to help you reset on the spot.

"Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you."--Rumi

I invite you to tune into this video for ideas for what to do (and how to do it) while enjoying your sanctuary. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, August 18). Create a Soothing Sanctuary for Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2021/8/create-a-soothing-sanctuary-for-your-mental-health



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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