Why do I feel so anxious?

Sarah* never imagined that something as invisible as a lack of psychological safety could have such a profound impact on her life. She felt a subtle but persistent tension gnawing at her well-being every day. Despite her best efforts to stay positive and productive, she struggled with anxiety, disrupted sleep, and a constant feeling of unease.

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If you’ve ever felt like Sarah, where the very ground of your daily life feels unstable, you’re not alone. Many people experience the effects of not feeling psychologically safe, and understanding this can be the key to unlocking a healthier, more restful life.

The quiet thief: How lack of psychological safety affects your daily life

Psychological safety means feeling free to be yourself without worrying about how it might affect your self-esteem, reputation, or career. When this safety is threatened – whether by environmental factors, internal feelings of insecurity, or a sense of being overwhelmed, fearful, or uncertain – it can quietly rob you of happiness and peace in your daily life.

Heightened anxiety and stress

Without psychological safety, even routine interactions can become sources of anxiety. Whether it’s speaking up in a meeting or sharing your thoughts with a partner, the fear of judgment or rejection looms large.

Impact: Constant worry about how others perceive you can lead to chronic stress, making you feel on edge and overwhelmed.

Reduced productivity and creativity

When you’re preoccupied with protecting yourself from criticism or blame, your mind is less free to explore, innovate, and focus on tasks.

Impact: Your work or daily activities may suffer as you find it harder to concentrate, take initiative, or think outside the box.

Strained relationships

Fear of being misunderstood or rejected can lead you to withdraw from social interactions, even with those closest to you.

Impact: This can create a distance in relationships, making you feel isolated and unsupported.

Lowered self-esteem

A lack of psychological safety often leads to self-doubt and a diminished sense of self-worth. You might start second-guessing your abilities and decisions.

Impact: This can become a vicious cycle, where low self-esteem reinforces feelings of unsafety and vice versa.


The invisible night intruder: How psychological safety impacts sleep

Just as a lack of psychological safety can disrupt your daily life, it can also sneak into your nights, robbing you of restful sleep.

Difficulty falling asleep

When you’re constantly on alert, your mind finds it hard to wind down. Thoughts race as you replay the day’s events and worry about tomorrow’s challenges.

Impact: You spend long hours tossing and turning, unable to slip into the restful state your body craves.

Frequent wake-ups

Even if you manage to fall asleep, the lack of psychological safety can cause fragmented sleep. Nightmares or anxious thoughts can wake you up multiple times.

Impact: This leads to a feeling of not being fully rested, even after what should be a full night’s sleep.

Poor sleep quality

Without deep, uninterrupted sleep, your body and mind don’t get the restorative rest they need. This can leave you feeling drained and fatigued.

Impact: Over time, poor sleep quality can exacerbate stress and anxiety, creating a negative feedback loop.


Uncovering the root cause: Why do you feel unsafe?

Understanding why you don’t feel psychologically safe is the first step towards reclaiming your peace. Several factors can contribute to this pervasive sense of unease.

Workplace environment

A toxic or high-pressure work environment can be a significant source of psychological insecurity. Fear of failure, criticism, or losing your job can weigh heavily.

Insight: Reflect on your workplace dynamics and identify any sources of stress or fear.

Personal relationships

Conflicts or unresolved issues in personal relationships can also erode your sense of safety. Feeling misunderstood or unsupported by loved ones can be deeply unsettling.

Insight: Consider whether any of your relationships are causing you to feel judged or vulnerable.

Past experiences

Traumatic or negative experiences from the past can linger, influencing how you perceive and respond to present situations.

Insight: Explore whether past events might be affecting your current sense of safety.

Internal factors

Sometimes, the source of insecurity comes from within. Self-doubt, perfectionism, or negative self-talk can create a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Insight: Pay attention to your internal dialogue and how it might be contributing to your feelings of unsafety.


Reclaiming your peace: Steps to overcome psychological insecurity

Once you’ve identified the root causes, you can take steps to rebuild your psychological safety and reclaim your peace.

Establish boundaries

Setting clear boundaries in both professional and personal spheres can protect you from unnecessary stress and foster a sense of control.

Action step: Start small by defining what behaviours or situations are unacceptable and communicate these clearly to others.

Cultivate supportive relationships

Surround yourself with people who respect and value you. Supportive relationships can act as a buffer against stress and promote a sense of belonging.

Action step: Seek out and nurture connections with those who make you feel seen and heard.

Practice mindfulness and self-compassion

Mindfulness can help you stay present and reduce the impact of anxious thoughts. Self-compassion encourages you to treat yourself with kindness, especially during challenging times.

Action step: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine and practice speaking to yourself as you would to a friend.

Seek professional support

Sometimes, professional help is needed to navigate deeper issues of psychological safety. A counsellor can provide guidance and strategies tailored to your needs.

Action step: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you feel overwhelmed or stuck.


Conclusion

Feeling psychologically safe is essential for a healthy, fulfilling life. As Sarah discovered, recognising the impact of psychological safety on her daily life and sleep was the first step toward making positive changes. By understanding the root causes and taking proactive steps to address them, you too can reclaim your peace and thrive. Remember, creating a safe and supportive environment starts with understanding and valuing yourself.

*Name fictional

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

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Milnthorpe, Cumbria, LA7
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Written by Jacqueline Connaughton, Mental Health Specialist
Milnthorpe, Cumbria, LA7

Jackie Connaughton has worked in mental health for 20 years and is a passionate advocate for mental well-being. She believes understanding the root cause empowers individuals to take control of their lives. Jackie collaborates with organisations on stress recovery, burnout prevention, energy management, and enhancing overall well-being.

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