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COPING WITH COVID-19: Creating a Safe, Calm Place

Wanda Sevey offers a new self-care strategy to manage anxiety
Wanda Sevey

As the Princeton Theological Seminary community concludes another academic year and transitions to the summer months, the COVID-19 crisis continues. To help the community navigate this new season, experienced counselors in the Seminary community are providing guidance on simple methods you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. We hope you find comfort and hope as you read about tips, techniques, and testimonies from members of our campus and alumni community.

This week’s reflection is offered by Wanda Sevey, acting director of student counseling.


Everyone needs an inner toolbox to manage the anxiety and stress we are experiencing these days. The Office of Student Counseling is reaching out to the entire Princeton Seminary community to help you add new strategies to your toolbox to help manage stress.

Creating a “safe, calm place” is a self-care strategy for your internal took kit. You can think of a “safe, calm place” as an emotional safe place where you can internally go to recover stability when feeling stressed. Once you have successfully learned to create a “safe, calm place,” you can use it in your everyday life when you feel stressed or anxious.

  1. Take several slow, deep breaths.
  2. Recall a place you have been or imagine a place in your mind that feels safe and where you can feel calm and at peace. It could be a lake, a beach, the mountains, or a room. Choose a place where you are alone and where nothing negative has happened to you.
  3. Look around your safe, calm place and notice what you are seeing and hearing. Do you have a sense of a breeze on your skin? Or the warming sensation of the sun? Do you hear birds or water or wind? Is there a smell of a pine forest or a salty sea breeze?
  4. As you bring up the picture of this place, notice the peace you feel and the pleasant sensations you are experiencing.
  5. Think of a word that reminds you of this place and know that you can visit this safe place whenever you need a sense of peace and calm.

This exercise is adapted from Francine Shapiro, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures, New York (The Guilford Press: 2001).


    Wanda Sevey, MDiv ‘85, LMFT, is Princeton Seminary’s acting director of student counseling. Her work is rooted in her conviction that being in relationship is part of being created in God’s image and that the power of relationship to transform us is rooted in the work of the Holy Spirit. She works from an integrated relational perspective and has specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy, EMDR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, The Gottman Approach, and Internal Family Systems. Wanda met her life partner, Ruth Anne, when they were both students at Princeton Seminary in the 1980s. Their daughter is currently a college student and they also count Daisy, their Boston terrier, as part of the family. Wanda is a licensed couples, family, and sex therapist and is ordained in the United Church of Christ. She graduated from Whitworth University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Council for Relationships (CFR) in Philadelphia. She served congregations in a variety of pastoral roles before joining CFR, where she served for over 20 years counseling individuals, couples, and families, teaching in the Couple and Family Therapy Masters program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, supervising graduate students, and serving as director of two counseling offices.

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