In a recent survey, we learned that over 60% of Americans feel unsafe on a daily basis. Many feel varying forms of strong anxiety related to keeping themselves or their families safe.
Yet, why do we feel such anxieties? Understanding where this so-called safety anxiety comes from and how to address it can be tremendously beneficial.
Where does safety anxiety come from?
Our bodies naturally release certain chemicals and create certain emotions to help us. We feel fear or anxiety in certain situations in order to stay alive.
It’s generally a good thing. But constant exposure to anxiety-inducing situations can take a toll on the body and mind, and a significant one. Chronic stress and high levels of cortisol have been shown to cause harmful side effects.
How to Address Your Personal Safety Anxiety
The good news is that personal safety anxiety can be addressed, like other forms of anxiety, and we're going to look at how to do exactly that in these two short parts:
PART 1: Awareness & Logging Personal Safety Stressors
As you go through your daily life, you will experience times of heightened personal safety anxiety. You may not have thought about it this way before or noticed it before—or you may have. This will be an opportunity to become hyper-aware of situations that raise your personal safety anxiety.
We call these personal safety “stressors.” You may feel these stressors when you do something like walk to a bus stop at night alone or take an elevator by yourself. Your body sends a signal out to let you know to be heightened.
As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs demonstrated, one of our most basic human needs is physical safety. Without feeling physically safe, we cannot thrive.
To address your personal safety anxiety, you must first note and identify any event throughout the day that heightens your “safety anxiety.”
Secondly, you must log these events and assign a value from 1-5. A simple way to log these events is to text yourself, or email yourself on your smartphone. This allows you to log the events without having to carry a notebook.
Be sure to pay particular attention to the level of severity, because understanding where the anxiety falls on the 1-5 scale will be important in the next step.
Do this for 7 days, beginning Monday-Sunday. Even though many people experience the majority of personal safety stressors during the work week, it’s good to continue to log during your days off because you may be experiencing some surprising personal safety stressors.
For example, some people who live alone might experience personal safety stressors at home, when hearing the house walls adjust at night. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep the log for 7 days straight.
PART 2: Addressing Personal Safety Stressors
Now that you’ve logged your “personal safety stressors,” you may have gained some valuable insights into your day and which events might heighten personal safety anxiety. As we’ve discussed, chronic states of anxiety can take a toll on the body, so we’ll want to eliminate those stressors.
The next step will be separating your personal safety stressors into two categories: avoidable and unavoidable.
Avoidable personal safety stressors are the ones that you can cut out of your day, if you can help it. For example, if walking through a particular street is a stressor, you can opt for a different route.
Conversely, unavoidable stressors are ones that you have no control over and cannot change. For example, walking through your parking garage at work. Maybe there’s only one garage you must use every day, and it’s difficult to switch to a different one. This would be a non-avoidable personal safety stressor.
The third step in this process will be to further divide each category into two subcategories: 1-3 rated stressors, and 4-5 rated stressors.
Your list should look something like this:
As you can see in the examples, certain personal safety stressors are avoidable, while others are not.
Because you’ve logged these events for the week, you may now have some clarity and understanding into which avoidable situations give you stress, and you can avoid them! While this may sound simple, sometimes, we must intentionally give something awareness to understand it (and possibly avoid it).
Non-similarly, some other personal safety stressors were non-avoidable. These are perhaps the most important to address because these will require the most work.
Understanding these unavoidable personal safety stressors is a great first step! Just being aware of which activities heighten your stress is a great start, because sometimes awareness alone brings down our stress level.
Now take each one of your non-avoidable personal safety stressors and write down a potential solution for each one. Some solutions may include bringing a friend, using a personal safety app like RedSOS, or another alternative that you feel comfortable with.
Let’s look at a typical stressor: walking home alone. If you have friends or family available at the time you walk home, it’s easy to invite someone to join you. In this case, it’s an avoidable personal safety stressor. If, however, your schedule doesn’t allow you to bring someone, it’s a non-avoidable personal safety stressor.
In this case, using a personal safety app like RedSOS can be very helpful because it may feel like you’re not alone anymore. RedSOS provides 24/7 professional agents that are available to get you help if needed. Just knowing there’s someone on standby can be a tremendous help. The app also allows you to request a call so our agents can check on you, even if it’s not an emergency. So if you are walking alone and feeling anxious, you can get in touch with a caring human who’s capable of summoning first responders at any moment.
If you have a specific personal safety stressor and want to get our advice on how to eliminate this stressor from your life, you can reach out to email@example.com. We will be happy to assist you. We care about your safety and love to help!
The Secret to Personal Safety
If you have ever had any personal safety concerns, you're certainly not alone. Our busy lives today demand that we pay attention to our surroundings in order to survive. We've developed an evolutionary mechanism that excites our nervous system and raises our adrenaline and cortisol levels to keep us alive. Your body aims to keep itself alive; your mind is the command center adjusting the levers to support this mission.
When you are walking to work, stepping off the subway, or walking your dog at night, your body is telling you to "stay alert." There’s a 24/7 “keep yourself alive” system as potent and present as the respiratory system regulating your breathing.
Sometimes, this system, like a plant reacting to stimuli, heightens and releases chemicals. We might call this feeling anxiety, or more specifically, safety anxiety. Safety anxiety is as real and important as any other type of anxiety. It's as treatable and manageable as any other form of anxiety.
You might experience safety anxiety walking through a parking lot at night or on a long elevator ride alone. You might think, “When was this elevator last serviced? What if it stops now, and I'm alone? Does the emergency button even work?” When these thoughts end, you're relieved to exit this risky contraption.
We all experience situations like this daily, whether walking to a car at night or waiting at an empty bus stop. We're always assessing threats. We all want to be safe.
If you recognize this safety anxiety and want to address it, you start looking for solutions. You research how to alleviate this anxiety and find various self-defense tools online. You might buy pepper spray from Amazon, but later find it too bulky. Then, after hearing about a nearby mugging, you reignite your search for other self-defense tools.
However, finding effective self-defense tools has been a challenge. Often bought in panic, we don't properly evaluate their efficacy. For instance, an attacker might turn a victim's weapon against them. In some cases, it's better to have no weapon than have your own weapon used against you. But if you're trained and prepared, that same weapon could save your life. Self-defense is dynamic.
The best self-defense strategy is perhaps to have company. It’s common to hear about individuals being mugged when alone. It's less common for groups. The power of numbers is significant. Yet, we can't always have company. During times when you're alone, precautions are essential. One woman in Chicago described her experience having worried about safety anxiety for years, and once she committed to only traveling with her friends, she felt an enormous pressure lifted off her chest. But we emphasize that it's not always feasible to travel with others. And when you're alone, caution is paramount.
Even if you do end up finding a self-defense tool that suits you, it's important to recognize that studies do show that having company reduces risks, underscoring the strength in numbers. One study showed that over 90% of car jackings occurred when the driver was alone. Astonishingly, fewer than 10% took place when there were two or more people in the vehicle. The power of numbers is significant. This cannot be overstated. If you can avoid a potentially life-threating situation all together, is this not the ideal outcome?
If you have any personal safety concerns, we'd love to help!
Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24/7 helpline at 1-877-832-5276.