“Space” is a word that mental health professionals often use when discussing topics around psychological safety and self-rejuvenation. Creating the space necessary to reflect, reset, or simply rest is essential to our well-being and improves the connection with not only ourselves, but others as well.
Creating “space” for yourself
Many of us have experienced or continue to experience symptoms associated with burnout or languishing. Consistently feeling rejuvenated unfortunately is hard to come by these days.
A good place to start is to limit distractions and refrain from multitasking when you are engaging in a task or activity that is meant to be relaxing or pleasurable. Setting these boundaries will help you maintain presence and encourage a positive shift in your mindset. When this occurs, we begin to reap the benefits of this time and experience a recharge.
Taking a walk, having a cup of tea, chatting with a good friend, or watching a show are all great examples of creating space for yourself to relax and unwind. It becomes counterproductive, though, when we fail to make an effort to shift our mindset and enter this space while distracted. Removing such distractions — for example, our devices — will help us move into the moment with more deliberation and presence.
Noticing when your “space” is full
If you are constantly operating with a sense of urgency or become easily overwhelmed, you are more than likely at capacity. So the energy it takes to even think about fully engaging in activities that could help you rejuvenate probably seems unrealistic.
Don’t overthink this. Readjusting or omitting certain things that occupy your space can be simple. Be aware of how you transition and how you fill your time. Taking breaks and establishing clear boundaries begins by frequently checking in with yourself and saying “no” when you are at capacity. When we constantly push our limits, make assumptions, and place others’ potential judgments or emotions ahead of our own, we lack the space and energy needed for self-rejuvenation.
When working with clients, I often ask them to pretend as if they had a balloon in their belly. This balloon is being filled with air throughout the day due to stressors, tasks, difficult interactions, and/or negative self-talk. If we are not mindful of our energy output and balance this with ways to gradually release the accumulated air, well, we will eventually "pop." It might even be the most minor occurrence that pushes up over the edge and makes us "pop." Nonetheless, we are then left with the task of regrouping and picking up the pieces once again. Discovering ways to be proactive with how we empty our balloon and reset allows us to productively regulate our stress and energy levels.
Making "space" for others
We all have our limits and triggers which in turn affect how we give and receive energy from one another. I think we can all agree that there is an incredible difference between interacting with someone who creates a safe space for us versus someone who is preoccupied or passes judgment.
One way to quickly assess or prep your potential listener is to simply ask if she is able to answer a question or listen to something that has been on your mind. Her answer should give you a good indication of her availability before you share. These questions also give her the opportunity to assess her ability to redirect her attention in that moment and gracefully transition. She may ultimately realize that she does not have the space and needs to find another time when she can be more present.
When it comes to people, multitasking is never productive. Creating a space for others that is safe requires presence, empathy, and patience. More often than not, people hear what someone says and immediately associate it with the memory of a similar experience, situation, or emotion. They then proceed to share their experience, which redirects the conversation and shifts the roles of the individuals involved.
We tend to falsely view relating as a form of validation, but this practice can halt vulnerability and completely diminish the space that was initially created. Self-disclosure is a wonderful tool but needs to be done with the intention to build trust and facilitate an opportunity for the other person to share perhaps on a deeper level. It is often done prematurely and alters the space and energy of the conversation.
Readjusting your physical space
Life constantly forces us to adjust and we have all certainly had our fair share of adjustments over the last few years. When was the last time you really looked at the physical spaces you have created for yourself? Are they cluttered, empty, soothing? They may directly reflect how you feel and can affect your level of motivation.
Take a pause and think about ways you can improve your space. Changes that may generate feelings you long to experience more of and changes that may begin to clear your mental clutter. Maintaining our mental wellness is like a dance. We must work from the inside out and the outside in. How we flow through our day and the spaces that we interact with greatly impact the thoughts and responses we have. Again, this can be an incredibly simplistic process and does not require a huge renovation. This may look like opening your blinds, lighting a candle, reorganizing your workspace, or moving some furniture around.
We are more sensitive than we realize to the energy exchanged with others and the vibes that certain spaces greet us with. Check in with your balloon and try to be more mindful of the spaces you occupy and create for others. Some of you may need to take up more space, while others may need to be more aware of how you show up for others and interact with them.
As humans, we are not designed to be "on" at all times. Creating space for yourself to "just be" or to process all of the information we consume in mass quantities are healthy practices that move you into the space of being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your mental health.
Make a habit of taking up space, just be mindful of how it may affect those around you who are also worthy of cultivating their own unique spaces.