Reducing anxiety - how to feel safe

One way of feeling safe and reducing anxiety is learning to be more present in your life. 


Being present allows you to pause, slow down and pay attention to your physical sensations. It helps you recover from stress and improve your wellbeing, rather than getting caught up in a spiral of negative thinking. It reduces a psychological bias toward replaying painful memories or anticipating the future.

The simplest way of being present is to develop a singularity of focus. This means observing inwardly with the senses, one thing at a time, and observing your experiences, without judgement. For example, you look at a leaf and notice it’s green – nothing more. You drink water and notice the cool, flowing liquid sensation. However, you attach no significance or meaning to those experiences whatsoever…you just experience them.

When I’m listening, I’m listening. When I’m talking, I’m talking. When I’m eating, I’m eating. When I’m walking, I’m walking.

You may notice your brain quietly, reaching out for reasons why: “It’s green because of chlorophyl to process sunlight.” Or “I’m drinking because I’m thirsty”. But you let them go.

In mindfulness, it’s important to acknowledge these thoughts, but rather than get caught in a spiral, you gently return to the sensation of: “green” or “cool, flowing liquid”. You develop a singularity of focus. 

Why bother practising singularity of focus?

Focussing your attention on a green leaf, or the cold flow of water won’t save your life from imminent disaster. It will make you more alert. It will give you the option to notice what you lose sight of when you react impulsively. It will help you to seek safety and presence of mind in a crisis.

You learn to trust the senses, without tracking relentless thoughts in your head.

Alternatively, you may notice a burning desire to convert sensation into meaning, or significance. When you convert sensation into thought, the felt experience disappears – like looking through a camera lens, rather than enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape, as it is

Why might your brain be tempted to think, rather than feel? The answer is simple, your feelings can be painful, as well as pleasurable. 

As a result of painful memories and trauma, the brain-body has learned to desensitise itself. It seeks out sensory stimuli to distract it from emotional pain. It even masks emotional pain with deliberate acts of self-harm. The mind tries to filter out this pain and retreats. 

Ultimately, however, the brain and body are a single organism. They do not exist separately. As a living organism, you are wired to survive, first. Your body is more responsive to sensory stimuli, than thoughts. You can choose to ignore an uncomfortable memory, but you cannot ignore a burning flame.

Kinds of focus

“Pause, slow down, pay attention and breathe.”

Developing singularity of focus is the learned ability to pay attention and respond. It’s the essence of mindfulness. To develop a deeper awareness of what the body is trying to tell us. 

In your sensory-motor cortex, your senses are guiding the brain on how to respond. Your senses remain alert: mobilising, acting, processing, and discharging stress. Stress can be beneficial since it drives you to take decisions and act, but it can also trigger impulsive, or avoidant patterns of behaviour. It can overwhelm us with panic and anxiety.

Singularity of focus helps you develop resilience by remaining alert to comfortable and uncomfortable sensations, without immediately changing them. It helps you develop a higher window of tolerance for stress. And teaches you to listen first, and respond next. You also begin to accept failure as an intrinsic part of the learning process; you learn to experiment.

Examples of focused practice

  1. When you eat breakfast, pay singular attention to the taste, smell texture, chewing, and swallowing of food. Resist the impulse to read, listen to the radio, flick through social media posts, or watch reels while eating.
  2. When you shower, pay singular attention to flow, liquidity, temperature, and soothing relief of the water. Try not to replay conversations, prepare yourself for work, or think about how attractive you will be in the office.
  3. When you walk pay singular attention to what you feel in your arms and legs, your breath, the wind, birdsong, water flowing, traffic, animals, children screaming, the rustle of leaves, the flight of birds. Don't stick earphones on and blast music into your ears they haven’t consented to without warning.
  4. When you listen, listen attentively to another human being. Pay singular attention to the tone of voice, its rhythm, lilt harmony, and stutters, to the facial features, eye contact, posture, gestures, and silence. Try not to get caught up in the meaning of the words, or what you are going to say next, or how to make your point.
  5. When you talk, pay singular attention to your breath, muscle tone, posture, voice, words, and pauses between words. Try not to search for the right words to say, or how to win the argument, or you will lose.
  6. When you breathe, pay singular attention to the flow of your breath, it’s rhythm, resistance, volume, density, relief, tension, and circulation.
  7. Put time aside every day to acknowledge emotions like anger, grief, shame, joy, gratitude, and triumph as they emerge. They are telling you something of immense value about yourself and the world.
  8. When interacting with your partner, pay singular attention to your own sensations and feelings first. Own them and express them. Do not seek to avoid feeling, accuse, blame, or hide away from communicating. Feel what you feel and give voice to it, even when it's uncomfortable. Try not to remain in control with silence. Let people know where they stand.

If you'd like to learn more about the singularity of focus or find out how counselling/therapy can help reduce anxiety, reach out to me

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Twickenham TW2 & TW1
Written by Gregori Savva, Counselling Twickenham, Whitton - Masters Degree
Twickenham TW2 & TW1

I am Greg Savva. An experienced counsellor at Counselling Twickenham, EnduringMind. I believe in a compassionate, supportive approach to counselling as the best way forward for my clients. I focus on helping you make sense of erratic thoughts and emotions. Offering you a chance to gain self-awareness and change for the better

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Anxiety

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals