Reasons why personal space is important for mental health. Dos and Don'ts of personal space.
Reasons why personal space is important for mental health. Dos and Don'ts of personal space
We are social beings and being around people is our evolutionary need. However, we all at some point have experienced that after a long exhausting day we need time alone for a while. After a long party, even the biggest extrovert may crave for some private time away from everyone. It is not only a physical need but it is also a psychological need of us as humans.
Personal space literally means a physical space surrounding an individual person and intruding or encroaching into that space can be perceived as a threat and be uncomfortable. Neuroscientist and Author of ‘Spaces between us’ Micheal Graziano says in his book “Firstly, we each have a zone of space around us — a kind of buffer zone or margin of safety that we try to maintain with respect to others. This kind of personal, protective space is present in humans and most other animals as part of the mechanism for avoiding predators.” The space we maintain from people is usually defined by how close the relationship is with that person. Closer the relationship, less the space. The second type of space he talks about is the physical space we think of as part of the world - A corner of the house, a specific area of the office or library for instance. In the times of pandemic we all have faced a challenge with this one, with limited space around us we having to spend more time inside us.
Humans are very sensitive beings. We do share the feelings experienced by others and at times that contributed to our emotional state. As we feel happy at our partner's achievements, our friends’ happy moments, our colleague’s promotions, we also share their tensions, worries and stress. With personal space poorly maintained or we may be forced to share it with others at times, we share their worries and stress resulting in our mental health being impacted.
Graziano in his book also says, “Each of us has a protected zone two or three feet wide, swelling around the head and narrowing towards the feet. This zone isn't fixed in size: if you're nervous, it grows; if you're relaxed, it shrinks. It also depends on your cultural upbringing.”
In Indian culture, the space is usually narrow where we usually end up either influencing other people’s mental state or we getting impacted by others’ emotional state. If you are suffering from Anxiety disorders or Depressive Disorders, then you may be more vulnerable to getting affected by not having or maintaining personal space. When we are Anxious our mind consciously or unconsciously is constantly looking for threat and hence one can end up feeling worked up when intruded into his or her personal space. Having enough space even psychologically is extremely important for your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts of personal space:
- Create your personal space - Negotiate on it: creating a personal space physically in your house helps you feel comfortable. Negotiating it with people with whom you share the space also helps a lot. Communicating with others that “this is my private space and I would prefer it being respected” or in case of scarcity of physical space communicating gently “I need some space and would prefer not being disturbed” can help.
- Set boundaries: setting boundaries physically and psychologically means adhering to values you have set for yourself and to things that are important to you. Boundaries help us to be prepared for situations before we enter into a situation. Boundaries can help you maintain good balance with regards to mental health. One can always take help of a good mental health professional to learn about boundaries.
- Identify red flags and Be assertive: it's important that we are aware of how a particular conversation, person or situation makes you feel. If you observe a pattern you may understand what triggers the Anxiety or discomfort. As you identify the red flags, expressing your discomfort in an assertive way can help. Simple statements like,” I am not comfortable with it”, ”this triggers this and I will prefer this being discussed later”, “ if it is not urgent we can discuss it later”. Using clear communication can help to cope with triggers.
- Practice self care: Self care includes both taking care of physical health as well as Psychological health. Eating your meals on time, doing exercises, and maintaining hygiene helps us navigate our emotions. Taking time out for the things which you enjoy, relaxing or energizing can aid your mental health. These activities can be going for a walk, listening to music or cooking something if you find the process to be therapeutic for yourself. Self care is an important aspect in order to maintain the space which is required as a person and it needs to be given the same importance as other responsibilities.
- Practice mindfulness: mindfulness simply means paying attention in a particular way, in the present moment without being judgemental. Paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and senses at that moment. It includes monitoring breathing patterns and letting thoughts flow as they come. Mindfulness helps to reduce symptoms of Anxiety and Depression, helps to cope with stress, helps to improve concentration, and manages emotional conflicts. A good mental health therapist can help you to learn mindfulness practices well.
If you feel your mental health is affected due to a lack of personal space, seek help from a mental health therapist or a psychologist.
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