What’s your safety net?

One of the most important things I’ve done over the last two years has been to create myself a ‘safety net’: a set of protective factors that support me in staying well.

I’ve discovered that lots of different things help me, but three of the most important are:

  • getting some kind of exercise
  • going outdoors, no matter what the weather
  • getting to bed before midnight

When life gets busy, I’ve noticed that it can be tempting to imagine that these things are luxuries. That it wouldn’t hurt to neglect them for a day or six. And initially it doesn’t seem to matter that much…

But, before I know it, I’m feeling just a bit more anxious. A bit less able to think clearly. A bit less patient with my nearest and dearest. A bit more critical of myself. A bit less hopeful about the future.

In just the same way that tiny positive changes can have a surprisingly huge effect over time, these little lapses really add up. And when they do and life gets really tough – as it seems to, sooner or later – it can seem completely unimaginable that such simple things as exercise, fresh air and sleep could bring any real relief.

For years people told me about the benefits of small, practical things like these and I smiled and ignored them. Behind the smile I even felt slightly indignant. How could they imagine that problems as terrible as mine would respond to such unremarkable things? (Good old ego…)

And yet, it turned out that unremarkable things exactly like these were able to help me turn a completely unmanageable life into really rather a nice one.

I suspect that everybody’s safety net needs to be slightly different. (I’m very definitely a morning person, so getting to bed before midnight matters to me, but might not to someone else.) I also suspect that it’s important to adjust one’s net from time to time. Optimise the tension. Make sure it’s still doing its job properly.

So, I’m curious…. do you have a safety net too?

If so, what does yours consist of?